Updated June 10, 2020 - 7:24 pm
Old-school Italian is coming to Tivoli Village — complete with bocce and two James Beard Award nominees.
James Trees, chef and owner of Esther’s Kitchen in the Arts District and Ada’s, a Tivoli Village restaurant that is about to undergo a retooling, and “Top Chef” finalist Bruce Kalman expect to open Scuola Vecchia in late summer or early fall.
The restaurant’s name translates to “old school” because that is the chefs’ vision for it. This is their first Las Vegas restaurant together. They met while both were living and working in Los Angeles, and Kalman and his family have moved to Southern Nevada.
“We’re doing a kind of Italian restaurant merging East Coast red sauce executed at a high level with classical regional Italian cooking, using fresh ingredients and making all of the pastas in-house,” Kalman said. He said it will be reminiscent of the places he remembers while growing up in New Jersey in the ’70s and ’80s.
“Great meatballs and spaghetti with Sunday gravy, braciole, and we’re going to have a rotisserie with porchetta and whole chickens and leg of lamb,” he said. “Typically, red sauce is going to be heavy and dark. This is bright and fresh. And we’re going to have some really high-quality steaks and chops.”
Trees said the closure of Brio presented an opportunity.
“We love that Tivoli wanted us to move our Italian space because of the demand,” he said. “The problem with Ada’s was that you couldn’t get a table because it was such a small room. Unless you wanted to eat at 8 or later, reservations were booked up all the time.”
Scuola Vecchia’s seating will be about triple that of Ada’s, and they will have what Trees likes to say is “eight times the space.”
“We can do the things we always wanted to do,” he said. “Ada’s was a small room for the ambitions we had for it. This new concept is going to hit the neighborhood in a much better way.” He said the dining room will be more intimate and separated from the bar, which will be a place to hang out and watch a game, with a collection of wines you wouldn’t find in your neighborhood shop.
But Ada’s isn’t going away. It’s being retooled as Ada’s Wine Shop, with a menu of 10 to 15 tapas and wines both by the glass and at the retail level. The tapas will be traditional Spanish-style bites, such as albondigas. Best Ice Cream, which originally was part of Ada’s, may resurface in the future in an area with higher foot traffic.
“My favorite thing in the world,” Trees said, “is bacon-wrapped dates when I’m drinking wine. We’re just excited about the ability to bring something new and fun.”