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May 3, 2008 10:19 AM

CARNEVINO - Excellent! (Las Vegas)

I have been reading this board for weeks prior to my Las Vegas visit this week, and I have to say that Carnevino has been given a bad rap, especially by people who have not even dined there! It was therefore with great trepidation I made the reservation there due to the comments on this board, but I was pleasantly thrilled with a meal that exceeded our expectations in every way.

I had noted in my Open Table reservation that it was a special evening for someone in our party and when we arrived, with a gracious and warm greeting we were shown to a nice table along the wall near a window. There were sparkling wine glasses as well as the typical wine glasses set out for us and the sommelier appeared immediately and provided us with a pour of prosecco for a toast. A very nice touch. The room reminded me of Florence, it is very medieval italianate, with frescoed halls and sturdy leather chairs, and a soaring ceiling. The tables are well spaced and the volume is low enough to hear the music, which was not Led Zeppelin but John Mayer.

There was an amuse of what I belive to be a ricotta-parmigiano cheese puff, light as air. Then we were delivered the rosemary foccacia bread served with creamery butter and the fantastic lardo, also scented with rosemary. I first had this at Del Posto, and while lardo sounds awful, it is whipped into a divine spread that melts on the bread and will make you swoon, they call it "Italian Butter".

We started with orders of the Clams Zuppetta and the Prosciutto Gnocco Fritto. The clams were about a dozen served in an intense broth made of red pepper, garlic, olive oil and a bit of spice with strips of sauteed red and yellow peppers strewn over the clams. This was amazing, the absolute best clam dish I have ever had, he needs to serve this over pasta in one of his restaurants. I did not want to share! I sopped up every last bit of the amazing broth with the rosemary bread and was in heaven! The Prosciutto Gnocco Fritto, a dish we have had in Bologna many times, was a terrific version. The gnocco fritto are light, almost pastry-like small rolls that you place the special riserva prosciutto on and the prosciutto melts into the roll and all becomes one porky bite of goodness. We did not order pastas because we were aiming for the meat and did not want to fill up too much. We will definitely be trying the pastas next time.

We ordered the Porterhouse for two and the double cut lamb chops. There has been much consternation about the price of the porterhouse, but at $145, it is commensurate with most of the other steakhouses in town. Robert, our excellent and attentive waiter, explained that the BBL beef is actually on slaughterhouse premise selected from the best cuts of prime, it is also hormone and antibiotic free. The porterhouse was presented with much fanfare and carved tableside by the sommelier. The beef was well marbled, had a deeply charred salty crust and you could indeed detect the rosemary in the crunch. The meat melted in the mouth and was one of the best steaks I have ever had. The lamb chops were huge! They were double cut and all the fat was left on to ensure flavor and tenderness of the enclosed meat. The resulting lamb was moist and juicy, I will have to get my butcher to cut them like this the next time I buy lamb.

We had a side of Cesare's Tuscan Fries, and while they were actually not Cesare Casella's famous Tuscan Fries from Beppe and Maremma in NYC (there they are actual french fries fried with herbs), they were still very good; Long potato wedges fried and dusted with parmagiano and herbs, a great accompaniment to the meat. The mushroom side dish was my favorite, a mix of several unique mushrooms and herbs in an almost asian flavor that was addictively delicious. We also ordered an Arugula salad without the cheese to go with the meat, as they do in italy with a tagliata. All the sides were exemplary.

Most of us were too full to order dessert with the exception of a vanilla gelato that was proclaimed rich, creamy and refreshing. The wine we ordered, a Barolo Rocche dei Manzoni Cappella S. Stefano 1997 was a bit thin, but they have a broad range of Barolos at what are actually very good price points. We noted that they also offer on their list the very decent Joe's Rosso, a delicious wine made by the proprietor, Joe Bastianich, and at $32, it is a very accessible choice without breaking the bank. We finished with a three amaro tasting and Robert, our waiter, included an additional amaro gratis. Amaro is an Italian digestif that practically the entire country of Italy drinks after a large meal. It really will help digestion and you will indeed feel much less full not long after imbibing.

From beginning to end, we had a fine experience at Carnevino, from the welcoming staff, to the knowledgable waiters and sommelier, the delicious food, every aspect was perfect. I would genuinely say that this meal "wowed" me like no other has recently and we were all pleasantly surprised.

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  1. Great review!

    You bring up a good point that many who pan restaurants have not dined at the restaurants they are panning. I've seen this a number of times and it bothers me. Glad you finally said something.

    There was a recent post where someone was passionately panning Carnevino for charging so much for the Porterhouse which you really seem to have enjoyed. Incidentally, that person had not actually been to Carnevino. It really is not that out of the usual range of what one should expect to pay for prime steak in Las Vegas. I look forward to trying it.

    Maybe I should keep my mouth (or keyboard) shut on this issue. If in order to pan a restaurant, one must have actually dined there, then all we could talk about are real experiences. Kindof boring.

    1. Good to know Climber Doc thanks for the review..I love Batali so I think need to go. Sometimes on here when I hear too many negative reviews about a chef I like so much It makes me want to go more (wierd huh) just to prove to myself whether its good or bad. I think my friend VegasEl posted on here a day or two ago about the great experience she had at Cafe Mortorano last week...the reviews on here and elsewhere have been horrid -- more about price, service and attitude than the food. She went with a comp and found it perfectly lovely all the way around -- I swear she was scared out of her mind to go. Now I think we will go back together without a comp she liked it so much.

