Focus on value

When M Resort lights up a dark corner of the southwest valley on Sunday, it will be with nine restaurants and a decided emphasis on value, and not just because of the current state of the economy.

"Las Vegas lost its way and started overcharging people," says Anthony Marnell III, chairman and CEO of the resort at St. Rose Parkway and Las Vegas Boulevard South. "You’re never going to see a $15 martini in this hotel."

Which is not to say the resort has the atmosphere of Filene’s Basement — or anybody’s basement, for that matter. It’s finished with piles of imported stone, hand-blown glass, richly grained woods and thick carpet. Restaurant patios overlook the extensively landscaped, expansive pool/entertainment area, where accents of fire and water help create an atmosphere that "almost feels like you’re in Hawaii, with torches all over the place," Marnell says.

The idea that this is a high-value kind of place, though, starts in the casino, where three stations provide serve-yourself soft drinks, coffee, tea and water to anyone who is playing — or isn’t. And it continues through to the very top.

Restaurant Veloce Cibo is on the 16th floor of the resort, with a million-dollar, 360-degree view of the valley (particularly effective from the outdoor patio) and without prices to match. The restaurant has an Asian/American/Italian menu, adjacent Bar Veloce wine-bar area and wood paneling that evokes and old wooden cabin cruiser zipping around the Italian Riviera, all of which lend a trendy air. Sushi rolls are in the $8 to $12 range, nigiri sushi $6 to $12, sharing plates such as egg rolls or crispy calamari $8 to $12. Large plates include roasted chicken breast with black truffle sauce ($19) and cedar plank salmon with warm potato salad ($28). The menu in the bar — which has six Enoteca wine-dispensing machines, offering 42 wines (including sakes) for as little as $1 per ounce — leans heavily to food that complements wine, such as cheese fondue, cheese plates and a variety of bruschette.

Terzetto is a steakhouse with the adjacent Oyster Bar, and guests in each can order from either menu. The kitchen is open to view but glass-enclosed to reduce dining-room noise, and the adjacent chef’s table is upside-down for a bit of whimsy. Like nearly all of the resort’s restaurants, this one has an outdoor deck, complete with cantilevered extended section and built-in heaters and misters. Steaks run $19 to $36, or $40 to $48 for Prime beef from the Marnell family’s Double Fork Ranch in Montana.

While most of the restaurants at the resort have an Italian accent in a nod to the Marnells’ heritage, it’s most prominent at Marinelli’s, whose name is an homage to the original spelling of the family name. Marnell says many of the dishes on the menu — which includes risottos ($16 to $24), handmade pastas ($18 to $25), meat ($26 to $36) and seafood ($19 to $29) dishes — are from family recipes.

Studio B is a buffet with a definite difference. Quipping that most local buffets seem to have all the panache of jailhouse food service (and no doubt feeling a little competition with father Tony Marnell Jr., who revolutionized local buffet dining when he opened the Rio), Marnell gussied his up with a sweeping open layout and 117 video screens that can show the day’s football game or any other programming — including live demonstrations in the buffet’s "full-blown studio." The large glass-enclosed sweets station has the look of an upscale bake shop and produces house-made crepes, cookies, gelato and sorbet in addition to the usual buffet sweets. Prices are $7.95 for weekday breakfast, $10.95 for weekday lunch, $19.95 for Saturday and Sunday brunch, $17.95 for Sunday through Thursday dinner and $19.95 for Friday and Saturday seafood dinner. And beer and wine are included with dinner.

The nearby Baby Cakes is a "European-inspired patisserie" that will roll out the resort’s pastries, cakes, chocolates and gelatos and coffee to go with them.

The Red Cup Cafe has its own outdoor patio overlooking the lushly landscaped pool area. It’s vaguely retro with red accents — even in the old-time terrazzo floor — and Marnell says it will offer "old-Vegas food and prices," with everything less than $10, with the exception of steak and lobster.

Vig Deli — "odds are you’ll love it," nudge, nudge — has a menu more elaborate than most delis, Marnell says, with hand-tossed pizzas, meatballs, corned beef and brisket and pastrami and other sandwiches. Its decor takes inspiration from the movie "The Sting" and its bookmakers’ chalkboards; on the pillars of the deli, they list the results of notable moments in sports history. Sandwiches are in the $6.99 to $8.99 range.

The Hostile Grape Wine Cellar will offer 120 wines by the glass, all dispensed by additional Enoteca machines, in increments of 1, 3 or 5 ounces. Antipasti runs $10 per person.

And finally there is Piazza Grille, an outdoor spot that will be open April through October, with casual fare such as black-cod tacos, flatbreads, pizzas and sandwiches. Sandwich plates there and for cabana service run $9.95 to $14.95.

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474.

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