Battista’s is the kind of place that, even if you’re not crazy about the food, and are put off by the forty-year-old decor, and can’t stand the wine, you’re going to have a great time in anyway.
Nothing has changed since we first dined here in the early 80’s, but the food does seem to have more snap than we remember from our last meal almost ten years ago. Perhaps that’s because Chef Richard Gibson (who told us he learned to cook here long ago), is now running the show.
We know these things because he unexpectedly came to our table during our visit, after catching one of our Facebook posts about it. It was the first time we’ve been caught tweeting and Facebooking during a meal, and Gibson was more than a good sport about it:
“Hey, are you John Curtas?”
“Well, yes I am (not looking up from my IPhone)…can’t you see that I’m furiously tweeting and Facebooking about every single bite I put in my mouth? My fans deserve and expect nothing less…”
“We’re friends on Facebook and I just caught your post back in the kitchen…”
After a good laugh was had by all, Gibson was friendly and adult* enough to say:
“Well you just said our food was forty years old….and pretty much it is.”
“Yeah,” we responded, “but at least you’re doing old-time Italian the right way.”
And so he is.
In retrospect, we’re just glad our haiku went like this:
Battista’s Hole In
The Wall is almost forty
years old, like the food
…instead of something like:
Red sauce Italian
grows older every year
We need menu ban
We won’t go there, at least not in this review, because to these taste buds, Gibson and his crew are doing a lot of things right….one of which is probably the best linguine with clams in town. His version is chock full of clam meat and fresh clams; the pasta is cooked to al dente perfection; and the white wine/butter/clam broth sauce in the bottom of the bowl is so good you’ll want to pick the darn thing up and drink it dry.
His doesn’t slouch on the red sauce items either. Our companion’s steak pizzaiola (smothered in the stuff), was a tasty steak, and the veal piccante was a tender (and blessedly thick) piece of the real deal given a light, lemony bath.
We also thought the standard “minestrone” (really more like a pasta e fagioli — containing five different beans) was a rich, deeply flavored surprise. In fact the only clinkers in the whole meal were the bottomless carafes of “Burgundy” and “Chablis” wine that, in the interest of veracity, should be re-labeled: cheap, sweet white and cheap, slightly-less-sweet red. When the complimentary dessert of a “cappuccino” (really a hot chocolate with whipped cream) showed up, we remembered that we had forgotten that verisimilitude ain’t exactly this place’s strong suit.
Except for that fabulous linguine con vongole.
Subtle this food is not, but treats the best hits of Italian-American cuisine with respect, uses good groceries, and is a serious deal.
It’s also a hoot and a half…especially when Gordie comes to the table with his trusty accordion. Yes, Gordie, the same smiley fellow who has been serenading folks since this place opened in 1970, still strolls past every table with his ready repertoire of everything from the Godfather theme to Happy Birthday (heard a lot) and our favorite sing-a-long tune: That’s Amore!
After a rousing chorus of the latter, we tucked into our food and some great conversation (the booths and tables here encourage conviviality like no other place we know of), and realized that some golden oldies retain their luster, no matter how bad the wine is.
Our meal for four came to $115 + a $30 tip (free wine included!).
BATTISTA’S HOLE IN THE WALL
4041 Audrie Street
Las Vegas, NV 89109-9100
* In other words he didn’t throw a Full Andre, which has now been re-named the Full
Andre-Paymon after the hissy fits thrown by the two biggest babies in Las Vegas restaurants.