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Italian Comfort Classics In a World Gone Mad

Raising my glass to another Summerlin fine dining restaurant—the new Spiedini Fiamma at the JWMarriott, which opened in early October.

With its outstanding “Italian comfort classics” (in a world gone mad) by Chef Paula Smagacz, a beautifully designed main dining room + super-attentive service, the eatery seems destined for success.

Friends and I started with three solid appetizers—the bruschetta, shrimp scampi + meatballs with ricotta—and segued into the veal marsala, chicken piccata + salmon entrees, all served with linguini. We topped the meal off with the finely prepared tiramisu and know that we’ll be back soon to try the lasagna, lobster ravioli + pizza.

Looking at the menu, I have my eyes firmly on the enticing prosciutto + fig pizza with arugula + parmesan cream sauce.

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Ada’s Wine Bar: A Perfect Dreamscape at Tivoli Village

Can’t think of a better way to spend a late afternoon than winding down at the dreamscape known as Ada’s Wine Bar at Tivoli Village in Vegas. On a recent day there, my glass of 2020 Chardonnay, Moillard Chablis (Burgundy, France) was perfectly paired with shareable plates like Red Pepper Hummus, Peaches & Prosciutto + the  Chef’s selection of “cheese, honeycomb + Marcona almonds.” 

Owner James Trees (Esther’s Kitchen, Al Solito Posto) always knows how to supply the magic + an imaginative edge at his eateries, and Chef de Cuisine Jackson Stamper definitely lit up my taste buds. 

It was also terrific to catch up with Vegas PR/marketing guru + author Eric Gladstone (“Anything But Nirvana”), with whom I used to work when he was a rock critic in L.A. in the 90s.

Aerosmith’s Fiery Vegas Residency + Eataly

Hey, that was fun.

Drunk on the fountain of youth, Aerosmith last night lit up the Dolby Live venue at the Park MGM with their supersonic dirty blues. Tyler delivered his trademark mojo, Perry breathed fire, and there was plenty of eye candy spectacle. Thanks to the band’s camp for the hospitality—those were fantastic seats! Their “Deuces Are Wild” residency resumes November 19.

It was a terrific night out starting with dinner at the hotel on the Stripside patio of Eataly’s La Pizza e La Pasta. We split the Insalata Tricolore + a home-run pasta dish—Vesuvio Con Asparagi E Guanciale—which lured us in with this hyper-specific description: “Afeltra Volcano-shaped Pasta di Gragnano IGP, San Carlo Guanciale, Asparagus Sauce, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Pecorino Romano Zerto.”

Zeppola Cafe Hits Your Sweet Spot at The Venetian

Having never tasted one before, I’m now all about this bombolone, which was my lunch yesterday at the new Zeppola Cafe in St. Mark’s Square at The Venetian.  I told the gal working behind the counter that I absolutely loved this Italian cream-filled doughnut, and voila…she gave me, for free, one to go plus two other treats. Now how’s that for hospitality?

This is the first Vegas outpost of the Zeppola Bakery in midtown NYC, and I trust they will find great success here. This is truly a cool + inviting dessert spot (with inside + outside seating) at the seductively lit St. Mark’s Square, where it is always magic hour.

You Can’t Go Wrong At Xiao Long Dumplings, The Taco Stand and Bronze Cafe

Support indie businesses—that’s how to make our neighborhoods great!

Here are three local places I go to for their food + colorful ambience: Xiao Long Dumplings + The Taco Stand, both in Chinatown, and the Neon Feast-endorsed “fit-friendly” Bronze Cafe in Summerlin/Desert Shores.

See you there…

Xiao Long Dumplings, Chinatown

The Taco Stand, Chinatown

Bronze Cafe, Summerlin/Desert Shores


Lighting It Up In Las Vegas

I love the lighting fixtures in Las Vegas + photographing them—they mesmerize me. Here are seven 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)

The Lobby Bar (Red Rock Resort)

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.

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
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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.

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