Esther’s Kitchen Leads a Wave of Restaurant Re-openings


Chef James Trees and team bring “Seasonal Italian Soul Food” back to Arts District…

It’s an absolute thrill to share news that life as we remember it might just be inching towards “normal”. Of course, there will be adjustments galore for both businesses and patrons…but let’s take what we can get and enjoy the wonderful experience of dining out once more.

The following is a press release I received from Eric. C. Gladstone this morning. Eric represents some of Sin City’s finest restaurants (La Strega, Vegenation, Lotus of Siam) and food festivals (Vegas Unstripped). Continue beyond the press release to my February 2019 write-up of Esther’s Kitchen, which was also featured in BestOfVegas.com. Please note that hours, menu and prices may have changed since the original publication.

Enjoy….and welcome back to the real world!

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Chef Trees during a recent online cooking class May 6, 2020

(credit: Cyndi Graham)

(May 11, 2020) – Chef/Owner James Trees has announced the reopening schedule for Esther’s Kitchen, following the statewide shutdown for COVID-19 quarantine. Esther’s Kitchen will resume dinner service next Friday, May 15 from 5-11 p.m. and open again for the same dinner hours Saturday May 16 and Sunday May 17.

The following week, the restaurant will resume dinner service Wed May 20 through Sunday May 24, and then dinner service will resume a 7 day schedule from Friday May 29. Weekend brunch service will resume Saturday & Sunday, May 30-31 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Weekday lunch service will resume on Monday June 1 from 11 a.m. to 1 pm.

Per guidelines set by the State of Nevada and SNHD, Esther’s Kitchen will reduce the number of tables in the restaurants by 50%, with no bar seating until further notice. Dining on the front and rear patios will also be available. All service staff and kitchen staff will meet and exceed all mandated safety precautions while maintaining highest levels of service. Reservations through the website and over the phone will be strongly recommended, and guests will be asked to respect proper social distancing.

The restaurant will also be debuting a new menu, featuring more new vegetable-forward dishes, more new pastas and more main courses alongside many of diners’ established favorites. “We are excited to be getting back to serving our friends & neighbors,” said Chef Trees, “and especially excited to share some of the new dishes we’ve been working on.”

Key Dates:  5/15-17: Dinner resumes, 5-11 p.m.

5/20-5/24: Dinner service, 5-11 p.m.

5/29: Dinner returns to seven-day schedule, 5-11 p.m.

5/30-31 Weekend Brunch resumes, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

6/1: Weekday Lunch resumes, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.


ESTHER’S KITCHEN TURNS BRUNCH INTO ART

Feb 15, 2019 | By Sam Novak

Sometimes the best new offerings in any city are ones that spring up in gentrified areas. For Las Vegas, the eighteen-block region now known as the Art District was once a collection of run-down warehouses and abandoned shops. These days, a new vibe of hipster-cool is drawing both young and old back to the area.

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Nestled in among the graffiti-style wall murals, art galleries and coffee shops is a grand little place named Esther’s Kitchen. While technically located at 1130 S. Casino Blvd, the cafe physically faces E. California Avenue, unit #110. So while it may be a bit tricky to find, Esther’s Kitchen is definitely worth seeking.

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Esther’s Kitchen is the brainchild of Chef James Trees, whose late great-aunt Esther bequeathed him the funds to make the restaurant possible. A protege of sorts of the world-famous Michael Mina, Trees made his mark in countless establishments on and around the Strip before venturing out on his own.

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Esther’s Kitchen is the culmination of Chef Trees’ storied career…and a wonderful reflection of his upbringing. His goal is for every guest to feel welcome and cared for. The open kitchen, whimsical decor and friendly staff may remind you of visits to a favorite relative, but it’s with the food that Esther’s Kitchen really shines.

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Esther’s boasts a farm-to-table operation. Everything is locally sourced or brought in from the best nearby suppliers. It’s worth noting that prices are far less than you’d pay elsewhere for dishes of this quality and presentation.

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The weekend brunch, for which I was an invited guest, features a variety of familiar favorites given a homespun Italian slant. My companion and I were invited to select two entrees to accompany a sampler of Chef’s choices.

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We started out with a plate of warm fluffy Biscuits with Chive Butter ($5) along with Toasted Italian Bread under layers of cream cheese, smoked salmon, red onions and capers ($11).

