Updated May 15, 2023 - 7:10 pm
He was Las Vegas’s original celebrity chef.
We speak of Liberace. The bedazzled pianist was not just a great showman. He was pretty adept in the kitchen, too. The restaurant he founded, Tivoli Gardens, is returning to life at its original location at 1775 East Tropicana, in the same strip mall where Liberace Museum once stood.
A private party on Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary of the restaurant’s opening on May 16, 1983. Tivoli’s grand opening is to be announced, likely a month or so out.
Pancho’s Vegan Cantina owner Sacbe Meling has taken over operations, overhauling the declining space into its original form.
Tivoli Gardens was known for Liberace’s international cuisine (it was not just an Italian restaurant), its star-patterned lights, piano-fashioned and British pub-styled bars, mirrored walls, and the lyrics to “I’ll Be Seeing You” (sorry for the ear worm) around the room.
Shortly before his death, Liberace sold to a new operator in 1986. The place was renamed Carluccio’s Tivoli Gardens. Carrying just a hint of its former glory, restaurant shut down in 2011, within year of the museum’s closing.
“From the moment I walked in here, I knew I was on Las Vegas entertainment holy ground,” Meling is quoted on Liberace.org. “This place is very much still Liberace’s. I knew instantly we had to save it.”
Workers unearthed a “hidden history” during renovations.
“The truth, in Las Vegas, is always far stranger than fiction,” Liberace Foundation Chairman Jonathan Warren says. “This is yet another perfect example. The origin story of the place as recorded by the Foundation originally, was all wrong. The real one will astound.”
The restaurant’s opening is in line with events recognizing his 104th birthday. A new show titled “Puttin’ On The Glitz,” being developed by Jeff Kutash (the famous producer of “Splash” at the Riviera) is being showcased Monday at Coop’s Cabaret & Hot Spot. Keith Thompson is music director, with Brent Barrett, Niki Scalera and Philip Fortenberry performing a couple of original number from the musical.
Wednesday, a birthday party hosted by Perez Hilton (whose surname is the same as Liberace’s famous hotel-casino during his Vegas heyday) is scheduled for Alexis Park. Column fave Lisa Gay is producing the entertainment, the them being late-1970s, retro formal glitz.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.