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Off-Strip Italian Eatery Limoncello Is A True Italian Find

There are so many top-shelf Italian restaurants all over Vegas—Al Solito Posto (Tivoli Village), Don Vito’s (Southpoint Hotel), Esther’s Kitchen (Arts District), Aromi (Summerlin North) + Allegro (Wynn Hotel). There’s also the hip + subtly elegant Limoncello on west Sahara; its sprawling four-room interior, huge ceiling and fish market-style seafood display instantly captivate.

Every time we’ve been there (at least five since it opened in November 2019), the food is finely prepared—and it’s soulful too, thanks to Executive Chef Eric Gaitan from NYC. The eatery hit another home run last Friday night when we dined there with friends. Each entree more than delivered the goods—Homemade Lobster Ravioli (with a light brandy sauce), Pappardelle Bolognese, Penne Vodka + Pollo Parmigiana. Limoncello gets it right every time.

We ended the meal on a sweet note—the Tiramisu + Crème Brûlée were both dreamy—and headed out into the summer Vegas rain, which definitely felt oddly wonderful to former Angelenos like us.

Homemade Lobster Ravioli
A plate of food

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Pappardelle Bolognese
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Penne Vodka

Pollo Parmigiana
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Lighting It Up In Las Vegas

I love the lighting fixtures in Las Vegas + photographing them—they mesmerize me. Here are six of them:

Planet Hollywood (The Strip)

Golden Nugget (Downtown)

AZILO Ultra Lounge (Sahara Hotel)

Pepper Club (inside The English Hotel in the Arts District)

Sahara Hotel (The Strip)

The Dorsey Cocktail Lounge (The Venetian)

Finally, while this is not a lighting fixture, I was instantly attracted to the classic and lovingly revitalized neon sign Vegas Vickie inside the Circa Hotel downtown.

Aromi in Summerlin North Is A True Neighborhood Gem

Sometimes it’s easy to take for granted what’s right under your nose—and I’m definitely guilty of that. So it took us a long minute to visit Italian eatery Aromi, which is only a mile from our doorstep in Summerlin North. Debuting in April 2021, it’s located in the former Nittaya’s Secret Kitchen space and in the same plaza as Ohlala French Bistro.

The dinner’s scene-stealer was definitely the visually arresting Squid Ink Spaghetti with Lobster, Scallops + Arrabbiata sauce, an unbeatable combination of flavors + textures. We also had the beautifully plated Pan-Seared Scottish Salmon with Roasted Vegetable Flavored Forbidden Rice and Citrus Sauce. Executive chef and founder German Castellanos knows how to create wondrous food that pushes back against an unforgiving world. He has impressive stripes, too, as “Chef de Cuisine” at Valentino at The Venetian where he was key to their 12-year run.

We’ll be back soon to this neighborhood gem (which includes a wine bar), where the ambience is inviting and the waiters are friendly + sharp. Next time, we’ll definitely leave room for dessert by Castellano’s partner + Valentino alum, pastry chef Alessandro Stoppa.

The Grass Roots Deliver a Passionate + Convincing Show at the Golden Nugget

Sometimes you need a good ‘60s pop rock fix as a reminder of the glory days of don’t-bore-us-get-to-the-chorus AM radio. So there was no way I could pass up seeing The Grass Roots at the Golden Nugget Showroom—an intimate + excellent-sounding room, with a rich Sinatra history—this past Friday night.

The Grass Roots played a satisfying hits-stacked show with joyful melodies + high-flying harmonies that especially hit a sweet spot on immortal songs like their first top ten hit “Let’s Live For Today,” Heaven Knows, “Temptation Eyes” + their first hit, the Dylanesque “Where Were You When I Needed You,” which was jokingly introduced onstage as “an anti-love song” (it was penned by Steve Barri with the band’s first lead singer, P.F. Sloan).

The Grass Roots were totally locked in as a musical unit on this night. While there are no original members in this lineup, it was personally chosen by Rob Grill, the band’s most identifiable lead singer + longest-serving member who joined in the mid-60s + played in the band until 2009. Two members—lead guitarist/backing vocalist Dusty Hanvey + keyboardist/backing vocalist Larry Nelson—joined in 1984. Drummer Joe Dougherty was recruited in 1984, and bassist/lead vocalist Mark Dawson, as valuable as Timothy B. Schmit is to the Eagles, entered the fold in 2008. Dawson’s high tenor voice didn’t disappoint, and his bass lines were strong, reminding you how impressively rhythmic the band’s classics are.

There will always be some controversy about bands who tour with no original members. Say what you will, but The Grass Roots convincingly honored the band’s legacy in front of a packed room, not only on the classics but on lesser-known hits like “Lovin’ Things” and “Baby Hold On.” It was a good music history lesson teeming with uplifting pop rock songs that ruled the airwaves when the world was seemingly less heavy.

Fortunately, there’s another opportunity to see The Grass Roots in Vegas this fall. The band announced from the stage they will return November 4 to the Golden Nugget.