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Next came a bowl of Malfada Nero ($19), a dish whose dark mafaldine pasta is colored with cuttlefish ink. The unique wavy noodles are tossed with big chunks of lobster (flown in directly from Gloucester, Mass.), fennel, lemon and truffle butter, and the dish is as mouth-watering as it sounds.

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My main course from the list of “Egg Dishes” was a plate of Polenta with two sunny-side Chino Ranch eggs, mushrooms, truffle butter and frico chips ($14). My guest took a cue from the lunch menu and indulged in an enormous Chicken Parm ($13) smothered in provolone, organic tomato sauce and basil. Sandwiches are accompanied by housemade root chips and a simple salad.

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Some of the other brunch specialties include Ricotta Pancakes topped with blueberry compote and lemon butter ($12), a Breaky Sandwich with sausage, fried egg, fontina cheese, greens and potatoes ($12) and Bread Pudding French Toast Sticks served with maple and golden dipping syrups ($10).

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During weekdays, Esther’s Kitchen caters to the Downtown lunch crowd with fast counter service. Parties of six or more can make reservations for full table service. The lunch menu has a variety of delectable pizzas, pastas, salads and sandwiches.

Esther’s dinner menu builds on crowd-pleasers from the lunch menu, and adds a hearty selection of main courses. Market Fish with charred orange braised endive ($28), Pachamama Farm Porchetta with squash and brussels ($27) and Rye Tagliatelle with braised duck and mushrooms ($24) should satisfy your cravings.

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Despite the intimate size of the dining room, Esther’s Kitchen boasts a full bar whipping up classics, alongside Seasonal Market Cocktails. It also hosts a daily “Pasta Happy Hour” – from 5 to 7 and 9 to 11, enjoy any adult beverage and get half off a pasta entree at the bar.

Whatever time you show up, you’re sure to enjoy Esther’s Kitchen. And if you’re feeling especially appreciative of your experience, you can send a round of beers to the kitchen for only six dollars.

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Esther’s Kitchen is open for brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and for lunch between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Dinner is served daily from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. For reservations, which are suggested, call 702.570.7864.

Photos: Sam Novak unless otherwise credited

 

 

SERVED – Green Valley’s Culinary Delight


Chef Matthew Myer brings eclectic flair to the neighborhood….

In recent years, the popularity of chef-driven restaurants has exploded. Once centered on the Strip, kitchen wizards have found success in Downtown and surrounding areas. One might observe that the further they get from the tourist district, the more daring and creative they become.

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Such is the case with Chef Matthew Meyer. This dynamic young graduate of Pasadena’s Le Cordon Bleu culinary institute is the creator/owner of SERVED, a relatively new restaurant in the McDonald’s Highland area of Henderson. Located at 1770 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, this intimate brunch/dinner establishment is a local gem that’s worth seeking out.

Despite his young age, Chef Meyer has been shaking up the Vegas dining scene for over a decade. You might remember his two iterations of Matteo’s Gourmet Cafe and the popular Just Rollin’. As his exposure in magazines and websites has grown (along with the accolades), so has Chef Meyer’s offerings to the valley. Matteo’s Gourmet Food Services, a high-end catering operation, provides exceptional cuisine for special occasions.

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All of this experience and experimentation has culminated in SERVED, Meyer’s latest dine-in endeavor. A sleek yet simple restaurant, SERVED provides Meyer the opportunity to share his latest creations in a personal atmosphere with the highest regard for quality ingredients and skillful preparation.

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Chef Meyer describes his approach to the menu as “Cultural favorites, redefined…where guests will have a chance to savor the flavors of the world in a single dish.” Eric C. Gladstone, the marketing powerhouse behind the annual Vegas Unstripped and other highly-regarded food festivals, had this to say about Chef Matt and SERVED:

Chef Matt takes a global approach to his creations, fearlessly crossing culinary boundaries to combine flavors from throughout the Eastern and Western worlds, as well as myriad techniques. But you don’t have to pull apart all the effort in order to enjoy them–the food truly speaks for itself. This is the most exciting breakfast, lunch and dinner food happening in Henderson right now.

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With an introduction like that, it would be tough not to have high expectations. But at a recent presentation of his latest dishes, both experts and laypersons like myself were equally impressed by what we sampled.

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First up were a few tapas: Asparagus 5 Ways – pureed, grilled, fried, fermented and raw asparagus served alongside a poached egg and hollandaise ($10).

