John Curtas is …

OSTERIA DEL CIRCO

We’ve been coming to Circo (pronounced CHEER-co) since it opened in October of 1998. It was the first Bellagio restaurant we ever ate in, and by our estimate we’ve eaten here at least 50 times over the years.

The last time we paid for a meal was probably around 9-11.

ELV and his staff have also eaten in the New York Circo several times, and never paid for a meal there either.

That doesn’t mean we’ve always had flawless experiences. We recall once sending the Maccioni’s famous creme brulee back to the kitchen because it had an off smell. After a good-hearted disagreement, they took it back and the next day we received a call telling us they discovered someone had stored the uncooked cream in (spotlessly clean) plastic bins that had been used to store fish. (Plastic does retain odors as we all know.) We’ve never doubted our olfactories since.

With that one exception, we’ve never doubted the superiority of Circo (or Le Cirque‘s) desserts either. These days, Pastry Chef Philippe Angibeau continues the Maccioni tradition of mind-blowing and heart-stopping confections at both restaurants…with nary a fishy smell in sight. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

Despite being well-known to management (and always receiving intensive care service), we’ve had uninspired meals and only passable pasta on occasion, and over the last year or so began to think this place had lost its fastball. This we attributed to management’s attention to Sirio in Aria, and a recent chef that didn’t seem to be up to the challenge of keeping Circo at the forefront of Italian restaurants in town.

Sirio seems to have found its niche — serving American-Italian food to a clientele that probably runs away from the real thing, but we’re happy to report that Massimiliano Campanari is taking Circo back to the future with a menu that tastes the way it did when this place was in its heyday.

Campanari is a Ligurian by birth, which explains why his pesto his so flawlessly balanced and intense. Ditto his paglia e fieno (straw and hay) pasta, lightly dressed with cheese, and squid and rock shrimp in “guazzetto” (stew), that tasted to us like we were dining al fresco on the Cinque Terre. The only flaws found with the start of our meal was with the banal tuna amuse (see below), and gnocchi that were not as pillowy light as we might have liked. That said, the lobster, tarragon and saffron sauce provided just the sort of sophisticated slurping we remember from years back.

What really got our attention though, was Campanari’s seemingly simple branzino (sea bass) in a Vermentino veloute — the velvety light-yet-acidic-sauce giving all the right wine-y accents to the crispy and rich fish.

All of this came paired with Master Sommelier Darius Allyn‘s quirky-but-correct wine pairings. An Italian rose with sea bass and lobster? Check. Puligny-Montrachet with pasta? Double check. The Barolo may have been a touch heavy for the rabbit, but it was a fine glass of wine nonetheless.

About that rabbit.

Yes, rabbit. Rolled rabbit loin wrapped in San Daniele prosciutto. Sweet, with only the faintest touch of gaminess. Moist and saddled with a forcemeat made of rabbit liver, all atop a green pea veloute and some rabbit jus. “This is not EYE-tal-ian food,” ELV thought to himself. “This is Italian food.”

The way it tastes in Italy.

The way it should taste at Circo.

The way it now does.

Welcome back old friend.

OSTERIA DEL CIRCO

In the Bellagio Hotel and Casino

3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109-4303

702.693.8150

http://www.bellagio.com/restaurants/circo.aspx

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5 Responses to OSTERIA DEL CIRCO

  • This place is fantastico…nuff said.

  • Genova in the world is only chef Max!

  • Please ELV, let’s do a little charity. Let’s all put together a couple of bucks and let’s send a dozen of our local so called “italian chefs” to this place so they would at least see how italian food looks and tastes, only once. Because, you see, doesn’t really take a lot of resources to make this kind of food, just passion and a little art.
    And maybe,while some of them would learn something, others would finally realize that food is not their thing and move to different careers, like changing tires or shoe repair.

  • Tell em Marco!

    How does elv manage to write painfully honest reviews when everyone knows who he is?
    I used to cook at this joint and if we knew you were coming in we would
    pay special attention to each dish you were served.
    But no complaints cause you still manage to keep it real.

  • Moscato di Asti: The panty dropping wine. A single man’s greatest single weapon.

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