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Chef Marc’s Trattoria hits all the marks, except maybe the butter

They’re really proud of the bread at Chef Marc’s Trattoria, as well they should be. It’s baked in-house, and it’s both real and spectacular.

We were served two types: squares of tomato pie, which our server took pains to explain is eaten at room temperature, “like cold pizza,” and which had a focaccia-like crust, thickish but very light. The tomato mixture on top was seasoned aggressively, which we loved. I like cold pizza, but this was way better than cold pizza.

As tasty as it was, I liked the other bread even better. It was what I think of as classic Italian, crisp-crusted, a little yeasty and with a crumb that deftly split the difference between tight and airy. Especially appealing, though, was the prodigious application of sesame seeds on the top of the slices; far more than simple garnish, they added flavor and texture.

But then there was the butter. The good news is they do serve butter with their bread, because we’re wearying of eating it with olive oil, which always seemed better done over the kitchen sink. But in this case the butter was in those nasty little plastic cuplike things, and so cold it was hard as a rock. For a suburban spot Marc’s has a fairly elegant vibe. I’m not asking for sculpted rose shapes here, but a little china dish of slightly softened butter would be much better.

And if that seems like nitpicking, maybe it was just that it was such a departure from the rest of the experience, which was in keeping with that fairly elegant vibe. We were greeted by a dapper maitre d’ and seated promptly. Servers work in a team, and there always was someone there when we needed them. Courses were well-timed, clearing prompt but not obnoxiously so, the furniture comfortable and music just the right type and volume for dining.

And the food.

Chef Marc is Marc Sgrizzi, who’s had several other restaurants in town, and we learned long ago that he could cook.

We started with what one server said was one of his specialties, the simply named portabella appetizer ($12). Portabella mushrooms can be too meaty, but these had been sliced and cooked until they were almost tender, then enveloped in a creamy four-cheese sauce with a distinctive but balanced hint of Gorgonzola, the mixture heaped over fresh spinach. The dish was rich, but not too rich, and definitely a winner.

That same delicate balancing act was evident in one of the evening’s specials, linguine tartufo ($22). This was, as our server pointed out, a truffled dish, with a mix of mushroom types including tiny white beech, bathed in a light but creamy sauce. That the truffle was more of an undercurrent than a clear flavor I actually saw as a positive because it was clear the kitchen hadn’t resorted to using a truffle oil, most of which are artificially flavored. They’re in season now, but for $22 I’d hardly expect white truffles shaved over the plate.

Far more familiar was an entree of veal and peppers ($26) — familiar but far from mundane, the success of the dish lying in the deft execution. The veal scallop was delicate and gently cooked, the peppers retaining just a hint of their inherent crispness, tender but not mushy. And on the side was a soulful marinara over mafalde, an offbeat cut that’s sort of like curly edged lasagna but narrower, and which delivered the sauce nicely.

The food, service and atmosphere are all on the same lofty level at Chef Marc’s Trattoria. With all of that goodness, hard butter in nasty little cups seems like an easy thing to fix.

Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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