I have now lost count of how many times life has taken me through Las Vegas, Nevada. It has been a convenient meeting place to celebrate friends’ significant birthdays. It has been the convention town where I have attended many a Kitchen & Bath Show. It served as a convenient half way point to spend a weekend with my parents from time to time. Aside from the first couple of visits, I can no longer say that I’ve intentionally planned to go there; it just seems to happen that life’s events keep giving me a reason to return to Sin City.
Not being much of a gambler, one of the greatest joys of swinging through Las Vegas so many times has been the opportunity to try out their ever-changing restaurant scene. I have had the pleasure of partaking in sushi for two in the MGM, a private chef’s table in the Wynn, birthday dinner for ten in the Bellagio and birthday dinner for eight at BurGR in the Quad.
Of all the times I have been to Las Vegas, though, I have to say I was never drawn to New York, New York when searching for good eats. I don’t know if it was some repressed aversion to the Big Apple that came from living over half my life in the ‘second city’ – Chicago. Or the somewhat campy New York City skyline exterior of the casino that just made me assume that the restaurants inside would be all sizzle and no steak. Or the popularity of the place that just made we want to go someplace more off-the-beaten path (as if there is such a place on the Las Vegas Strip). Or the fact that I went to the real New York City many times on business and figured the imitation would not be up to snuff. Whatever the reason, until our last trip to Las Vegas, I had never eaten inside New York, New York.
This past visit, we were staying at the Monte Carlo. It was an absolutely enjoyable stay and, being right next door, New York, New York was a convenient stopping place when we were out and about. We stopped in at Greenburg’s Deli for a Reuben sandwich one afternoon and I have to say it was as good as any Reuben I have ever had in New York City or anywhere else for that matter. The bread was fresh. The meat was perfectly cooked. They didn’t skimp on the quantity of anything – meat, sauerkraut or sauce. The kosher dill pickle on the side tasted like it was fresh out of the barrel just like the kind Mom used to get me as a treat from the local butcher shop when I was a kid. And the price was good value…something often hard to come by on the Las Vegas Strip! If you need a good, quick lunch stop on the south Strip, I would highly recommend it.
One evening on this past trip, the group all had tickets to go to Cirque du Soliel’s Zumanity which has its theater in New York, New York. Dining someplace nearby after the show just made sense. We conveniently made a reservation on Open Table at Il Fornaio – one of the locations of the award-winning Italian restaurant chain overseen by executive chef Maurizio Mazzon. Again, for whatever reason, I was predisposed to not expect much but was very pleasantly surprised. The menu was varied and imaginative. It was full of dishes made from fresh, quality ingredients. From Carpaccio (thinly sliced raw beef) with authentic Grana Padano cheese, capers and wild arugula, to Insalata di Bietole (beet salad) made with organic red and gold beets. Both excellent, by the way….as was the seasonal special ravioli made with locally grown pumpkin.
We enjoyed a lovely Italian Chianti Classico with the dinner. Everything was beautifully presented and superbly served yielding a totally enjoyable experience. In fact, it was my favorite meal of the trip. The only downer was that the restaurant was very open to the casino floor so the occasional waft of cigarette smoke could distract from the enjoyment of the wine’s bouquet or the scent of the aromatic dishes until it passed.
Who knows when next I will find myself in Las Vegas but I can honestly say that I won’t go out of my way to avoid New York, New York any longer. In fact, now I ♥ it!