Now that’s Italian

For Anthony Marnell III and his family, the annual Italian Festivals they threw at the Rio — the Flamingo Road resort that the family built — were always a high point of the year.

This weekend, the Marnell family takes the long-running festival of Italian food, fun and entertainment to M Resort, their new property at 12300 Las Vegas Blvd. South, for what Marnell expects to be another long run.

M Resort opened in March, and Marnell says the family knew that an Italian Festival — which they kicked off at the Rio 17 years ago — would be part of the new venue’s entertainment offerings from the time "we knew we were going to build the hotel."

"The idea was, we were going to put it in one way or another," says Marnell, M Resort’s chairman and chief executive officer. "It’s just a great event for the hotel and a great event for the community, and the kind of thing I think casinos should do."

The Italian Festival will include foods from M Resorts’ own restaurants as well as vendors from Southern Nevada’s culinary community. Prices will begin at $2, and offerings will include such dishes as pizzas, pastas, Italian pastries, spumoni, shaved ice and fried dough.

Guests also may sample wines and cheeses, while home cooks can browse an open-air farmer’s market.

The festival’s entertainment menu includes concerts and musical performances — Louis Prima Jr. will perform on the main stage at 3, 5 and 7 p.m. both days — grape-stomping and spaghetti-eating contests, and a bocce ball tournament.

Marnell says offering a wide range of activities is key to the festival’s success.

"There are all these things we do. It’s entertaining, but it’s something people can participate in," he says. "Americans love a good Saturday or Sunday barbecue. This is just one which has Italian food and great music, and everyone can get involved."

For Marnell, the Italian Festival also may give newcomers a chance to visit M Resort, which is about 10 miles south of the Strip. Already, he notes, such events as this past summer’s Labor Day festival and a recent Journey concert have introduced first-time visitors to the property.

"It’s very fulfilling," Marnell says. "It’s good to show people what we’ve built and everything we’re doing."

In fact, now that the resort is up and running, the objective has become "seeing what works and what doesn’t work," Marnell says. "Next, I think we’re going to have a fantastic entertainment schedule and people will see something just about every weekend."

Marnell is sure the Italian Festival will be one event that falls solidly into the "does work" column.

"It’s just a lot of fun putting on," he says. "What’s better than a big Italian party?"

Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280.

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