A poll was taken among the staff at ELV, and it was unanimous that OSTERIA DEL CIRCO in the Bellagio is our favorite Italian restaurant. CIRCO (pronounced: CHEER-ko) has been dazzling us for ten years, and its most recent chef, Vincenzo Scarmiglia is one our favorite Italian toques (along with Luciano Pelligrini and Paul Bartolotta) and one of the big reasons Circo has ruled the roost of Tuscan restaurants in Las Vegas since it opened.
The son of a Tuscan fisherman, Scarmiglia hails from Orbetello, Italy. His first restaurant job was as a line cook at the esteemed IL GAMBERO ROSSO in Porto Ercole. From there he worked his way through many prestigious Italian kitchens before landing at VALENTINO in the Venetian, which he helped Pelligrini open in 1999. From there it was a short hop to BARTOLOTTA as Assistant Chef, and then to the now defunct Terrazza in Caesars, before taking over the kitchen at Circo.
He makes this dish with fresh, egg tagliolini (a smaller version of tagliatelle), but told me dried works just as well (with just about any pasta dish except ravioli – that Scarmiglia insists must always be fresh). But there’s nothing quite like watching an Italian chef work three simple ingredients: eggs, semolina and all-purpose flour, into something so toothsome. Making pasta looks remarkably easy when he does it, but neophyte home cooks would be well advised to stick with store-bought.
His tagliolini cooked in heavily salted water in 4-5 minutes. Dried of course, will take about twice as long.
The lobster is of the spiny variety from Australia, that Vincenzo told me is almost as good as those from Mediterranean waters. But he was quick to point out that it is the higher salt content and warmer waters of the Mediterranean that gives its seafood such a distinctive, mineral-rich flavor. It should be pre-cooked before finishing it in the pan with the garlic, brandy and the cherry tomatoes. To avoid burning, the chopped garlic always goes in after the main ingredients.
The sauce is simplicity itself – notwithstanding the flaming brandy – and is meant to be an adjunct to the pasta, not the focus of the dish. Scarmiglia says cook the noodles to 3/4’s done, then finish it in the sauce to allow it to absorb the sauce in that last 25% of the cooking time. Add a little of the pasta water to the sauce if it seems too dry.
As I was devouring my plate, I noticed the chef wasn’t eating his own creation. He told me he ate so much lobster as a kid that he developed an allergy to it. We should all have such problems. Buon Gusto!
TAGLIOLINI ALL’ARAGOSTA, SALSA DI POMODORI DI PACHINO AL BRANDY, PINOLI TOSTATI
Tagliolini Pasta with Lobster in Cherry Tomato, Brandy Sauce, Toasted Pine Nuts – by Vincenzo Scarmiglia
Yield: 4 SERVINGS
For the pasta:
Semolina Flour 175 gr (7 oz)
“00” Flour 75 gr (3 oz)
Whole egg 2 EACH
Egg yolk 2 EACH
Salt 5 gr (0.2 oz)
Olive oil 0.75 cl ( 1 Tsp)
On a clean surface place the flour and make a well, break the eggs in a separate bowl, add the oil, mix well with a fork and pour in the flour well. Slowly combine flour and eggs with your finger until the dough is formed then knead until elastic. Let dough rest for 15 minutes covered with a damp cloth or plastic wrap.
Cut dough in small pieces and flatten them with your hand or a rolling pin. Roll pasta through a pasta machine, starting with highest/thickest setting, and gradually decrease thickness until pasta is thin enough for the specific recipe you’re preparing. Cut Stripes of Pasta about 15 Inch long, roll longwise and cut with a Sharp knife about 1/8 of Inch.
For the Sauce:
Spiny or Maine Lobster 1.5lb (cut in Half) 2 Each
Chopped Garlic 4 Cloves
Quartered Cherry Tomatoes 1 lb
Toasted Pine Nuts 1 oz
Brandy _ Cup
White Wine _ Cup
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2 TBS
Butter 2 oz
Chopped Parsley _ oz
Salt & Pepper To Taste
In a hot pan pour 1 TBS of olive oil and the four halves of lobster. Sear the lobster (in the shell, it will help give more flavor to the sauce) on both sides, add the chopped garlic and deglaze with brandy first and then white wine, add the quartered cherry tomatoes, cook for about 4 minutes, adjust salt & pepper.
Add the remaining olive oil and butter just before adding the tagliolini pasta cooked in boiling salted water (about 2 gallons of water & 4 oz of salt for 4-5 minutes). Serve on a large oval plate garnishing with chopped parsley & toasted pine nuts.
A glass of good Chardonnay is the right pairing for this dish.
OSTERIA DEL CIRCO
In the Bellagio
3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109