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Scallop Benny presents seared scallops, celery root puree, roasted celery root, poached egg and hollandaise, celery/apple salad topped with celery lace tuile ($12).

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Fans of deconstructed dishes should get a kick out of Raviolo ($12), a plate of egg yolk, herbed ricotta, herb-laminated fresh pasta, Guiness braised short rib, broccolini and pan sauce.

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My personal favorite from the tapas selections was Octopus Benny ($11) served with sesame heirloom tomatoes, white corn puree and uni caviar hollandaise.

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Appetizer Beef Tataki ($11) is thinly-sliced and lightly seared mushroom marinated beef with fermented mushroom aioli, parmesan shavings and fried capers.

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A few more tapas were distinctly Asian, beginning with Pinchi Kimchi Foie Gras ($12), a seared piece of foie gras atop a rice pancake, served with kimchi, pickled radish, Korean pear salad, crispy fried rice noodle, sesame oil and a soy galbi glaze.

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Thai Suckling Pig ($12) is an unforgettable crispy pork belly in sweet soy sauce sprinkled with fried garlic and served with broccolini and a poached egg.

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The one dish that everybody buzzed about was Beef Stroganoff ($22) from “Classics Redone”. It’s Guiness braised short ribs atop house made pappardelle and fermented mushrooms. Familiar yet unique, it’s one selection sure to satisfy.

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Despite the small size of SERVED’s dining room, the list of stunning dishes is hefty, thanks in no small part to sharing a kitchen with Chef Meyer’s catering service. The daily Brunch Menu lists elaborate benedicts and egg dishes, hash, pancakes, French toast, tacos, sandwiches and a wide variety of gourmet burgers.

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Their evening Dinner Menu, Wednesday through Sunday from 3pm to 9pm, ups the ante with an inclusion of salads, “Reverse Brunch” and “Chef Special” entrees. Daily Specials weekdays from 9am to 2pm offer significant savings and even 2-for-1 sandwiches on Tuesday.

As a relatively new local, I’ve enjoyed discovering a wide variety of eclectic and unique dining offerings, some that tourists may sadly never see. But thanks to food enthusiasts like Eric C. Gladstone, Esther’s KitchenEDO Gastro Tapas and Wine and the upcoming Graffiti Bao restaurant are getting the exposure and popularity they deserve. Add SERVED to that list, and visit Chef Matt and his team right away.

SERVED is located at 1770 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway in Henderson/Green Valley. Open Monday and Tuesday 9 – 3, Wednesday to Sunday 9 – 9. Call 702-263-0136

Photos: Sam Novak, SERVED via Facebook

“Rise and Shine” Brings the Sun To Your Table


Delightful brunch place is a hidden treasure waiting for you to discover…

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One of the great things about visiting Sin City is the endless supply of new and exciting restaurants. Just when you think you’ve decided on a favorite, another pops up to demand your attention. And quite often, they’re off the beaten path.

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Such is the case with Rise and Shine: A Steak and Egg Place. This wonderful little treasure features made-to-order meals served with a side of whimsy. You’ll know you’ve left the ordinary behind from the moment you walk in the door. Dozens of flower-festooned umbrellas hang upside-down from the ceiling, making it clear that the weather inside is always bright and sunny.

 

Beneath those colorful inverted parasols, cast members carry out their tasks while clad in adorable sleepwear and fashionably-unfashionable flannel robes. No matter the hour, your server will be perky and alert, perhaps due to heavy doses of Rise and Shine‘s outstanding bottomless cups of LavAzza Italian house coffee.

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A variety of comical photos adorn the menu, which covers the gamut of breakfast and brunch favorites, albeit with many unique qualities. Several of those twists go into preparing freshly-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices. Build-your-own fruit and yogurt parfaits join French Press coffee, herbal teas, flavored lattes, cappuccino and iced coffees as wonderful starters.

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While perusing the menu, you can indulge in a Rise and Shine specialty – Pot of Bread with butter and jelly. You may need to ask for a second helping, as the list of specialties seems to go on and on forever. If you’re the kind to stick with basics, their list of omelettes runs from healthy (Grilled Chicken & Egg White) to indulgent (Fancy Steakhouse). And of course, you can design your own with a choice of three from a list that includes avocado, banger sausage, turkey kielbasa and bell pepper.

