“I need a Nonna,” the server at Il Chianti Italian restaurant in Henderson said. She was referring to the Carbonara della Nonna on the menu — a rich, rustic dish of linguine, pancetta and Parmesan. But the image that instantly popped up in my mind was of an older Italian lady up to her elbows in marinara. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all have a nonna cooking us comforting plates of pasta each day?
Thanks to Rodolfo Janeo Jr., a former executive chef at the popular Ventano Italian Grille, anyone can enjoy molto delizioso dishes, whether their grandmother hails from bella Italia or not.
Lynn pear and cheese tortellini ($23) is an attention-getter. It’s a fresh breath of autumnal air (a pleasant surprise in the spring), the natural affinity between pears and cheese only highlighted by the lightened tomato-vodka sauce and just enough gently sauteed spinach. There also was a generous number of rock shrimp, but while their lobster-sweet flavor contributed interesting points of contrast, the dish was so well executed it would have been fine without them.
Chicken Vesuvio ($21) is rarely prepared as well as it is here. The artichoke hearts commonly used in the dish were there, but so were roasted bell peppers and Kalamata olives. The balance was just right, the flavors marrying for a pleasing profile that evoked the Mediterranean, or Provencal.
But the real triumph was the appetizer of lamb chops ($14). Chefs report that people sometimes still request mint jelly with their lamb, and these proved what a mistake that would be. The tiny chops had been thoroughly marinated in a mixture that tasted subtly of rosemary and oregano and grilled lightly until they were a perfect medium-rare. The sprig of fresh mint atop them was a whimsical touch that referenced that jelly without its cloying flavor.
Other menu items give a nod to Janeo’s native Filipino background, including starters like Involtini di Michelle, a vegetable egg roll referenced on the menu as lumpia; shrimp bruschetta; and lobster bisque. Other main dishes include risottos, numerous pasta dishes and Chicken Rudy Adobo Nation, which involves chicken adobo, pork tenderloin, risotto and asparagus.
It seemed odd that a gratuity of 20 percent was automatically added to the bill, which the server even pointed out to make sure it wouldn’t be overlooked. However, the level of service must be noted, because it was a bit of a surprise at a smallish strip-center spot like this. The greeter was gracious and prompt, the team of servers pleasant and accommodating. Janeo came out of the kitchen to make a couple of circuits of the room, noting newcomers and greeting regulars like family.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com, and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.