By Lulu Clemmons
Experiencing Italy is at the top of almost everyone’s bucket list, but to get that check mark, you’ll have to spend thousands of dollars and hours on a plane. However, with just a quick 20-minute drive down the road to the Park MGM, you’ll find a delicious sneak peek of what Italy really tastes like at Eataly where the laid-back yet classy atmosphere invites you to come back again and again. Starting out in Turin, Italy in 2004, Oscar Farinetti founded the first Eataly before expanding to 18 locations total in Italy, five in the United States and 17 other locations scattered around the world over the years. After the first U.S. location opened in New York City in 2010, other locations quickly spread around the country. The franchise’s latest opening was here in Las Vegas this past December.
Upon walking into the Eataly area, there was a large open floor plan filled with multiple stands covered by massive windows that help lighten up the space. The sudden scent of tomato sauce mixed with something sweet filled the air as I took a look around with my mom, who was my more than willing partner in dining for the afternoon. Seafood, meats, cheese, and Italian street food stands filled the area, but our eyes immediately went towards the main restaurant La Pizza e La Pasta.
The restaurant itself was aesthetically pleasing with its strategically located marble tables and sophisticated silverware placement. Surprisingly, for it being an early Saturday afternoon, no wait was required. Less than five minutes upon entering, our waiter, Tony, told us a little bit of background about his workplace. The restaurant itself is a combination of two completely different kitchens that don’t collaborate in anyway. “La Pizza” fires pizzas in a 900-degree wood-fired grill while “Le Pasta” serves pasta imported from Italy (pasta seca) and pasta that’s made in-house (pasta fresca).
After finishing his impromptu lesson, Tony handed us the detailed menus. Some five minutes and careful deliberation later, we chose the “Fritto Misto Di Pesce” ($18) as the “antipasti” (appetizer) to start the meal off right. The pre-meal consisted of fried fish, calamari, shellfish and fried lemon. Although being quite skeptical of how a bread-battered lemon would taste, in the end, it didn’t disappoint, and neither did the accompanying fried food.
When the empty, small appetizer plates and baskets were removed, and only the menus were left to admire, the daunting task of only choosing one pasta and one pizza became all too real. We decided that only one of us should pick something from each kitchen, so we settled on the “Quadratini” ($18) for the pasta portion: a pasta fresca ravioli stuffed with chopped spinach, melted ricotta, drowned in lemon butter, and mixed with walnut pesto. Only being one bite in, I knew this would become the dish I would randomly crave laying in bed at three a.m. With just the right blend of lemon and pesto, and the perfect portion of ravioli, it made for a premium pasta.
Next, the “Salsicciotta”($23); a mushroom and sausage pizza was brought out. Once it was set down on the table, the fresh mozzarella bubbled as the aroma of tomato sauce and spices hit our noses at full-force. As I took the first bite, the combination of a thin crust foundation and pizza juices caused the “pie” to collapse in my hands. No matter how flavorful the pizza, having to cradle and eat it with a fork in fear of losing all your toppings will put a damper on any pizza-eating experience.
Upon leaving the restaurant, it was made clear the only logical way to finish the Italian experience off authentically was dessert. Selections of cannolis, Italian pastries, gelato and individually wrapped chocolates lined the food counters up and down, yet I completely missed them when passing by the area earlier as pasta was the only thought on my mind. After a quick three-minute wait in the ordering line at the counter “I Cannoli di Eataly”, I watched a woman working the counter fill the cannoli shell with the fluffy, creamy mix. The chocolate chip cannoli ($6) was small, but the pastry was compacted to the max with the unimaginable sweet yet savory mixture of cream and cheese. This semi-sweet treat was the perfect way to tie the meal together.
Eataly is a fun and inviting place to go with a wide variety of Italian-inspired foods to choose from including various deli items, carb-loaded Italian specialties and an abundance of deserts. It’s the perfect place for going on a date or hanging out with friends. Possibly the best way to make the most of the experience though is to come with a food-loving group and have each member buy one item from each stand for everyone to share. In comparison to other restaurants on the Strip, “La Pizza e La Pasta” was fairly cheap adding up to a total of $63 for two people. However, if you’re searching for an appetizing meal for not a lot of “dough,” this is probably not the place to go. If you’re up for a little splurging and craving some authentic Italian food, Eataly is “pastably” the perfect place for you. Forget the cross-Atlantic flight and drive on down to The Strip for your own slice of Italy.