“They sure get a lot of mileage out of their veal” was all ELV could think to himself as he bit through the paper thin meat whilst trying to process the Kafkaesque conversations swirling about him as he shoveled it down in record speed. The fact that he was trying to enjoy cooked food amidst the overpowering smell of disinfectant that permeated the place, only added to his misery.
That veal was real, but all four slices together probably didn’t amount to 6 ounces of the stuff. Listed as “piccate” on the menu, it was lemony enough and swimming in enough sauce to drown a small mammal.
But none of that mattered as ELV tried hard to ignore the blaring conversation from the zaftig bottle-blond barkeep, who had served him his watered down G&T in less time than it took him to say the words, and kept a running commentary on various political issues mixed with her ruminations on Barack Obama’s sexual prowess.
Sitting next to him was a middle-aged, ex-biker looking dude in a ponytail and camouflage — who had pulled next to him in the parking lot in a well-used Chevy Impala — spray painted to cover up its black and white police vehicle markings that still shone through the Earl Scheib special.
They claim Liberace designed this place in 1983. If he did, he’s probably rolling over in his grave.
Regulars of all kinds sat at the bar (where ELV dined solo), throwing back highballs and wolfing down food with abandon. Out in the main restaurant, grey-haired coupon-clippers and young kids sat on convention hall chairs, amidst plastic plants and paneled walls that hadn’t seen an upgrade in decades.
Looking at them provided a welcome respite from a Caesar salad doused in bottled dressing, semi-stale bread, and a side of rigatoni that tasted solely of burnt garlic.
Yes, the gin was cheap, the stench was real, and the meal was lousy. And the surrealism of being surrounded by regulars who noticed none of this only added to ELV’s alienation, and his realization that there are some eateries in this town he should just leave well enough alone.
My meal for one came to $31, which included the world’s worst gin and tonic and a $6 tip.
CARLUCCIO’S TIVOLI GARDENS
1775 East Tropicana Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89119