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Trevi at Forum Shops a great place to eat as well as people-watch

The Forum Shops at Caesars is, it is said, the most profitable real estate in the country.

Not being a big consumer of Elie Tahari and Versace, I can't confirm that personally, but what I can confirm is that it's one of the best spots that exist for people-watching at its most colorful extreme. If it moves on two legs, it's moved through the Forum Shops -- or will.

And I can't think of a better way to people-watch than at a table on the mall with a glass of wine and something to eat. The Forum Shops offers a number of possibilities for that, and on a recent evening we found ourselves at Trevi. The "patio" was packed; I heard someone exiting from the inside restaurant comment that it was comparatively empty in there, and no wonder.

But yes, I did say the outer area was packed, which also means it was kind of crowded, with tables fairly close together and the noise level as high as the prices in the surrounding shops, so be forewarned if that sort of thing bothers you. For us, it's just part of the energy that, when encountered only occasionally, helps make Las Vegas such a great place to live.

Trevi's menu is classic Italian in that it's sort of all over the place, with pastas and pizzas and entrees for whatever you're looking for; there's even a section marked "Italian comfort food" with the more familiar lasagna, spaghetti and so on. But there are enough innovations -- twists on the classics or just plain offbeat dishes -- to keep things interesting.

And so it was that we started with risotto cakes ($11.25), three crisp-edged patties that were rather familiar, but dressed up a bit with a scattering of portabello mushrooms, bits of roasted red pepper and shaved Parmesan cheese, sauced with a light Madeira mixture. These were familiar flavors but used in new ways, and we liked the textural contrasts.

That also was the case with the Romano Chicken ($24.95). The chicken had been crumb-coated and fried until the coating was crisp, which was a little different for an Italian restaurant. The familiar-in-new-ways flavors kicked in in the creamy sauce, which had just enough Gorgonzola to add a spark to the chicken without exploding it, and worked as well on the pile of gently sauteed spinach.

Cravings don't usually enter into my ordering when I'm working, but that evening I was craving shrimp and basil and found both in the Fettucine al Pesto con Gamberi ($24.95). The eight or nine large, sweet shrimp were cooked just until opaque and served atop a tangle of fettucine. Restraint was judiciously used here as well; the pesto sauce was creamy but not overly rich, with the flavor of basil shining brightly. Chewy chunks of sun-dried tomato and crunchy pine nuts added flavor, texture and color.

Dessert was out of the question, at least in part because we'd feasted on the hard-crusted (that's a good thing) Italian bread with its dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Service was just right -- slow-paced while we people-watched over our wine, but once we ordered our food the courses were well-timed, and at no point did we feel rushed.

So what did we see? Well, probably the most unexpected thing was a small group of men dressed as we'd expect bagpipers to be dressed, but their bagpipes were nowhere to be seen, or heard.

Not a pity, that.

Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or email her at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.

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