Visiting Vegas (Italian Style)
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
How do you entertain your straight-laced, conservative Connecticut-bred, Italian mother (who happens to be visiting during Lent) in one of the most wonderfully corrupting places in the world, Las Vegas?!
Distract her from all the brash, burlesque activity with the indulgence of fine shopping and the gluttony of fabulous food.
I steered her over to the Venetian Hotel Resort and Casino (877-857-1861) to experience the traditions of our Grosso familia’s heritage. You could spend all day in the Grand Canal Shoppes, where it feels like you’re outside on a lovely spring day with clear blue skies about you. Stroll down the cobblestone walks and take a ride through the canals on a gondola as you are serenaded by your oarsman, or experience the downfall of Atlantis by watching statues come to life to re-tell the story. As the cloud-filled ceiling faded to dusk we knew that it was time for our evening meal.
Our ancestors would have exclaimed “Magnifico!” when we walked into the Zeffirino Ristorante (702-414-3500). The ambiance of the beautiful dark wood furniture, complimenting the orange walls and seductive lighting made us feel like we walked into our family’s Italian villa.
In 1939, Zeffirino Belloni opened his first restaurant in Genoa, Italy. Generations later, three more have been opened, and lucky for us, one of those was in the Venetian in 1999.
The service we received was impeccable. Luciano was our warm and gracious host, and our waiter, Luca, was so kind and exceedingly attentive. All of the staff is straight from Italy, and between their joyful company and our cozy surroundings we felt welcomed in like we were all a part of one grandiose family.
Being the High Holy season of Lent we felt slightly guilty as we were seated on a balcony overlooking the Grand Canal and prepared to indulge. We tried to redeem ourselves by avoiding meat and sticking to a meal of seafood, and boy-oh-boy did Chef Gian Paolo Belloni make sure that we kept “seeing food” all night long.
The Scampi Antipasto has spoiled me forever. Will anything ever again come even close to the way that crawfish melted in my mouth? And the Chilean Sea Bass?! Mamma Mia!
All the little special touches makes dining at Zeffirino’s more than just a dinner out. It’s a fine dining experience that’s a must if you are spending some time in Vegas. Everything from the plethora of homemade breads and the vast selection of wines, to the Sorbet Intermezzo, and you must have the Fragalino with baby strawberries after one of their decadent deserts.
Having felt like I had distracted my mom from the bright lights and shady going-ons of Vegas nightlife long enough, we rolled back to our room to slumber in the gluttony of our indulgence. Guilt only slightly loomed as we pondered our lack of observing the Holy fast.
With just one more day of trying to show mom the saintly side to this wickedly delightful city, I decided to try to corrupt her a bit and stuck a roll of quarters in her lily white hand. Before the coin slipped through the slot she was hooked and the corruptee became the corruptor. Uh oh! I had unleashed the animal within. Quarter after quarter, roll after roll, machine after machine. If it wasn’t Lucky Sevens, it was Wheel Of Fortune. If not Wheel Of Fortune, it was Double Diamonds. After a while it became all about just “getting rid” of the darn things. Like all of those quarters were such an evil and dirty burden for her to carry that she didn’t want a single coin left on her person. It’s a bizarre transition to see your mother go from saint to local in a flash of silver.
Regretting my decision to corrupt her, I lured her over to the Rio Suites Hotel and Casino (1-800 eHARRAH) with the temptation of more food and some rambunctious entertainment.
Once more bringing her back to her comfort zone, I decided to take her to see “Tony and Tina’s Wedding” (7pm daily in the Calypso Room), an outrageous dinner show that hit a little too close to home. As a guest at this wild wedding you get immersed in all of the craziness of two wacky Italian families coming together. Everyone has their issues. The Maid of Honor is pregnant, the father of the bride shows up with his hot-to-trot new girlfriend, and the priest gets blitzed.
We got pulled out to boogie on the dance floor to YMCA, mangia-ed on an Italian pasta buffet and fought to catch the bouquet. Ahhh, gotta love Italians!
On the way out of the hotel we got a treat when we caught a little showgirl skin at the Rio’s free Masquerade Show in the casino. I stood in the crowd bookended by two real Las Vegas brides. So much for trying to protect Mom. Oh well, it’s good for her to get a little exposure to this alien world.
All in all I think my sheltered mother had a pretty darn good time in the desert oasis called Las Vegas…she even managed to get rid of every single last quarter before boarding her plane at the airport. How’s that for cleansing your sins?