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James Trees brings East Coast Italian taste to Tivoli Village

There’s no sign out front yet, and the interior artwork hasn’t arrived. Nonetheless, with little fanfare, chef James Trees quietly opened his new Tivoli Village restaurant Al Solito Posto to the public Wednesday night.

An official grand opening is set for Jan. 22, but Wednesday was the “soft opening” for the restaurant — which is traditionally a time to work out the kinks, before you publicize the fact that you’re up and running. But word spreads quickly in the age of social media, and plenty of people scooped up the 40 available reservations when they became available on OpenTable. Trees eventually opened up the book a bit more, and by 8 p.m., he estimated 70 or 80 people had been served, with more expected.

Al Solito Posto is Italian for “in the usual place.” Chef Emily Brubaker, who has spent time in the kitchen of Joel Robuchon and Shawn McClain’s Sage, runs the kitchen. Celebrating her 40th birthday on the restaurant’s opening night, with her family in the dining room, she described the menu as “red-sauce Italian, East Coast influenced with a traditional Italian flair, with of course a little chefy-ness.”

Trees was quick to jump in at that point, riffing on her invented term to point out that the food hasn’t been made too fancy.

“I think we chefy’d down,” he interjected, laughing. “Because our natural (instinct) is to go up with the chefy-ness. But we pulled it back. So let’s just say ‘properly cooked.’ ”

The pair agreed that Al Solito Posto is intended to represent an East Coast style of Italian cuisine, in contrast to Esther’s Kitchen’s West Coast sensibility. The two restaurants also serve different audiences, according to Trees.

“This is a grown-up restaurant,” he explained of the new spot. “Esther’s is a cool, comfy, downtown, mid-20s, totally hanging kind of vibe. This is a grown-up restaurant for grown-up people, with more sophisticated tastes and different needs and wants.”

The Al Solito Posto menu is packed with familiar-looking options. Starters include minestrone, carpaccio and the “little gem Caesar.” The house-made pasta section features linguine & clams, cacio e pepe and pappardelle Bolognese, among others, while main courses range from Sunday gravy and lasagna to roasted chicken piccata, veal chops and eggplant parm. A dessert selection from former Strip pastry chef Keris Kuwana and a cocktail list by NoMad veteran David Bonatesta round out the experience.

Al Solito Posto is located in the former Brio Italian Grill. It includes a main dining room with open kitchen, and large lounge area. When the weather improves, the team is expected to open a large patio area overlooking the Tivoli Village fountain.

Contact Al Mancini at amancini@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter and Instagram.

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