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Dining Guide: Italian

Each week we spotlight a different cuisine in the Dining Guide, with Italian restaurants this week. Restaurants are rated on a letter-grade scale, from A to F. Opinions by R-J critic Heidi Knapp Rinella (H.K.R.) are indicated by initials. Price symbols are based on the cost of an average entree: $ = entrees less than $10; $$ = entrees from $10 to $20; $$$ = entrees from $20 to $30; and $$$$ = entrees more than $30.

B&B RISTORANTE

The Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-266-9977

Signature dishes: Mario Batali’s beef cheek ravioli with black truffles and crushed duck liver, whole grilled branzino with summer squash and salsa verde.

BUDDY V’S RISTORANTE

Grand Canal Shops, 3327 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-607-2350

This was one celebrity-chef restaurant that took us a little by surprise: a stellar red-sauce joint from TLC’s “Cake Boss,” Buddy Valastro. We loved the high-quality, updated-old-school food including Mozzarella in Carrozza, Valastro’s Sunday Gravy, My Dad’s Bucatini and a Buddy V signature dessert, the Lobster Tail. (3/28/14 H.K.R.)

$$$

CANALETTO

Grand Canal Shoppes, 3377 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-733-0070

Signature dishes: risottos, ravioli filled with pear and Parmigiano-Reggiano and tossed with asparagus and stracchino cheese cream sauce.

CASA DI AMORE

2850 E. Tropicana Ave.; 702-433-4967

“Vegas the way it used to be,” trumpets Casa di Amore and they’re not kidding; it’s all there, from the live music to the old photos to the stereotypes strolling around the place. The food’s another story, though, updated and refreshed and taking the form of an unusual and very good appetizer-sized osso buco, Eggplant di Amore, Gnocchi Alla Prosciutto and a crisp and creamy cannoli. (12/20/13 H.K.R.)

$$$

FELLINI’S RISTORANTE

Stratosphere, 2000 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-383-4860

Signature dishes: osso buco Milanese, pastas and pizzas.

FERRARO’S ITALIAN RESTAURANT & WINE BAR

4480 Paradise Road; 702-364-5300

Specialty dishes: osso buco, housemade pastas.

GABRIELLA’S ITALIAN GRILL & PIZZERIA

8878 S. Eastern Ave.; 702-912-1111

OK, we really didn’t like the old-school (in a bad way) salad at Gabriella’s, but everything else was fab, including decor, service and food. We loved the shrimp Rockefeller, the lasagna, Gabriella’s Artichoke Chicken and the Sicilian Pizza, which was Sicilian in toppings if not in crust. (2/13/15 H.K.R.)

$$

GAETANO’S RISTORANTE

10271 S. Eastern Ave., Henderson; 702-361-1661

Exceptional decor and atmosphere — especially for a restaurant outside the tourism corridor — sets the scene at this venerable strip-center spot, where attention to detail also shows in the service. It shows in the food, too, in carefully executed dishes such as Carciofi Fritti (fried baby artichokes to you and me), Osso buco alla Milanese and Gnocchi con Gorgonzola, even if we found the gnocchi a tad (but just a tad) soggy. (5/24/13 H.K.R.)

$$$

GIADA

The Cromwell, 3595 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-777-3777

Despite some not-so-subtle upselling we loved Giada because the food was perfect and the atmosphere not far behind. We thoroughly enjoyed the ricotta crostini with honey, lemon and pink peppercorns; branzino with tangerine vinaigrette; rigatoni with vegetable Bolognese; and, from the dessert cart, lemon-ricotta and chocolate-amaretti cookies. (12/5/14 H.K.R.)

$$$$

GINA’S BISTRO

4226 Durango Drive; 702-341-1800

Excellent service was one of the best things about Gina’s Bistro — an example being an errant knife being replaced by a fresh one brought on a plate — but it doesn’t overshadow the food, which was nearly flawless. We were particularly enamored of our Asparago in Cravatta, Veal Piemontese, an evening-special risotto with Gorgonzola cream sauce and shrimp and a cannoli, although the latter was accompanied by burned coffee. (9/27/13 H.K.R.)

$$$

GROTTO RISTORANTE

The Golden Nugget, 129 E. Fremont St.; 702-385-7111

It’s a challenge for Italian restaurants to stand out from the crowd but the Grotto manages to do it with dishes such as cappellini-crusted mahi, which involves a thin layer of pasta on both sides of a fillet of fish, served with shrimp and a garlicky Sicilian tomato sauce. Also worthy of note was the Pollo Romano, chicken crusted with the cheese and served with a light wine sauce, the crusty bread with its cup of seasoned olive oil and the Cannelloni di Pollo, although its pasta was a little heavy. (2/8/13 H.K.R.)

$$$

IL FORNAIO

New York-New York, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-740-6403

Signature dishes: housemade and imported pastas, wood-fired pizzas.

