A Tale of Two Italians

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What is it about Italian food that no matter how bad it is, people still go out of their way to eat it, sing its praises, then go back for more mediocrity.

Case in point: One night, two dinners.

The first so bad we took three bites and asked for the check.

Stale bread, pink, mealy tomatoes, clam-challenged linguine with clams, beef braciole that tasted stale and like it was made with canned sauce; it was all there for the taking at Gina’s Bistro and the joint was busy on a Tuesday night.

And it wasn’t that cheap either. $87 pour deux with a single glass of 80 degree red wine.

So we asked for the food to go (and go it went…right into our trash can), and drove over to Cafe Chloe for our second attempt at an Italian dinner…

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The last time ELV had been to this popular spot had been the night of September 10, 2001. We remember the date for obvious reasons, and for the fact that nine years later we’re still trying to get the smell of garlic out of our clothes.

Things weren’t as garlicky this time around, the con vongole was plenty clammy, and the bread was warm, slightly toasty, fresh and goood. The Caesar salad, however,  was a nice, tossed plate of romaine with some parm sprinkled on top, and was as close to a real Caesar as ELV is to the British monarchy. Our chicken Marsala came loaded with properly cooked (if a bit in-artfully sliced) chicken pieces, atop a thin pool of barely-there Marsala reduction. The whole dish looking like it was created as an afterthought.

Still, the meal was miles better than Gina’s, and actually four dollars cheaper.

Still further, ELV remains puzzled by this type of food. It is strongly flavored, unchallenging, familiar, yet barely a step above what any average home cook could throw together.

Maybe that’s the appeal: Slightly better than homemade and no dishes get dirty.

Or maybe the American dining out public has no taste. And if you’re going to eat bad restaurant food, bad Italian food is probably the best there is.

GINA’S BISTRO

4226 South Durango Drive

Las Vegas, NV 89147-8721

702.341.1800

www.ginasbistro.com

CAFE CHLOE

4155 South Buffalo Drive

Las Vegas, NV 89147

702.248.7048

13 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Italians

  1. I don’t understand the need to serve the clams in the shell. I find the shells to be a space filler and pain in the rear. I suppose that it is intended to indicate the use of fresh clams, but isn’t it obvious when fresh clams aren’t used? A good clam sauce is a wonderful thing (made one myself tonight) and a true litmus test for an Italian-American restaurant. Unfortunately, a good clam sauce is a rare thing in a restaurant. The first, in your examples, appears too dry, while the second looks like a soup. In the first, it appears that they didn’t catch any of the clam’s all-important juice and in the second it looks as if they diluted whatever juice they might have captured with who knows what!

  2. I agree. Although there is nothing horrible about Cafe Chloe, my two visits there have been soul-killing in a weird way. It’s notable only for its lack of offensiveness. I don’t remember eating one delicious thing among the many dishes I shared.

  3. The horrible quality of italian food outside the strip (and as bad as these two are it gets even worse, besides one or two exceptions) I believe is given by: 
    -a combination of operators (like these two) than know nothing about food, I bet they wouldn’t even know how to order a meal in a “real” restaurant – they only know how to charge like them – they have no passion for good food, nor they have ever been exposed to it- and 
    -a disposition of the average Las Vegas resident to leave the house in their pajamas feeling totally comfortable in a setting were everything is like themselves: totally tasteless.

    However judging by the quality of what they offer, we know how they spend the majority of their time instead of learning how to be restaurateurs and maybe even learn how to put together a dish or two: they are always looking for the cheapest possible ingredient.    

  4. I actually like GINA’S BISTRO. Got the pasta with meat sauce the other night and the fish. The people are friendly, and the food actually comes out hot (which is not the case even at some fancier of establishments).

  5. Exactly how many Italians moved to Vegas in the 1910’s, 1920’s,….? after they got off the boat at Ellis Island.

    That’s the problem.

  6. Hmmm, the photo of the “Caesar” salad from Cafe Chloe looks suspicious to me–the lettuce looks just like the lettuce that comes out of a bag stamped with the “DOLE” brand, i.e. cut into little chunks of romaine–not properly torn leaves at the hands of a Chef and prepared to order as a correctly made Caesar salad is prepared. I suppose I’m asking to much…………..

  7. ELV, have you tried the breakfast pizza at the bootlegger? That mofo will cure the hangover from hell.

  8. Iam not surprise to read comments like yours , from peoples like you that consider Olive`s garden best italian food. I am 100% italian and find very few restaurants in Vegas to be called italians but the efforts that Gina`s ,Clhoe`s and others do is lost to a small mind person that as never tasted real ITALIAN food.

  9. The dishes at both these places just don’t look right. Maybe I’ve just become too accustomed to fancy dancy Strip Italian joints, but these dishes just don’t look right. So far, Marinelli’s at The M and Grotto at The Golden Nugget (and Off The Strip, if you count them as “Italian”) have been the only way-off-Strip Italian restaurants that have ever really wowed me.

  10. Gina’s reminds me of when I was Italy. Its AWESOME!!!! Wow. I think your palate might be too commercialized.

  11. For the poster above : What part of Italy? Not any part I’ve ever been too. I remember when she was working at Roma Deli (If I’m wrong please disregard the post) I do wish her success. However, do it right, do it simple, and do it clean. Italian cuisine is very difficult to screw up. but it’s very, very dependent on the produce and quality of ingredients you have access to. With regard to Las Vegas; thank goodness for air freight and trucking from California. Use the resources at your disposable, I wan’t Gina’s to succeed.

  12. Gina’s has new ownership- we had a very lovely dinner there tonight. Fresh, simple and well prepared. Generous portions and attentive service by true Italians who has purchased the place from Gina in October.
    If you haven’t been in a few months, it is worth a re-visit.
    While I agree that most places here are not “authentic” and are Americanized, they ARE serving to locals and must accomodate to a certain degree.
    That said, everything we had was fresh and when it wasn’t made on premises (some of the pasta is purchased locally and some of the desserts are imported) it was noted.
    It isn’t often that you can support a local family-owned establishment who is willing to take over a place and make it theirs. We were happy to eat there and will continue to support them now that we have experienced such good food at a reasonable price.
    I hope those who haven’t been there in the last month will give it another try. Good food IS hard to find, especially here:)

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