 

The “Classics Done Better” section presents goodies like Homemade Corned Beef Hash & Eggs, Smoked Salmon-N-Eggs Benedict and Oatmeal with Toasted Pecans. Sweet-lovers may wish to dive into a stack of Banana Frosted Flake Pancakes, S’Mores Campfire Waffles or Peanut Butter & Blueberry French Toast.

Feeling a little “South of the Border”? Why not order up a Grilled Steak & Chorizo Burrito? You can substitute chicken for steak…either way comes with a side of refried beans. New Yorkers should love the Two-Fisted Bagel Sandwiches. Luscious selections like Roast Turkey California and 3 Little Pigs (bacon, ham and banger sausage) are sure to fill you up.

 

Since Rise and Shine has “A Steak and Eggs Place” in the title, you can probably guess what’s front and center in the menu presentation. What you may not expect is the wide variety of steaks to choose from. Bacon-Wrapped Tender Steak, Philly-Style Cheese Steak, island-inspired “Loco Moco” Steak Burger, Chicken-Fried NY Steak and much more.

Traditional steak offerings are grilled to perfection with a spice rub that sears in flavor. If memory serves, those spices include actual coffee with gives a bit of blackened taste to the meat. Is your mouth watering yet?

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Lunchtime kicks in at 11:30 am (don’t worry, breakfast is served from open until close). Garden salads like the NY Steak Caesar and Grilled Chicken Cobb compete with a list of steak burgers and chicken sandwiches for your love. Wraps like the Spicy Tuna & Spinach and Crispy Fried Chicken w/provolone and avocado come with either fries or the outstanding wasabi broccoli slaw.

Click here to continue reading via BestOfVegas.com…

Photos: Sam Novak, Rise and Shine

 

 

Matteo’s Ristorante Italiano Will Drive Your Taste Buds Into Overtime


Italian trattoria brings family recipes and Downtown L.A. flair to the Venetian…

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UPDATE: As of October, Matteo’s Ristorante Italiano is the new name for Factory Kitchen. Here’s a statement from Venetian/Palazzo: 

The Factory Kitchen Las Vegas is now called  Matteo’s Ristorante Italiano. Named for Matteo Ferdinandi, the CEO and partner of Factory Place Hospitality Group, the new moniker speaks directly to the Italian heritage of the restaurant’s founders, giving guests a clear understanding of the cuisine they can expect inside this gem of a restaurant.

Each market has its own nuances, and we feel this new name indicates exactly the type of experience guests can expect when spending an evening at our restaurant here in Las Vegas.

The restaurant’s menu created by Executive Chef and business partner Angelo Auriana continues to deliver approachable Italian dishes using fresh, seasonal, and locally sourced ingredients.

Both from Italy, Matteo and Chef Angelo take pride in sharing family recipes passed down from generation to generation.

Two summers ago I penned a piece on why Palazzo Hotel Casino earned my top spot for high-end Las Vegas resorts. Since then a lot has changed, nearly all for the better. My favorite show (BAZ)) may have left, but plenty of exciting new things have opened up or been announced.

New cocktail lounges like Rosina and Electra Cocktail Club have been added to Palazzo’s entertainment line-up. The casino has been brightened with new colors and a fresh layout. And of course, the waterfall-centric atrium is a glorious, ever-changing favorite for photo ops.

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The biggest evolution, perhaps, is a more intellectual one. Venetian’s sister property has gradually been integrated into a unified operation. Palazzo is still independent and unique but now treated more like a tower of the Venetian. The lines have also blurred with respect to their retail areas. Palazzo’s shopping esplanade has been absorbed into the Grand Canal Shoppes, allowing for greater traffic flow and clarity of identity.

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With all of these updates, I was overdue to start exploring some of Venetian/Palazzo’s updates. My first stop was Matteo’s Ristorante Italiano, an eatery in the famed Restaurant Row. This is only their second location in the country. The original opened in Los Angeles Arts District in 2013 and was an immediate success.

Matteo’s is a collaboration between restaurateur Matteo Ferdinandi and his longtime friend Chef Angelo Auriana. Their shared passion for Italian heritage, hospitality, and traditional recipes is what makes their ristorante so special.

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While details like that might not enter into your decisions on where to eat, consider this…the premiere Italian-themed resort in Las Vegas only welcomes the best…and Ferdinandi and Chef Auriana could have opened their second eatery anywhere they wished. The fact that these two powerful entities decided to team up suggests a match made in culinary Heaven.