ITALIAN-AMERICAN CLUB

2333 E. Sahara Ave.; 702-457-3866

Although it would be easy to dismiss the “IAC” as a throwback it’s actually a deft melding of old and new, and a recent kitchen-management shift has done wonders for the food. We can recommend the stuffed artichoke, fried mozzarella, Caesar salad in crisp Parmesan frico, pork chops and IAC Amatriciana. (10/10/14 H.K.R.)

$$

LITTLE TONY’S

Palace Station, 2411 W. Sahara Ave.; 702-898-2813

We’ve long known Tony Gemignani is an expert at making pizza — those 11 world championships just underscore our own experience — but when we finally tore ourselves away and tried non-pizza dishes like white wine clams and sausage and peppers, we definitely weren’t disappointed. And of course Little Tony’s serves pizza; the My Cousin Vinny was fab. (7/16/15 H.K.R.)

$$

MONTESANO’S EATERIA

9905 S. Eastern Ave.; 702-870-3287

We weren’t charmed by Montesano’s overly soft meatballs and the cheese that we thought denigrated a sauce that needed no adornment, but we were charmed by the creativity that the kitchen shows in dishes such as the Lasagna Explosion (basically, fried lasagna), the tiny fried knots included in the bread basket and an entree of Veal Montesano, with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, garlic and potatoes. (7/26/13 H.K.R.)

$$

NORTH BEACH ITALIAN BISTRO

Inside Bogey’s, 7770 W. Ann Rd.; 702-658-0579

Arrangements whereby a restaurant is housed in a poker bar don’t tend to work terribly well, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at North Beach. No wonder — it’s a very attractive restaurant with excellent, ultra-friendly service and sublime food including prosciutto and mozzarella, saltimbocca di pollo, Cavatelli alla Caserta and house-made tiramisu. (7/2/15 H.K.R.)

$$

NOVECENTO PIZZERIA NAPOLETANA

5705 Centennial Center Blvd.; 702-685-4900 (also at 9460 S. Eastern Ave.; 702-485-2900)

Authentic Neapolitan pizza — which is to say thin-crusted, stretchy and without an overload of toppings — is prepared in the 900-degree oven at the counter-style Novecento. We liked the white cheese version but also a stromboli, a truly excellent pasta e fagioli and the roasted beet salad, which was overdressed but otherwise very good. (10/25/13 H.K.R.)

$

OLD SCHOOL PIZZERIA

2040 E. Craig Road, North Las Vegas; 702-990-0070

Giovanni Mauro, former owner of Summerlin’s Nora’s Osteria, brings a similar artisanal focus to his tiny strip-center pizzeria in North Las Vegas. We loved the Vegas Meets Italy pizza with its dates, pistachios, arugula, prosciutto, triple-cream gorgonzola, scamorza and more, but also the roasted chicken with accompanying potatoes and garlic and some garlic knots, elevated above the crowd by a sprig of rosemary, cloves of roasted garlic and an herby housemade ranch. (3/8/13 H.K.R.)

$$

OTTO ENOTECA PIZZERIA

Grand Canal Shoppes, 3377 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-677-3390

Signature dishes: Mario Batali’s Sicilian eggplant caponata, house-cured salumi.

THE PASTA SHOP

2525 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, Henderson; 702-451-1893

It’s no wonder The Pasta Shop Ristorante has endured over the years, surviving a move a while back from East Tropicana Avenue to Henderson: It offers a winning combination of great food and service in a convivial atmosphere. We liked the tomato-basil polenta topped with nuts, the Caesar salad and ciabatta with garlic and cheese that came with dinner and entrees of linguine with sausage and marinara and Chicken Davida with eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella. (6/28/13 H.K.R.)

$$

PIERO’S ITALIAN CUISINE

355 Convention Center Drive; 702-369-2305

Signature dishes: Saltimbocca alla Romana, tiramisu.

PIZZA ROCK

201 N. Third St.; 702-385-0838

It’s all about the crust, which 11-time World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani proves with the four ovens (at four different temperatures) he uses at Pizza Rock. We loved the Neapolitan-style Margherita and the New Yorker, as well as the non-pizza starters of fried green beans and beer-battered artichokes. (2/7/14 H.K.R.)

$$

RAO’S

Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South; (877) 346-4642

Signature dishes: lemon chicken, veal chop, meatballs.

SABATINO’S AUTHENTIC N.Y. PIZZERIA

7660 W. Cheyenne Ave.; 702-459-7437

We gotta be honest; we weren’t crazy about the ranchy-ranchy aspect of Sabatino’s Wild White pizza, although we did like the stretchy New York-style crust and the nicely balanced Buffalo chicken that topped it. We liked the garlic knots, too, and the veal Parmesan with its soulful red sauce, the budget-rescuing layered-and-compressed meat notwithstanding. (1/4/13 H.K.R.)

$$

SAUCE

721 Mall Ring Circle, Henderson; 702-566-1686

Sauce’s location has been a bit of an elephant burial mound but we’re hoping that will change. It deserves to survive, for solid preparations and innovative touches such as the pepperoni-stuffed fried cheese, shingle-stacked eggplant Parmesan and a superlative barbecued chicken pizza. (1/2/15 H.K.R.)

$$

SPAGHETTY WESTERN

10690 Southern Highlands Parkway; 702-834-4611

Southern Highlands has had a strong tradition of good restaurants going back to the original Off the Strip and Spaghetty Western has just strengthened the brand, with friendly service and both traditional and innovative Italian food. We loved a starter of House Mushrooms, as well as the offbeat Pasta Speck and a well-executed classic chicken Parmigiana. (4/2/15 H.K.R.)

$$

TRATTORIA DEL LUPO

Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-740-5522

Signature dishes: pizza, pasta, antipasti and desserts made at exhibition stations.

ZEFFIRINO

Grand Canal Shoppes, 3377 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-414-3500

Signature dishes: pesto, fish.

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