Westgate’s authentic eatery is the REAL tour of Italy…
Update 7/16/20 – Since the original publication of this article, Fresco Italiano has undergone a number of changes. The additions of new general manager Dora Festa and Executive Chef Steve Young have led to an entirely new menu and recipes.
The restaurant has also been ranked by Tripadvisor as the top Italian restaurant in all of Las Vegas. Click here to make reservations through Open Table. I’ll be revisiting Fresco Italiano in the near future to review their summer 2020 offerings.
Last year, on another site, I did a multi-part piece on Westgate Resort, aka the former Las Vegas Hilton. That series included a visit to Edge Steakhouse, which was so impressive that it’s still my top recommendation for a Vegas “special meal”. Right next door is another possible treasure I’d been yearning to try – Fresco Italiano.
Forget about the restaurant chain that offers a Tour of Italy. Fresco Italiano literally gives you a trip through the Italian countryside using sights, sounds, scents….and most importantly, tastes. You’ll be transported beyond dining into a full sensory experience…without the need for a Vespa scooter.
You’ll understand what I mean when you walk into the Tuscan-inspired main seating area. Running across the far wall, to the left of the kitchen, are a series of screens arranged like windows of a vehicle. Gorgeous scenery glides by at a leisurely pace, all in a single direction and consistent speed. The effect is of moving through lush Italian landscapes via a slow boat or train. Click here for a gorgeous peek.
Photo: Steve at Everything LV.com
The decor of Fresco Italiano is classy, understated, elegant…yet somehow very warm. A full bar and “wine cellar” situated across the front of the main room offer ample seating that’s even more relaxed and inviting. The open kitchen and outgoing staff will have you remembering visits to Mama’s place for holiday meals.
As the name implies, Fresco Italiano is all about freshness – fresh ingredients, recipes and preparation…along with a fresh attitude towards fine dining. My companion and I found the overall visit to be surprisingly fun and just as memorable as the dishes we enjoyed.
Although we were invited guests of the restaurant (which undoubtedly resulted in PLENTY of special attention from the staff) there’s no question that guests surrounding us were just as enthralled as we were. The atmosphere is a bit infectious, as this video will attest to:
The very colorful Michael will serenade your table…
Angelo Cordero, who recently took over as General Manager (after stints at Rao’s and Carmine’s, both at Caesars Palace), knows how to deliver an immersive culinary adventure to every table. Although he’s only been there a few months, it’s clear that he and the staff have melded together into a wonderful pairing.
Mr. Cordero greeted our table and was eager to start us with some wine or cocktails. He recommended a gorgeously-prepared Fresco Red Sangria ($12) for myself and a White Sangria (also $12) for my companion. Both were bursting with flavor, color…and of course, freshness. After a small chat about vino, Cordero brought over a new addition to his collection…a 2013 Ferrari-Caranoblack muskat. It made a nice compliment to the entrees that would follow.
Our server Robert recommended that we try his favorite starter – Meatball Flatbread ($16). It’s topped with peperonata (sweet peppers “melted” in olive oil, onions and tomatoes), fior de latte (a mild cow’s milk cheese), black olives and basil. It was as mouth-watering as the above photo would suggest.
Other choices included a traditional Margherita, Sausage or Proscuitto and Ruchetta, ranging from $14 to $16. There are plenty of other appetizers to pick from, like meatballs, bruschetta, three varieties of mozzarella and two styles of mussels. Click here for the menu.
Before the flatbread arrived, we tried in a couple of salads. I had an Italian Chopped ($12) combining romaine, arugula, salami, peppers, onion, cabbage and house vinaigrette, capped with flash-fried proscuitto. My companion enjoyed a picture-perfect Classic Caesar ($12) topped with white anchovies and a large slice of Parmesan frico. Both were light, crisp and large enough to be an entree (but who comes to an Italian restaurant just for a salad?). Other offerings are an Heirloom Caprese and two soups – Minestrone ($10) and seafood-based Zuppa di Pesci ($12).
While waiting for our entrees, Sous Chef Larry Morris sent over a stunning Calamari Fritti ($14) marinated in buttermilk and dished up with mouth-watering sweet-and-spicy peppers. For a person who normally avoids calamari, this one was irresistible.
Pasta dishes are offered Modo Mia style (my way). A variety of different pastas and sauces can be matched to make your favorite entree. Fettucini, spaghetti, angel hair, gnocchi, linguini and more can be topped with bolognese, clam, marinara, carbonara, alfredo or arabiata sauces. Prices are based on the type of sauce ($19-$26). Add chicken, meatballs. grilled shrimp or sausage and peppers (at additional cost) to create that perfect dish.
My guest selected Fettucine with Alfredo Sauce and added grilled chicken breast. There is a list of specialty pastas like Prosciutto and Pea Fettucine with cream and summer truffel ($25), Frutti di Mare Linguine with clams, mussels, shrimp and scallops covered in San Marzano sauce and chili flakes ($28), Agnolotti with pistachio butter, garlic and arugula ($25), and of course, Homemade Lasagne ($29).
Pastas and pizza carry the weight of Fresco’s menu, but there is plenty in the way of Risottoand Carne. Free-range chicken breasts ($27), pork loin ($29) and organic veal chop ($47) are prepared in one of five different styles.
I chose an absolutely stunning bone-in veal chop, prepared parmesan style over a bed of spaghetti marinara. It was enough for two people to fill themselves up on….with leftovers to spare. The overall flavor was out of this world, although the marinara sauce was a little tart for my liking.
Under entrees, Branzino (European Sea Bass – $34), Lamb ($36) an 8-oz Filet ($45) and a 22-oz Prime Rib will vie for your attention. All come with vegetable and a starch. Shareable sides (such as roasted potatoes, grilled asparagus, eggplant and peperonata) are $10.
Dessert fans, take note of the new Spring Menu of sweet and chilled goodies. The General Manager’s family recipe gets top billing with Angelo’s Grandma’s Famous Tiramisu ($9). More signature sweets like Ricotta Cheesecake ($9), seven-layer Chocolate Cake topped with seasonal berries ($9), a double-helping of Cannoli ($8) and various Gelato flavors ($6) should send you on your way with a smile.
Although we were stuffed to the max (with plenty to take home), Mr. Cordero insisted on preparing a Bananas Foster for our table. See the video clip above for the dish being created on a cart by the kitchen. The spectacular flaming effect added even more to the sensory adventure we’d just undergone.
Unfortunately, Bananas Foster isn’t listed on the menus I have, so I can’t quote the price. But be sure to ask Angelo about it…he appeared to be having fun at the flambe pan and will undoubtedly be pleased to whip up one for your group.
There’s no doubt that this writer regrets waiting so long to try Fresco Italiano at Westgate. Like neighboring Edge Steakhouse, this restaurant is a winner for the off-Strip resort…and another new personal favorite.
Fresco Italiano is located at 3000 Paradise Road inside Westgate Las Vegas. Hours are from 5pm daily with select dates for lunch from 11-2. Call 702.732.5276 for reservations or additional information. Group menus and private dining rooms are available.
Photos: [Sammasseur, Westgate Las Vegas, Yelp!]