      Maybe this is a change of thread but I am also curious on the attitudes of people who go somewhere try something they didnt like and never go back. I have been going to Rosemary's for years -- last time I was there I had something I really truly didnt like -- I even sent it back which i normally don't do(sort of felt like a leper though--Chef Jordan came out to see who the stupid chick who sent her dinner back was but it was more to make sure I had enough to eat -- I was sharing my friends monstrouous steak so we were fine)..I was thinking to myself what if I had that on my first trip to Rosemary's I might have missed out on some amazing food. I need to not write something off totally after one bad meal. Granted if I pay a lot it might be a while before I try again. Anway something to think about.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Justjenn

        I completely agree with you statement that multiple bad reviews of a restaurant only serve to make me want to try it more. For example, with B&B I read countless reviews of the loud music, bad service, oversalted food, high prices, crowded tables, etc. Well, all those factors were present on my trip there to some extent. The music was louder than usual but not objectionable (and I liked the selections). The service was a bit distant but by no means the worst I've had. The food was salty, but I'm not sure I would have noticed this if I had not been "on the lookout" for it. On the whole it was a worthwhile meal and the prices seemed in line with what I expect for that level of food in Vegas. My main memory from that meal were the Mint Love Letters which really demonstrated to me the culinary genius that Mario Batali is. I guess if anyone of the common complaints I mentioned had bothered me more then the entire experience would have been perceived differently. I am very intolerant of crowded tables, but we arrived at 10pm and for the most part were the only ones in the restaurant. An earlier reservation may have completely altered my perception. Will I go to B&B again? Yes, but not before I hit around ten other places on my to do list. It's so interesting how the internet has impacted the whole restaurant experience.

        1. re: Justjenn

          Good points Jenn and Doc. I'm willing to give Rosemary's the benefit of the doubt and to overlook certain issues because generally it's very good. Maybe I didn't love everything I had the first time I went there, but it had potential so we tried it again and eventually quite a few more times. IMO their dessert menu needs a major overhaul - in fact, Chef Jordan needs to hire a real pastry chef and to start thinking seasonally when it somes to desserts rather than just having one special at a time. I've even voiced this issue (nicely of course) to one of the managers there who we've gotten friendly with. However that weakness will not dissuade me from repeat visits.

          I didn't love Stripsteak the first time but it wasn't horrid so we tried it again before really deciding it's not for us. However, I don't know that I will ever again try L'Atelier. At that price point I might not want to take a second chance and I really didn't like it.

          Of course as a non-local I probably only have 15 or so dinners in Vegas per year (maybe 5 trips of 3 nights each) so I do have to think it through more carefully than if I lived there.

          p.s. I like B&B (two visits) but the price points at Carnevino are a bit scary even by Vegas standards.

        2. Your review was excellent and well written. It makes me want to eat there. For me it is not how much a meal costs, but whether you feel that it was a good value for what you received. It sounds like it was.

          1. We ate at Carnevino last week and agree 100% with CiaoCane's review. We loved every dish, especially the Clams "al forno" and the Cannaloni. We also enjoyed the lardo and the amuse bouche. The waiter was friendly and attentive and the room was beautiful. We have pretty high standards...and Carnevino met or exceeded every one. I wonder if Batali would consider opening up a restaurant in Boston...

            1 Reply
            1. re: sadieeats

              Thanks for the review, we are supposed to head there in April and i was going to skip this restaurant. Any other good spots that you would reccommend while we are there.

              We have been to LV many times, but always like to hear peoples impressions of thier cant miss spot(s). Thanks.

            2. Wow, so relieved to read your review. A friend made reservations for our party of 8 at Carnevino in a few weeks and I was frankly concerned by all the negative reviews but didn't want to be rude in second guessing my friend. The menu looked intriguing but I was still worried. Your review gives me confidence that the evening will be enjoyable. I love well prepared lamb and would only wish you had had the opportunity to review the pasta! Thank you for taking the time to thoughtfully and carefully review Carnevino and defend Mario's honor. :-)

              1 Reply
              1. re: mommy3esq

                I had the pleasure of dining at Carnevino this past weekend in Vegas and it was delightful! The service was attentive and the food was even better. It was a party of 6 and everyone left feeling like it was one of the best meals they've had.

                Started off with the Affettati Misti (which we were told was made in-house) and the Big Eye Tuna Crudo. Both dishes were full of flavour and the tuna had a very fresh and light taste. The entire table ended up having the Bone In New York Strip and it was by far the best decision yet! Tender, flavourful, juicy and cooked perfectly. The table shared 4 sides - Greens with the house smoked pork, roasted beets, potato & parmigiano zeppole and the roasted sweet potatoes. Perfect sides that complemented the meal. The majority of us were too full for dessert but couldn't resist one that sounded tempting - a Toasted Honey Panna Cotta with crumbled gingersnaps and a Pear Sorbetti. Fantastic! Creamy with the right amount of sweetness and crunch and the pear sorbetti complemented it perfectly!

                The service was some of the best that I've had - friendly, attentive and knowledgable. And at the end, we were rewarded with limoncello gratis that was made in-house. Beautiful.