Veteran Strip chef Gina Marinelli to open Summerlin restaurant

Updated April 17, 2018 - 8:31 pm

A downtown pop-up dinner this month was both a collaboration between two local chefs and a return to the spotlight for one of them — Gina Marinelli.

About 50 people attended the recent dinner, “One Night, Two Chefs, Three Courses, Fo(u)r a Good Cause,” which paired Marinelli with Justin Kingsley Hall, executive chef at The Kitchen at Atomic and was a fundraiser for the nonprofit Urban Seed Foundation.

Pop-up dinners such as this, where guest chefs cook in someone else’s kitchen, have become common in Las Vegas’ close-knit culinary community. An appearance by Marinelli, however, has been anything but commonplace for the better part of a year, since the closure of D.O.C.G. at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas last summer.

“I miss Gina’s food, because it’s just good,” says Grace Shark Park, as she prepares to enjoy her meal at the restaurant’s bar. “It doesn’t have that Vegas flash, it just tastes good. (And) it doesn’t matter whether you know about food or not.”

Park and the rest of Marinelli’s fans will soon be able to enjoy her cooking more regularly. The Atomic event and her appearance at UNLVino over the weekend were warm-ups for her next restaurant, which is expected to open in Summerlin this summer.

‘My menu’

Marinelli, 36, moved to Las Vegas in 2006 after graduating from culinary school in Florida. She logged time in the kitchens of Michael Mina’s former restaurants Nobhill Tavern and American Fish as well as Shawn McClain’s Sage before joining Scott Conant’s team at D.O.C.G. There, she worked her way from sous chef to executive chef, making her one of the few women to run a kitchen in a Strip casino restaurant.

After that restaurant closed, Marinelli made her third trip to Italy, for relaxation and inspiration. Returning to Las Vegas, she briefly took the reins at Summerlin’s popular Due Forni Pizza & Wine, which closed in October following a flood.

This summer, Marinelli expects to open La Strega in the space that housed Due Forni. It’s a collaboration with Lev Restaurant Group, but it will be 100 percent Marinelli’s vision.

“I don’t have to go through anybody anymore,” she says of the freedom the move off-Strip affords her. “I get to do my menu, with my food, and how I’m feeling: my story! That’s exciting.”

In an industry where women in leadership roles are uncommon, she’s using the project to address that shortcoming.

“This is a very female-driven, restaurant,” she says. “My GM is female. The woman leading the construction is female. My kitchen designer is female.”

“The design of the restaurant is feminine. The place just curves, and has this softness and that feel, (with) nice colors.”

That feminine energy inspired the restaurant’s name: La Strega, which means “the witch” in Italian. An outdoor patio, with a planned herb wall, has been dubbed a “witch’s garden.”

“We always feel like all women have a little bit of witch in them,” she laughs. “So we love that.”

Inspired by Italy

The food will be Italian, although Marinelli stresses her interpretation of that nation’s cuisine means “a lot of authentic dishes from Italy, no Italian-American.”

Despite her surname, Marinelli didn’t develop a true passion for Italian food until she traveled to Europe after quitting her job at American Fish and questioning her career path. She says the two weeks she spent in Italy changed her life.

“When I saw nuns, like full-on nuns, eating pizza on the street, it was just this beautiful thing that really pulled me in. The way they dined there was beautiful, there was not a care in the world.”

Although her time working for Conant allowed her to further explore Italian cuisine, she says two additional trips to Italy will have an even greater influence on her menu.

“Everything on that menu is inspired by my time in Italy (and) my family, my fiancee — all that kind of stuff. It’ll be educational, but not pretentious.”

When asked about menu items, she rattles off dishes such as steak tartare bruschetta, hamachi crudo, truffle gnocchi and various salads, all of which are based, at least in part, on something she discovered during her journeys. She also plans to feature an old family polenta recipe, along with pizzas she describes as “neo-Neapolitan, where it does have that Neapolitan feel, but the crust will have a little more structure.”

Back at the bar at Atomic, Park can’t wait to try La Strega. Asked if she’ll visit the new place, she smiles and answers slowly, for emphasis, “Every, single, day!” With enthusiasm like that, Marinelli seems to be off to a good start.

Contact Al Mancini at amancini Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.

Spring Preserve kicks off its Holiday Express
Springs Preserve hosts its Holiday Express, which includes a train ride, visits with Santa, SNOW, and a village winter wonderland.
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas art exhibit
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas gallery exhibit
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with blooming jasmine tea
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with jasmine tea
Benny the Ice Skating Dog
Benny is a Las Vegas Labrador who was rescued by former pro skater Cheryl Del Sanyo, and trained to ice skate. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Nevada State Museum
The Nevada State Museum of Las Vegas, located at the Springs Preserve, covers all eras of the state, from prehistoric to today.
Throw a better dinner party
Cash appears at Baseball Winter Meetings
Lights FC mascot Cash plays the electronic drums at the EZ Inflatables’ booth on Tuesday at the Baseball Winter Meetings trade show at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
5 albums to soundtrack your holiday gatherings in style
1. Various Artists, “Holidays Rule," with Rufus Wainwright, The Shins, Calexico and more. 2. Various Artists, “We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year," with Lemmy Kilmister, Alice Cooper, Chuck Billy and others. 3. Various Artists, “Christmas on Death Row," featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg to name but a few. 4. Bright Eyes, “A Christmas Album.” 5. Various Artists, "The Motown Christmas Album." (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
WinterFest in Henderson.
Miss Rodeo America Fashion Show
The 28 women contestants of Miss Rodeo America compete in a fashion show at the Tropicana on Dec. 7, 2018.
Tournament Of Kings Holiday Show
Wizards and warriors are ready for the holidays at Excalibur's Tournament of Kings Holiday Dinner Show.
Take a dive with the Silverton mermaids
A visit to the Silverton Casino Hotel is not complete without taking in the popular, and very unique, mermaid show.
Cowboys and western aficionados can buy virtually anything at Cowboy Christmas
Vegas Golden Knights Christmas Display
In the Las Vegas Valley, the chances of getting a white Christmas are slim. But this year, you can have a “Knight” Christmas. A Henderson resident has a Christmas lights display that is synchronized to the entrance music for the Golden Knights. GG Misa’s Knights light show is played every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 nightly. His light show consists of two songs: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and the entrance music, “Le Castle Vania,” from the movie “John Wick.” The display is located at 730 Bollons Island St. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez is Just in Time For Repeal Day And Christmas
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez Is Just In Time For Repeal Day And Christmas. Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TV's LGBT superheroes
Green Valley Ranch's Winter's Village
The Mob Museum
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quick Chat With Criss Angel
James D. Gish and Susan Anton rehearse
Susan Anton will be special guest at James D. Gish’s holiday concerts Dec. 7 at Summerlin Library and Dec. 9 at Clark County Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Winter Wonderland
"Majestic Holiday Magic" at the Bellagio Conservatory.
Underwater Santa At The Silverton
Santa takes a dive Sunday, December 2, at the Silverton Casino Hotel. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Cowabunga Bay Christmas Town
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which opened in 1991, has exhibits of mechanical dinosaurs and taxidermied animals, along with live snakes, fish and sharks. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Magical Forest Lights
Cirque Du Soleil Performers Team Up For New Show "Kinekt"
Through dance, acrobatics and aerial arts, “Kinekt” tells a story all too familiar to modern families: how to maintain a human connection in the digital age. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden
The Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas
The Pinball Hall of Fame was created by Tim Arnold and opened in 2006. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like