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Heaven is indeed what you’ll be feeling when you encounter the wafting aromas from the open kitchen. Influences from their flagship inside a repurposed factory building can be felt here, albeit with designer touches and Vegas flair. Rustic colors, art-deco lighting, an industrial-style ceiling and reclaimed wood offer a masculine and inviting atmosphere to compliment distinctive family-inspired recipes.

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My companion and I arrived at noon for weekday lunch. After a cocktail in the sleek lounge, we were escorted to a table in the heart of the dining room. The server was extremely knowledgeable with their extensive menu, ingredients, and preparation…and had plenty of favorites to suggest.

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We began by ordering a couple of fresh, light salads. I opted for a Cortolana ($14) with field greens, watermelon radish, white onion, dates and goat cheese topped with champagne vinaigrette. On the right is the Cremosella ($15), which features creamy mozzarella, watercress, extra virgin olive oil, and black pepper.

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The next round threw my keto diet right out the window, but it was bound to happen when the Focaccina Calda al Formaggio (Cheese Focaccia) at an adjacent table looked and smelled so tempting. We shared a crisp, creamy Tradizionale ($19) made from imported crescenza cheese, baby wild arugula, and Ligurian olive oil. There’s also a Pizatta ($21) with capers and anchovies and the Tirolese ($23) with Italian-cured smoked ham and peppercress.

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Pasta was on both of our minds for the main course, and why not? With the live pasta station making family recipes fresh on-site, my mouth was watering before the plates even arrived. My companion chose Casonzei ($22), a pork sausage & veal ravioli prepared with cured pork belly, sage brown butter and reggiano cheese. Exquisite!

I had to go with what could be considered Matteo’s signature dish – Mandilli di Seta ($20). This unforgettable delight is a unique “handkerchief pasta”, thin sheets of egg dough tossed with a Ligurian almond basil pesto sauce. One bite (and a few moans later) and it was easy to see why this dish has been a longtime favorite.

While the pasta section of the menu might be a mid-point for some, our appetites were already satiated. I’ll have to return to indulge in Matteo’s great selection of entrees. Dishes such as Gamberoni ($26 – sautéed white shrimp, sunchoke purée, roasted romanesco, vermentino, saffron), Polpettone ($19 – oven-roasted turkey meatloaf, san marzano peperonata, caramelized onion, fresh oregano and seasonal vegetables) and Tagliata ($29 – prime flat iron steak, sautéed winter greens, roasted pepper bagna cauda) along with a list of daily specials should satisfy every voracious carnivore and discerning appetite at your table.

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Despite being full, my companion and I had to, at the very least, dip our spoons into a few sweets from the dessert menu. Once again we stuck to traditional favorites by requesting a sumptuous Cannoli ($13) filled with ricotta, orange marmalade and rolled in pistachio. Somehow an order of Panna Cotta ($11 – served with a pair of soft ovis mollis cookies) showed up at our table, too. Of course, we had to try it…just to be polite! 

Along with your meal, feel free to indulge in a selection from Matteo’s carefully-crafted wine list. It focuses on Italian varieties along with many other European choices. Several signature cocktails boasting whimsical names like Private Eye, Big Swifty, Afraid of the Dark and The Ugly should make for interesting conversation. Check out the beverage and wine list by clicking HERE.

Earlier this year, Chef Auriana debuted a weekend brunch menu, served from 11 am through 5 pm. Offerings include Ricotta Pancakes ($15) with kumquats, mascarpone crema, lemon zest and maple syrup, Egg Raviolo ($18) with braised greens & organic egg-filled pasta, pancetta, and brown butter. There’s also a scrumptious Steak Amore for $28 – pancetta-wrapped filet mignon medallions with mushrooms and parsley. Brunch guests through 2:30 pm can add bottomless Mimosas, White Peach Bellinis and Bloody Mary’s for an additional $28.

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So the next time you’re strolling through the Venetian/Palazzo Resort and the songs of those famous gondoliers whet your appetite for superior Italian cuisine, head to Restaurant Row. Discover the joys of Matteo’s Ristorante Italiano. Just tell them that Sam from Vegas Unfiltered sent you.

Matteo’s Risorante Italiano is open daily from 11 am to 11 pm. The lounge opens daily at noon. For reservations or more info call 702.414.1222.

