Pip’s is a pip. It’s over designed, too big, and probably in the wrong hotel, but the food is fantastic, and the wine selection is palpably palatial, parsimoniously priced, and impeccably palatable.
Of course you’d expect it to be that good because its pedigree — courtesy of (former Caesar’s F&B honcho and uber-wine guy) Rino Armeni — is unimpeachable.
Pip’s preparations — of every thing from panzerotti (small calzoni stuffed with mozzarella and marinated tomatoes) to polpettes (meat ball sliders) are also practically perfect, and Chef Gerald Chin’s prepensely prepared spaghetti pomodoro is prescriptively precise.
The principally preferred potent potables at Pip’s are the Enomatic-ally dispensed wines by the glass. Over thirty are available, from (wait for it….) primitivos to pinot grigios.
Alliteration notwithstanding, Chin’s menu is mercifully short, well-executed and reasonably priced. The hinterlands (way north where Aliante is located) won’t support $40 entrees these days (who will?), so Armeni keeps it real with lots of apps under fifteen dollars, almost all the pastas well under twenty, and mains no more than thirty.
Chin (who is half Chinese, half Puerto Rican and all-Italian in his cooking) isn’t trying to dazzle with his footwork, but he turns out excellent, true-to-their roots versions of Italian-American staples that demonstrate why this cuisine got so popular in the first place — before corporate chains condemned it to restaurant oblivion.
A fonduta (fondue for two) is the perfect start to a meal (or a meal in itself if you want it to be), and the perfect, interactive, wine-friendly nibble to get you acquainted with the joint. At the drop of the hat, Armeni will chat you up about his wine list, or give you a personal tour of the on-premises cellar, and the aforementioned Enomatic.
Whether your preferred perch is partaking at the bar or a table, the next item to order should be either the superior arancini (breaded rice balls), or the superb carpaccio (sliced, raw tuna with grilled eggplant on a crisp bread with basil oil). We tried to like the tria (fresh and fried hand cut pasta with cherry tomatoes), but found it prohibitively problematical. In ELV’s opinion, fresh and fried pasta go together about as well as pesto and peach melba. When we offered this criticism to Armeni face to face, he took it like a man, and we agreed to disagree…like the gentlemen we are.
ELV also observed to Armeni that Pip’s may be too hip for the room. As in: the crowds in this neck of the woods seem more like TGI Friday’s fans, than folks who fancy good Italian eats.
But give the big guy credit; he’s raised the bar for food and wine in this neighborhood in one fell swoop, and with a little luck, Pip’s propitious presence will provide the purblind hoi polloi a praiseworthy promontory from whence their provincial pedestrian path to paltry provisions will be permanently proscribed. Or something like that.
Dinner for two should run around $100-$150, depending upon how crazy you get with wine.
PIP’S CUCINA AND WINE BAR
In the Aliante Hotel and Casino
7300 Aliante Pkwy.
North Las Vegas, NV 89084