I have been reading this board for weeks prior to my Las Vegas visit this week, and I have to say that Carnevino has been given a bad rap, especially by people who have not even dined there! It was therefore with great trepidation I made the reservation there due to the comments on this board, but I was pleasantly thrilled with a meal that exceeded our expectations in every way.
I had noted in my Open Table reservation that it was a special evening for someone in our party and when we arrived, with a gracious and warm greeting we were shown to a nice table along the wall near a window. There were sparkling wine glasses as well as the typical wine glasses set out for us and the sommelier appeared immediately and provided us with a pour of prosecco for a toast. A very nice touch. The room reminded me of Florence, it is very medieval italianate, with frescoed halls and sturdy leather chairs, and a soaring ceiling. The tables are well spaced and the volume is low enough to hear the music, which was not Led Zeppelin but John Mayer.
There was an amuse of what I belive to be a ricotta-parmigiano cheese puff, light as air. Then we were delivered the rosemary foccacia bread served with creamery butter and the fantastic lardo, also scented with rosemary. I first had this at Del Posto, and while lardo sounds awful, it is whipped into a divine spread that melts on the bread and will make you swoon, they call it "Italian Butter".
We started with orders of the Clams Zuppetta and the Prosciutto Gnocco Fritto. The clams were about a dozen served in an intense broth made of red pepper, garlic, olive oil and a bit of spice with strips of sauteed red and yellow peppers strewn over the clams. This was amazing, the absolute best clam dish I have ever had, he needs to serve this over pasta in one of his restaurants. I did not want to share! I sopped up every last bit of the amazing broth with the rosemary bread and was in heaven! The Prosciutto Gnocco Fritto, a dish we have had in Bologna many times, was a terrific version. The gnocco fritto are light, almost pastry-like small rolls that you place the special riserva prosciutto on and the prosciutto melts into the roll and all becomes one porky bite of goodness. We did not order pastas because we were aiming for the meat and did not want to fill up too much. We will definitely be trying the pastas next time.
We ordered the Porterhouse for two and the double cut lamb chops. There has been much consternation about the price of the porterhouse, but at $145, it is commensurate with most of the other steakhouses in town. Robert, our excellent and attentive waiter, explained that the BBL beef is actually on slaughterhouse premise selected from the best cuts of prime, it is also hormone and antibiotic free. The porterhouse was presented with much fanfare and carved tableside by the sommelier. The beef was well marbled, had a deeply charred salty crust and you could indeed detect the rosemary in the crunch. The meat melted in the mouth and was one of the best steaks I have ever had. The lamb chops were huge! They were double cut and all the fat was left on to ensure flavor and tenderness of the enclosed meat. The resulting lamb was moist and juicy, I will have to get my butcher to cut them like this the next time I buy lamb.
We had a side of Cesare's Tuscan Fries, and while they were actually not Cesare Casella's famous Tuscan Fries from Beppe and Maremma in NYC (there they are actual french fries fried with herbs), they were still very good; Long potato wedges fried and dusted with parmagiano and herbs, a great accompaniment to the meat. The mushroom side dish was my favorite, a mix of several unique mushrooms and herbs in an almost asian flavor that was addictively delicious. We also ordered an Arugula salad without the cheese to go with the meat, as they do in italy with a tagliata. All the sides were exemplary.
Most of us were too full to order dessert with the exception of a vanilla gelato that was proclaimed rich, creamy and refreshing. The wine we ordered, a Barolo Rocche dei Manzoni Cappella S. Stefano 1997 was a bit thin, but they have a broad range of Barolos at what are actually very good price points. We noted that they also offer on their list the very decent Joe's Rosso, a delicious wine made by the proprietor, Joe Bastianich, and at $32, it is a very accessible choice without breaking the bank. We finished with a three amaro tasting and Robert, our waiter, included an additional amaro gratis. Amaro is an Italian digestif that practically the entire country of Italy drinks after a large meal. It really will help digestion and you will indeed feel much less full not long after imbibing.
From beginning to end, we had a fine experience at Carnevino, from the welcoming staff, to the knowledgable waiters and sommelier, the delicious food, every aspect was perfect. I would genuinely say that this meal "wowed" me like no other has recently and we were all pleasantly surprised.
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