Photos: Sam Novak, Factory Kitchen

 

 

 

 

‘ESTER GOLDBERG’S TOTALLY OUTRAGEOUS BRUNCH’ COMES TO THE VEGAS STRIP


New York comedienne Ester Goldberg brings the insanity of the Big Apple to the Strip…

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Not so long ago, daylight hours in Las Vegas were just a good time for rest and recovery. Then came the beach clubs, which brought nighttime excitement into the spotlight. These days, brunch shows are the “in” thing…and SLS Las Vegas has launched their own. Called Ester Goldberg’s Totally Outrageous Brunch, this is one new production that absolutely lives up to its name.

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Until recently, Senor Frog’s Drag Brunch was the height of morning-meal madness. Then Ester Goldberg and crew came to push the envelope and reach for the ceiling. Literally. Filled with aerial acts, improv comedy, burlesque, dancers, singers, a live band and the best Donald Trump impersonator on the planet, Totally Outrageous Brunch achieves new levels of lunacy.

If you’ve never heard of Ester Goldberg, don’t feel badly. This self-appointed “International Glamour Puss of All Media” is new to the Vegas scene but proudly boasts that she’s famous everywhere else on the planet. Watching Ester in action, you might be reminded of Britain’s Dame Edna…but Esther’s got a lot more pepper sauce in her Bloody Mary.

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Brunch is presented an hour before each showtime, so be sure to arrive early. A colorful array of fresh fruits, yogurt parfaits and bakery-shop specialties lead into a hearty selection of breakfast sandwiches,  gourmet deviled eggs, chicken and waffles and an incredible smoked pork belly. While dining you’ll be treated to teaser performances from a few of the stars. It’s best not to tell too much, but don’t be surprised if your table suddenly has a bawdy additional guest.

Click HERE to continue reading…

 

Westgate’s Culinary Superstars: Chef Bruno Morabito

Sid’s Cafe’s “Master of Brunch” is serious about the joys of casual dining…

Part Two in my series on the fabulous culinary family of Westgate Las Vegas

Sometimes you talk at length with someone whom you’ve previously encountered only in passing…and they blow your expectations away. That’s what happened during my recent morning sit-down with Chef de cuisine Bruno Morabito of Sid’s Cafe. And it was a surprise that made my day.

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Being a semi-regular diner at Westgate’s casual-dining restaurant, I’d seen Chef Bruno strolling by from time to time, greeting patrons at their table to check on their experience. This mild-mannered gentleman was personable, professional and seemed somewhat reserved. But give Chef Bruno the opportunity to relax for a bit of private conversation and this native of Rochester NY will light up the room.

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Perhaps it’s the dazzling white coat that keeps his bubbly personality in check. Maybe it’s the presence of dozens of diners enjoying his creations. Or the years of disciplined experience in world-class kitchens around the city. Whatever the reason, when this veteran of the Las Vegas dining scene gets a moment away from the focus of responsibility, an entirely different person shines through.

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The two of us got acquainted in a corner booth on the tail end of a Sid’s Cafe breakfast rush. Both of us had just returned from visits to Italy, so it was a nice ice-breaker. I confessed that I’d just watched one of his cooking segments about brunch on a local network affiliate page. “Oh, No! I can’t stand doing those!”, he chuckled with a mild flush. “I’m not a TV kind of guy. But I do like to talk about my food”.

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    Jennifer Jean Snyder of KTNV Morning Blend reacts to Chef Bruno’s creations… 

Indeed he does. As is the case with many artists, Chef Bruno beams when discussing how he began to create delicious dishes…and which inspirations set him on the path to success. For Chef Morabito, it was exposure to a combination of many different cultures.

During his culinary school days at Lougheed College in Kitchener Ontario, this descendant of Italian immigrants was affectionately known as “The Yank”. He was nicknamed that by program director Wolfgang Stutz (one could safely assume that Stutz was German). But it was years of experience at a famous French restaurant that secured his place on the Valley’s list of superb culinary masters.

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Visiting the Amalfi coastline of southern Italy with brother Phil…               

After coming to Las Vegas with his wife, Morabito began a 17-month stint as Sous Chef for renowned Charlie Palmer at Mandalay Bay‘s gorgeous Aureole. Then came his first really big opportunity – a position at Venetian‘s world-famous Bouchon Bistro. Tucked away inside an exclusive area of the resort’s Venezia Tower, Bouchon is where Westgate‘s “Master of Brunch” developed his reputation for morning-meal brilliance.

