It’s sad when a great chef is saddled with a mediocre menu, and for this we feel for our friend, Nico Chessa.
For years Giorgio Ristorante (formerly Caffe Giorgio) has flown under the radar, despite putting out some of our town’s best pastas and more than passable salads, breads, pizzas and desserts. And the wine list has always been accessible and interesting — more so than the encyclopedia of precious gems located at Valentino — its sister restaurant in the Venetian.
But our economic meltdown has caused more than one panic button to be pushed, and many middle-brow joints are now floating in a sea of indecision whilst sunk in a desert of despair.*
And what they’ve done here is force Chessa to dumb his menu down into something Ma and Pa Fannypacker can relate to — in hopes of keeping their numbers at respectable levels until the tide turns.
Of course we don’t know exactly who “they” are, but what (we suspect) the bean counters have done is trim the menu to but a few pastas and pizzas, several banal main courses (“chicken Parmigiana” anyone? Anyone?) and some rudimentary desserts that have crowd appeal no matter how overworked they are.
Of our two salads, two pastas and a pizza, only the pappardelle with sausage and roasted tomatoes came close to the ethereal stuff this kitchen used to put out — nice, spicy bits of meat scattered about perfectly cooked noodles in a light (and we mean light) cream sauce with just the right acidic accent from the tomatoes.
It was a thing of beauty, but its perfection only lowlighted the disappointing chicken ravioli — stuffed as they were with tasteless, chicken mush, and the salads — under dressed to the point of being denuded.
But at least the salumi was top drawer and our pizza was palatable — if over-slathered with sauce and cheese — and the $39 bottle of aglianico tasted just like you’d expect a cheap aglianico to….which is to say with but a hint of what power this grape is capable of, but still drinkable and okay for the price.
We know Chessa can do better, but perhaps the market just won’t allow him to these days…and pandering to the hoi polloi is what is required for survival.
Still…the whole meal left us more than a little melancholy.
Our meal for three came to $175 ($145 + $30 tip).
In the Mandalay Bay Shoppes
3930 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89119-1012
* At ELV, mixed metaphors are our specialty.