There is a layer of Las Vegas that exists between the strip and the modern suburban "locals" city. Not the convention abled chain spots on and off paradise road, but off-strip and on the road to downtown. It fascinates me, not the least because it also contains Lotus of Siam. Here strip shows, the pawn shops, the taverns, the marriage parlors, a real Algren/Bukowski created world. Within this world is the very original Venetian Italian. When you make the U-Turn to Venetian, you just miss Lucky Massage and could go straight into Shifty's bar and vido poker emporium if not paying attention.
The moment that summed up Venetian came after dinner. When we were waiting for our goodbye cab and learning about the hostesse's tatoo, a frocked man looking very uncomfortable entered. His well endowed date soon showed up and they took a seat. We glanced at the hostess, she said, way too loud, yes that was a minister and a hooker. Well, it's that kind of place, the Venetian. And I mean that as a strong complement.
The waiter has an overly solitious manner that fit well in this place. Here, everyone is Tony Soprano. He warned us so many times that the osso buco would melt in our mouths that I thought he'd chew it for us.
We began our meal with a series of appetizers and strong drinks. Fried calamari, served generously, proscuitto wrapped mozzeralla, a bit small, sauteed mushrooms and garlic bread that made you remember how good garlic bread could be. We should have held off a bit, but everything made its mark.
But first, we had to have salad or soup (he pushed the soup heavily). I stuck with the salad which had as much dressing on one salad as a resturant in Venice would have on all their salads, but it was a good dressing. A friend ordered a ceasar salad. I made the mistake of finishing the huge plate for him. It was too good, enough garlic that I was lucky Ms. VI was 2000 miles away and also heavily dusted in parmagian. I barely was not ready.
On a menu loaded with old fashioned treats, I picked the most old fashioned of them all, veal parmagian. Two decent pounded scallops drenched in melted cheese. Like classic tex-mex, nothing bad about too much cheese and a good sauce. The spaghetti in a sauce cooked to butteery mildness also fought for a spot in my radidly shrinking gullet.
It's not like I sampled all the rest of the orders, but I can tell you that the osso bucco was denture friendly. The veal chop, charred well, looked worth the price, same with the pasta with seafood.
Someone else on this board commented that the Venetian was great for the scene, but the food was an afterthought. I do not know. I totally appreciated the total lack of irony in the kitchen, the fact that this was the type of red sauce cusine that made us fall in love with Italian food. I strongly reconmend the Venetian Italian on Sahara about 1/2 mile north of the strip.
The Venetian is open around the clock. During our friday dinner, the place was oddly sparse. It made it easy to pick up a group chattering away in Italian. Of course, this helped the atmosphere. I'd like to visit again, early in the morning, when the late crew is noshing.
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