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.

And it wasn’t that long ago that he was dazzling us with a traditional, Roman, Ides of March menu in honor of when Uncle Julie bought the farm.

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.

7 thoughts on “GIORGIO RISTORANTE Goes South

  1. I’m actually starting to cry now. I remember discovering this place last fall as I was on my way to Burger Bar. I finally had a chance to try Giorgio earlier this year, and I was overwhelmed with joy upon my first bite.

    But that salad you had? And that pizza? They look like the stuff I see at the Green Valley Ranch buffet… Not that GVR’s buffet is necessarily bad, but I expect better of a real Italian restaurant manned by such a talented chef as Nico Chessa.

    So is the recession causing yet another wonderful restaurant to bite the dust?

  2. I never liked it, glad it’s finally showing you the light, ELV. An okay place for banquets in my highest estimation, but not worth the time and money otherwise. This is the very restaurant that really showed me what a difference it can make to be recognized (ELV) or not (me). Yes, the wine list is pretty nice, as is the Scotch selection, but the food is mediocre at best. Valentino rocks, Giorgio, not so much.

  3. While you’re probably onto something here, it does seem that a lot of your more negative reviews these days aren’t of the “this place isn’t very good” variety and more of a conspiracy that some beancounter somewhere is wondering what the folks from Peoria would think if things get too exotic.

    Could it just be that, no matter how much you like the Chef, the food is simply not good?

  4. Don’t give up on Giorgio Ristorante. Instead, go back, and ask to hear Chef Nico’s specials that range from pasta, to meat dishes, to fish dishes and more. He also has a seasonal Sardinian-inspired prix fixe menu that reflects the cuisine from his home. This summer those items include: GRILLED CALAMARI SALAD WITH SHAVED FENNEL, GREEN ONIONS AND UNFILTERED OLIVE OIL; PAN SEARED BRANZINO WITH STAR ANICE-VERMENTINO WINE SAUCE AND SAUTÉED WILD MUSHROOMS; MALLOREDDOS PASTA WITH BOTTARGA, CLAMS, GARLIC AND TOMATOES; and GRILLED CORNISH HEN DRIZZLED WITH FRESH SQUEEZED MEYER LEMON-OLIVE OIL DRESSING ALONGSIDE SAUTÉED FREGULA WITH CHICORY.

    The pan-seared branzino and malloreddos pasta with clams are outstanding and absolutely worth revisiting Giorgio soon.

  5. I agree with the last poster. I had the pan-seared branzino and malloreddos pasta with clams and it was amazing.

    I think that Chef Nico has the perfect mix of exotic and “crowd appeal” choices on his menu and to make a quick judgement on a few items is a mistake. If some kitchens are forced to make changes based on economic factors they shouldn’t be castigated for it. Would you rather the restaurant shuttered its doors?

  6. I agree with #4 & 5 above, give Nico & Giorgio another shot! I’ve always been a big fan of his cooking regardless and love the fresh ingredients that he puts forth while cooking from the heart.

    As we all know, the economics of this country are against us, especially in Vegas, and we don’t want to see ANY of our culinary destinations and businesses close. Additionally, how many shops have we seen close at the Mandalay Place walk-through? I mean, let’s support our dining scene!

  7. Ken, Scott, & CT-

    So there’s still hope? Really? If you say so, then I’ll make an effort to try Giorgio again. I’ll see if I can convince my relatives driving in from Orange County for the weekend to go with me. Otherwise, I’ll try it on my own next month after I get back from OC. (I’ll be flying there next Friday.)

    Btw, I’ll also be doing my homework there. I’m planning to check out David Myers’ new Pizzeria Ortica as soon as my dad picks me up at Long Beach. I’ve heard from some friends there that Myers’ Ortica gives Nancy Silverton’s Mozza (in LA) a run for their money. I want to do a “refresher course” on the LA/OC Italian/pizza scene to see how our Vegas joints are stacking up in comparison. ;-)

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