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40 years at Piero’s: Magical Vegas moments and one masterpiece dish

Updated April 9, 2022 - 9:28 pm

It’s a celebratory spring for one of Las Vegas’ most venerable and famous restaurants — Piero’s Italian Cuisine. The nocturnal gathering place has been welcoming dinner guests for 40 years, something notable in a fast-changing city where eateries can come and go quickly.

Even more remarkable, Piero’s has been independently owned by Freddie Glusman since its founding, rather than a big corporation or restaurant holding company.

“I opened Piero’s in 1982 on Karen Ave.,” said Canada-born Glusman, who has been a Southern Nevada entrepreneur since 1957. He moved the restaurant to its well-known location across the street from the Las Vegas Convention Center in 1987. Evan Glusman, his son, oversees the establishment with him.

It’s hard to guess Piero’s size from the outside, but it’s enormous inside: 350 seats fill the 18,000 square-foot restaurant, but it has an intimate, candle-lit ambiance. Across its six separate dining rooms, walls are colorfully adorned with abundant art, including strikingly colorful lithographs by Aldo Luongo. It’s a visual treat.

Untold millions of people who have never dined at Piero’s have caught a memorable glimpse of the restaurant. It’s in a famously intense scene with Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci in Martin Scorsese’s 1995 mafia-movie masterwork, “Casino.”

Since the film was released, a particular table has become known as the Sharon Stone Booth.

“We get a lot of requests for it,” said Evan Glusman.

“Casino” might be fictional, but it contains a Vegasy grain of truth, as a mobster or two have certainly twirled linguini with their forks in Piero’s. Evan recounted an early evening in 2005 when FBI and DEA agents conducted an unannounced sting of two retired New York City cops — who just happened to be mafia assassins — in the same room as the Sharon Stone Booth, which also has a bar.

“The bar was definitely busy with people who didn’t necessarily fit — it was definitely Feds,” he said. “They were sitting there, and they turned around with AR-15s. Heavy artillery came out in the middle of the restaurant, and they arrested them and left.”

Freddie remembers the dramatic evening with a zinger about the federal agents: “When they left, they didn’t tip the valet.”

Hosting celebrities

Over the decades, Piero’s has hosted uncountable dignitaries, including former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Entertainers like Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, Luciano Pavarotti, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood and Justin Timberlake have dined there. It’s also a favorite spot in professional sports circles, with numerous Golden Knights and Raiders having been guests, along with Mike Tyson, Dana White and many others. There’s even the Tarkanian Room, a tribute to famed UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian.

Overall, Piero’s is a favorite meeting place for Las Vegas movers-and-shakers to dine in relative obscurity, a refuge where celebrities don’t need to worry about being bothered at their tables by selfie-seeking fans, said Evan.

“This is kind of like Switzerland,” Evan said. “People feel safe here.”

Ambiance aside, Piero’s guests really fill tables nightly because of the restaurant’s robust dishes, including housemade agnolotti (round spinach-ricotta ravioli served in creamy alfredo sauce). Other classics include Sunday gravy (rigatoni with tomato-sauced meatballs, Italian sausage and a dollop of ricotta) and garlicky jumbo shrimp scampi.

But hands down, osso buco is the house’s standout masterpiece: braised beef shank served with a side of toothsome fettuccine. It makes dramatic showings every night, including a small fork to pry out some of the bone’s luscious marrow.

“I can only imagine how many osso bucos we’ve served in 40 years,” said Evan.

To go with these dishes (and the rest of the menu), Piero’s has an extensive and diverse wine collection in both bottles and individual pours.

“I bet we have one of the biggest wines by the glass selections in the city,” said Evan.

Piero’s also features the Monkey Bar, complete with humorous simian-themed art. It’s a secluded nook where many martinis have been shaken over the years. It also hosts live lounge music on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Personalized experience

Both father and son emphasize the family-owned nature of the business and that many of their staff have worked at Piero’s for many years, especially the captains who run the dining rooms. The restaurant offers its guests a personalized, non-corporate experience that’s difficult to find in contemporary Las Vegas.

“We pride ourselves on great service, and these guys have been here 10, 12 years. It takes a lot to become a captain,” Evan said. “It’s old-school in that sense — every captain is a little bit different.”

On any given evening, Piero’s hums with excitement as its dedicated kitchen and dining room staff perform a ballet of sorts for its happy customers, be they local Nevadans, visiting luminaries or the expense account crowd from the Convention Center.

“It’s like Old Las Vegas,” said Freddie.

“It’s a lot of energy — it’s a fun restaurant,” Evan said. “Piero’s is magical.”

Looking back over four eventful decades, does Freddie have any favorite memories at Piero’s?

“They’ve all been good moments. Everything’s been good to me,” said Freddie.

What about the name?

The restaurant is obviously not called “Freddie’s,” so some might wonder why it’s named Piero’s. The moniker stems from the eatery’s early months when Glusman had a business relationship with Chef Piero Broglia. The partnership dissolved in short order, but the name stayed.

Broglia became a Southern Nevada restaurateur in his own right, owning several well-known restaurants over the years. He died at the age of 80 on March 31.

Piero’s is open for dinner from 5:30-9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Contact Greg Thilmont at gthilmont@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4551. Follow @gregthilmont on Instagram.

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