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Chef Bruno (fourth from right) with Chef Thomas Keller and the team at Bouchon…               

Challenged by Bouchon founder Chef Thomas Keller to create a pork-belly BLT from a sketch, Morabito went “off the menu” and took a detour to the unexpected. With free reign to create any special he wanted, Chef Bruno added a personal “why not” favorite of Chicken and Waffles as a special.

A succulent serving of roasted chicken atop a bacon and chive waffle, sauce chasseur (aka “Hunter’s Sauce”), Tahitian vanilla bean butter and maple syrup, Chicken and Waffles was a runaway hit…and continued to grow in popularity. It became the cornerstone for an entire brunch menu that Morabito urged Kelly to try.

Chef Bruno’s brunch menu remains his legacy there and is now served in every Bouchon Bistro nationwide. It was also Forbes Travel Magazine‘s pick for Best Brunch in Las Vegas.

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                  Chef Bruno flanked by his lovely 14-year-old daughters….

After a decade with Chef Thomas Keller, this thoroughbred horse-racing enthusiast (he’s attended the last eight Breeder’s Cups and owns several horses back in New York) was now the proud father of twin girls.

The increased responsibilities of being a parent and husband to wife Tracy didn’t deter Morabito from taking on a new challenge, though. In 2014 he was recruited by celebrity Giada De Laurentis to be her new Chef de Cuisine at Giada inside The Cromwell.

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Chef Morabito and Giada De Laurentis remain friends…                     

History repeated itself a bit at The Cromwell. Morabito’s reputation for success allowed him to create a brunch menu for De Laurentis at the trendy eatery. If you seem to recall Chicken and Waffles in the Giada line-up, you aren’t mistaken…although he gave the dish a new distinctive Italian twist. It came as no surprise when the new offerings were lauded by Las Vegas Review Journal readers as “Best Brunch”.

Nearly two and a half years later, the visionary “Master of Brunch” joined the ever-growing list of superlative chefs at Westgate Las Vegas. And now he’s serving his award-winning food at Sid’s Cafe.

Sid’s Cafe is named after Westgate founder David Siegel‘s father, who absolutely loved Las Vegas. Sid’s may be the most casual of Westgate‘s restaurant, but the home-style menu is meticulously prepared and served with pride. Chef Bruno runs the entire operation, from kitchen to staffing. He’s a hands-on kind of man when it comes to ensuring quality:

What goes out on that plate has my name on it. I personally answer Yelp! and other guest reviews, both positive and negative. Kindness is an easy way to build rapport with our guests. I want you to be satisfied with what we bring to your table.

Bringing things to the table is exactly what Chef Bruno had planned for me. Being a frequent visitor, I was already familiar with lunch and dinner offerings at the Cafe (Matzo Ball Soup, Free-Range Turkey Burger and Chopped Italian Salad are my personal favorites). So it was with a bit fortuitous that I’d be sampling his brunch creations for the first time during our meeting.

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 Mojito Fruit Bowl with lime juice, mint and toasted coconut…                    

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Smoked Salmon Platter…                 

My host could scarcely hide his enthusiasm when describing each dish that arrived at the table.That carefully-hidden smile of his surfaced frequently…and it continued to grow with each visit back.

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Grande Cinnamon Roll is big enough for the entire table…                   

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Cinnamon Roll French Toast and several hearty skillet breakfasts…                 

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As Chef Bruno promised, everything he creates is fresh, delicious, gorgeous to look at and downright satisfying. Brunch is available at Sid’s Cafe every Thursday through Sunday from 7 am until 2 pm. You can add unlimited mimosas for $10.

Echoing sentiments from other Chefs I’ve spoken to at Westgate, Sid’s chef de cuisine is thrilled with the opportunity to add, fine-tune and elevate his cafe’s line-up. And no doubt the resort is pleased to have attracted another major player to their team.

As with all members of the Westgate culinary family, Chef Bruno Morabito aims to bring happiness to your table and a smile to your face. Be sure to ask for him when you visit…and don’t you dare miss that Chicken and Waffles masterpiece.

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Sid’s Cafe is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hours are 7 am to midnight Sunday through Thursday, 7 am to 2 am Friday and Saturday. Call 702-732-5755 for more information. Dress code is casual, restaurant is non-smoking.

Photos: Sammasseur, Bruno Morabito via Facebook/Instagram, KTNV Morning Blend