Melissa Manchester Lights Up Myron’s at Downtown’s Smith Center, An Art Deco Palace

What a treat to hear one of my favorite songs, “Whenever I Call You Friend,” performed twice in one week by its writers: Kenny Loggins at the Wynn’s Encore Theatre + then Melissa Manchester at the gorgeous cabaret-style Myron’s at downtown’s Smith Center, an impressive art deco palace.  

Melissa was my very first client in PR starting in 1979, and I’ve worked with her intermittently through the years (although not currently). My first biz trip in fact was to Vegas in 1980 when she headlined the Riviera Hotel’s showroom. 

So here it was, 42 later, and Melissa was strong as ever in this stripped-down performance in front of a packed crowd (the first of two sold-out shows in one night). Her soulful vocals soared. Her song choices illuminated her artistry + her life. Her between song patter was witty + tender.    Her musical accompaniment was spot-on. And the onstage visuals really enhanced the show by highlighting the songs + her key career moments. Plus she looked beautiful + was outfitted in a sparkling David Josef creation. 

Melissa has achieved so much artistically, and the show accented all of it: her soulful NYC singer-songwriter “Midnight Blue” roots + her pop affinity, from the big ballads, to her song collaboration with Loggins, and to the pop-dance hit “You Should Hear How She Talks About You.” Her heartfelt tributes to the Great American Songbook were also outstanding. She grew up on the music of Judy Garland + Ella Fitzgerald, and she gave shout-outs to them. 

Some of Melissa’s originals are worthy of placement in a newer Great American Songbook.  Like the compassionate + supportive “Come In From The Rain,” her enduring hit penned with Carole Bayer Sager. The song is both specific + compellingly open-ended. When Melissa sang it on Saturday night, I thought about how divided America has become and how the song’s lyrics can also be viewed (to my mind) through the lens of someone who’s lending a helpful hand to an ailing country. 

It’s a long road

When you’re all alone

And someone like you

Will always take the long way home

There’s no right or wrong

I’m not here to blame

I just want to be the one

To keep you from the rain

From the rain”

Melissa noted from the stage that there’s a new album on the way: “RE:VIEW,” a stripped down re-imagining of her classics imbued with the kind of rich, seasoned vocals she displayed at Myron’s.

Every Bite Counts At The Wynn’s Casa Playa

Every bite counts at Casa Playa at Wynn Las Vegas, the colorful, dazzling + elegant Mexican eatery at Wynn Las Vegas, where we ate for the first time this past Thursday night before seeing Kenny Loggins at the Encore Theatre. Emblematic of executive chef Sarah Thompson’s “coastal cuisine” was the next-level succulent Shrimp and Green Rice Epazote (the latter an herb used in Mexican cuisine). And then there were the magically spiced Chicken Tinga Enchiladas Crema. We knew instantly we were in for a good meal when the chips with three salsas were the best we’ve had in Vegas. And I must mention the side of those meaty Frijoles De Olla Black Ayocote Beans, which was heaven right there in a pot.

All Things French at Ohlala French Bistro in Summerlin

A friend and former PR colleague, Todd Brodginski, passed away earlier this week. He loved all things French, so my wife Rana Bendixen and I celebrated his memory last night at our neighborhood French restaurant, Ohlala French Bistro, in Summerlin North. It was our first time there, and its warmly lit ambience + French musical choices (including “La Vie De Cocagne” by Jeanne Moreau) set the scene for the perfect Brie Croquettes served over arugula salad. Both entrees—Sole Meuniere (pan seared sole in brown butter with garlic, capers, lemon + parsley) and Sauteed Salmon (plated w/ butternut squash purée and arugula + kalamata olive salad)—were outstanding. We toasted Todd with an excellent glass of Chardonnay and remembered all the good times—there were many, happy to say, including being with him in the photo pits at Coachella + Stagecoach. He was always quick to help the media and loved having an upfront position to see some of the world’s greatest artists.

Vegas Test Kitchen Takes Over Greene Street at The Palms Fridays + Saturdays Through July 30

There’s a lot of reasons to cheer on the newly reopened Palms Casino Resort—the first resort in Vegas now fully owned + operated by a Native American Tribe—after a two-year pandemic closure. 

Chief among those reasons is the massive multi-room Greene Street space, with its colorful + imaginative eye candy including whimsical apocalyptic-chic decor. Really perfect, then, that downtown’s adventurous + acclaimed Vegas Test Kitchen has taken over the space Fridays + Saturdays through the end of July with rotating guest chefs. 

It was an honor to be invited to a media preview dinner ahead of its last Friday official opening, with chef Josh Bianchi helming the first weekend and unveiling a memorable four-course “Rustic American Italian” dinner. 

The artfully prepped antipasto board—with roasted + pickled vegetables, pepperoni croquettes, and focaccia with salsa verde aioli—was a home run, segueing into the silky Thai Snapper Crudo, with fava beans + a wild mushroom agrodolce. Both dishes set the stage for the outstanding entree, the tonnarelli (typical egg pasta shaped like spaghetti), which nicely hung onto the spot-on sausage sauce. Bianchi’s menu was topped off with his Strawberry Rhubarb Pavolva, a meringue-based tart-and-sweet creation that instantly felt like summertime, perfectly matched to these triple digit days.  

