Mezzo Bistro Italiano (Las Vegas)
This NW Las Vegas place had gotten a nice write-up in the newspaper, and since its close to our house and good, non-chain food is hard to find in our neck of the burbs, I decided to put it to the ultimate test. My dad and my (Italian) stepmother were in town, so we decided to check it out. The result: Four Thumbs Up.
The chef/owner used to own a place called Marc's for many years (I vaguely remember driving past it on my way to work). He sold it and decided to open Mezzo. I guess its been open four or five months.
Its in a strip mall, but what place in Vegas isn't? And when I heard the neighborhood (its on Rancho a block South of Craig) I must admit I was sceptical. But our dinner was excellent, and the price is right.
Stepmom was pleased to see a reasonably priced and fairly extensive wine list. We had a pinot noir and a Sangeovese, both from Sonoma vineyards, both around 30 dollars a bottle (I wish I could remember which vineyards....I'm typing this after drinking the wine and blanking..but MK thought they were reasonably priced, and so they must be...).
Two of us started with the beet salad; it was delicious. The beets were very fresh: large slices of red beets, with some greens on the side, and a wonderful reduced balsamic dressing. There was just a touch of goat cheese and some walnuts. DH kept stealing bites from my plate, and he doesn't even like beets! He also had a regular dinner salad, which he liked (fresh blueberries were an interesting addition), and the pasta fagioli soup. It was very good.
For mains we all had various pasta dishes. I had the papardelle (sp?) with wild boar ragu. All of the pasta was freshly made. Sauce was very good. DH had the fettucini alfredo, MK the eggplant parmesan. My dad had the seafood pasta...with loads of fresh clams and mussels. He raved about it, and especially about the bivalves.
DH and I split a creme brulee for desert; they carmelize it at the table. MK had the tirimasu....plenty of espresso. My dad had a canoli..delicious. At 2.50 each the house-made canoli have to be the bargain of the year.
Service was friendly and accommodating. The room had a very nice feel; homey and comfortable. There were lots of families...the place was crowded yet not too loud. We all agreed that we would definitely be back....It would be a great place for a Sunday lunch. Simple, family-style Italian food, but well-made. Everything was very fresh. I say check it out. MK and my dad felt that it would be worth a drive (and it would be a drive!) even for those not in the neighborhood.
Dinner for four with two bottles of wine, four apps, mains and three deserts was just over 200 dollars. Very reasonable for the quality!
An update: we had dinner there last night and were not nearly as thrilled...mostly because of service issues but also the food didn't seem as sparkling. I think a lot of it had to do with the holiday weekend, so I'm willing to cut them some slack, but still...
We arrived a minute or two early for our seven o'clock reservation to find the place packed, with a lot of people standing and waiting. "Good thing we have a reservation" I said to my son. Only it turned out all those people also had reservations. The bar was packed as well (its small), and my son isn't 21 for another two months so he wasn't comfortable going there...so we had no choice but to wait in the vestibule. We were offered an empty two-top right by the door, but it would have meant eating with people literally standing two inches behind us. I asked the hostess if she was willing to to gently ask the folks to move so we could eat there reasonably comfortably, but she wasn't. (besides, the table was too small for three, really). I pointed out to the manager later (he agreed, btw), that one problem is that there is only one bench to sit on while waiting, and it is right next to tables. There is a place for it in the waiting area that would not butt up on tables; they should move it right away.
Part of the confusion (I think) comes from the hostess' inability to deal with the crowd. There was a reservation for four that checked in right in front of us. Soon a table for four became available, but I watched as it sat empty for ten minutes while she was elsewhere trying to figure out which tables were emptying up. She should have sat them first! Also, a group of ten had a table set and ready to the side, and someone told them "that's your table" but apparently never told them they could be seated...so they milled around for an excessive time as well....creating a further crowd in a small area. Finally I pretended to be with the restaurant and said "you can be seated now" and got them to sit down! Geez!
As you can tell, I was getting a little antsy and hunger does not make me pleasant. So my husband and son banished me to the bar for a glass of wine. I would have thought it would have been nice if someone had offered to bring us a glass while we waited, but no such luck. The hostess did apologize, saying that "people just won't leave...they are lingering. One group has been there since 4:30." Well, that may have been true, but a glance around the restaurant revealed most folks were eating and not lingering. The manager told me later that they had thought Memorial Day weekend would be slow so they had given lots of staff the day off...well, I had a peak at their reservation book and it was packed...maybe that should have given a clue that it wouldn't be slow! (Or maybe they should have spread out the reservations better).
Anyway, the service didn't improve much once we were seated about a half hour later. Our salads and my wedding soup (culinary highlight of the night, btw) came quickly, but no one came by to offer fresh ground pepper as is customarily done there (and we observed being done to other tables). I think our server was a bus boy that they upgraded on the spot. He was pretty clueless. We had to ask for bread, and the wine didn't show up until I asked...and I couldn't even find him to ask until long after I was done with my soup. Then there was a loonggg wait between apps and entrees.....as tables all around us got served and finished. The waiter apologized once and said he was comping desert...but when desert time came he just asked if we wanted anything and didn't mention the comp again so we decided to forget it (It was late anyway).
Sorry, didn't mean to turn this into a rant. I was just disappointed, especially after I raved about the place to my (visiting) son. He thought his lasagna was just ok, and he loves lasagna so that means it was disappointing. DH thought his linguini with clams was ok but not great. My pork tenderloin was good but not outstanding....and the accompanying three apple slices were tiny, along with two small pieces of cauliflower. It looked very lonely on the plate. Son quipped "Is that your second appetizer?"
We noticed that the menu seemed shorter...maybe they did that for the holiday. The fettucini alfredo that my husband loved so much the last time was not on it, for example. We'll give it another try, but definitely not on a holiday weekend or a Saturday night.
A few things I wanted to mention: they have an open kitchen, and a chef's table in there supposedly (although I didn't see it). There is also a wine bar, and a lot of the list is available by the glass. Again, reasonable prices. Also a chef's tasting menu for 38 dollars; I suspect well worth it.
And although I'm not a big pizza fan, there is a wood-fired oven and some pretty good looking pizza went to a table near us.....