The VTK prix-fixe menus are hip, tasty + moderately priced at $59, and the Greene St. space is the perfect venue for them. Go here for the VTK schedule at Greene St:

QUICK HITS: Mochinut in Chinatown; Derek Hough’s “No Limit” Venetian Residency; Sand Dollar Opens Second Location Downtown: Vegas’ Non-Stop “Fest Life”; The Outstanding Allegro at the Wynn

: Didn’t learn until recently that Vegas is known as the “ninth island” of Hawaii since many native Hawaiians have settled in Southern Nevada. Which explains why there are so many Hawaiian restaurants in Vegas. And you can grab a quick taste of Hawaii here in Chinatown at the worldwide chain Mochinut which serves the Mochi donut—a union of Japanese rice cake (mochi) + American-style doughnuts that originated in Hawaii.

DEREK HOUGH’S CREATIVE VISUALIZATION: Dropped into Derek Hough’s “No Limit” show at the Venetian. There were of course the insanely great how-did-they-do that? dance moves. And then there was Hough as uplifting motivational speaker…someone who creatively visualized himself right into a packed high-end showroom on The Strip.

: On a recent hot Thursday night, there were cool grooves at the opening bash for the The Sand Dollar Downtown, at the Plaza Hotel, with sets from Billy Gibbons, Franky Perez and John Popper. This sharp-looking + excellent-sounding space is the second Sand Dollar location—the original one is still rocking in Chinatown. Thanks to marketing guru Eric Gladstone for the invite and Chris Vranian for letting me use your ace live shots. 

“CITY OF MUSIC FESTIVALS”: Like  a buffet that keeps adding new food stations, the jammed Las Vegas festival calendar continues to expand Vegas is “a town that could add City of Music Festivals to its already-bursting résumé,” writes Brock Radke in the recent  “Fest Love” cover story of Las Vegas Weekly. This publication, expertly edited by Spencer Patterson, keeps pointing me in the right directions when it comes to restaurants, shows + other cultural happenings. Read about it here:

OUTSTANDING ALLEGRO AT THE WYNN: Really nice to have a top-shelf Italian restaurant like Allegro at Wynn Las Vegas which we’ve now been to twice before shows at the Encore Theater Their Caesar salad is one of the best around, and we followed it with their artfully prepared Foccacia Pizza (mozzarella, cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers) and the Potato Gnocchi, with an excellently blended pork, veal + beef bolognese, burrata cheese + pine nut pesto. Couldn’t finish the pizza—no way—so they packed it up for us in this fancy box that will be hard to throw away.

“Piece of Me,” New Murder Mystery Web Series, Celebrated with 80s Prom Murder Mystery Dinner at Downtown Vegas’ Millennium Fandom Bar

It’s always a joy to support the vibrant creative community here in Las Vegas, so with that in mind I headed last week to the fun “Piece of Me” 80s Prom Murder Mystery Dinner, a benefit at downtown’s highly cool Millennium Fandom Bar.

The event raised funds for the cast of the new “Piece of Me” murder mystery/dark comedy web series about the COVID-19 pandemic—the pilot for which is now streaming on IFT Network—and The Shade Tree of Las Vegas which assists the women, children, and pets at their shelter who’ve survived domestic violence, human trafficking, and homelessness. Watch the “Piece of Me” trailer here. All six episodes will eventually stream on IFT, an online  platform for indie films and off-Broadway plays, later this month:

I caught up at the event with Darlene Dalmaceda, the producer, actress, and screenwriter who owns ACE Vegas Studios, an independent film production company. She wrote most of “Piece of Me” (collaborating with another screenwriter, Randall Potts) and stars in it as Lisa, the main character.

What exactly inspired “Piece of Me” which was filmed in Vegas and directed by Nicholas Grant?

“It’s based on a real-life incident right before the pandemic when a nerdy young pizza delivery driver came to my door and asked me all kinds of inappropriate questions that creeped me out,” said Dalmaceda. “After I called and complained to the female manager who seemed to know who I was talking about, I wrote the first draft of the pilot. I put it away for a while, but when the pandemic hit, I decided to create a limited web series about it. I couldn’t work on my bigger scale projects because of the Covid restrictions that were in place last year, but I still wanted to do another film project, just on a smaller scale.”

Dalmaceda went on to elaborate that “Lisa is a paranoid young woman who takes social distancing to the extreme. She’s being stalked by an obsessive pizza delivery driver while under quarantine at her apartment and must figure out a way to escape from him, even if it ends up in murder.”

The pandemic has definitely kicked all of our collective asses, and in some cases inspired creatives like Darlene Dalmaceda to use it as a thematic jumping off point for their projects. With “Piece of Me,” Dalmaceda has created a dark comedy designed to get under your skin and follow you around like a stalker.

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