Bad Italian Food Review – GROTTO

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Yes boys and girls, it’s Friday, time for another installment of Bad Italian Food Review.

Today, we’ll be studying a casino Italian restaurant. To be specific, a downtown casino restaurant located in the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino. If you remember your previous lessons, both from Professor ELV’s lectures and a 30 second stroll down Fremont Street, you know it is not a place your teacher approves of. It is to good eating what the movies of John Travolta are to an appreciation of fine cinema. So remember class: Avoid Fremont Street — unless your attendance is approved beforehand.

Today’s lesson and subject matter is Grotto, one of a common genus of Italian restaurants known as italis basturdim crapodermus ripofolius. It is known to appear in numbers whenever it senses hordes of slack-jawed tourist are gathering in need of fuel — knowing, as all predators do, that they are without the skills to forage for better food. Where such gatherings exist, e.g. Las Vegas — a prime habitat for italis basturdium — this species and its sub-species (pizzizus patheticus) feasts on visitor’s wallets with relish and without remorse.

The exponential growth of this family of failure is not hard to fathom. After all, most members of the Homo erectus tribe care little for what they feed upon. But what is fascinating is how low the bar can be set, and how putrid (figuratively) the provisions can be, before the descendants of Pithecanthropus erectus will decline to eat it. All mammals, save one, only consume meat and plants that are freshly killed or plucked. Only on the brink of starvation will they violate this instinct. However (and contra-intuitively), the descendants of this dude,* think nothing of consuming vast amounts of the very substances that keep them alive, without regard for freshness or preparation. Thus, has humankind regressed even as it has evolved. From this we can conclude that animals are smarter than humans. To quote the great philosopher/linguist/etymologist/malapropist Sir Casey Stengel: You could look it up.

Pay attention to your plate and you will see how these scientific principles reveal themselves in Italian restaurants every day. Study, but by no means eat, the salad Caprese — containing, as it does, the woodiest, mealiest tomatoes this side of a Yakutsk hothouse. Notice and touch the thick, rubbery, tasteless mozzarella cheese. And observe the almost-absent olive oil, and lack of balsamic vinegar. From these observations, we conclude it is a Caprese salad in name only.

It was during this field expedition that our graduate assistant uncovered what might be the most important anthropological food find since Alice Waters learned how to pick a blueberry. Almost by accident, two golf ball-sized globes appeared. They were dark, almost too dark for food, which is why our keen senses had not detected them as such. “What strange, never-before-seen-by-human-eyes odd orb might this be?” Prof. ELV whispered to his stunned students.

“Why, why….I think it’s edible,” one nervously opined. “Yes…yes…it…might be a….meatball!” exclaimed another.

“But it doesn’t look like a meatball,” said the first one.

“Well, it doesn’t feel like one either.” On this they both agreed.

“Might it be that which all who’ve gone before us have searched for — The Last Lost Petrified Meatball of the Incas? It certainly tastes like it,” was the chorus from all.

“No, students” their professor announced in the authoritative, patient, stentorian voice for which he is known. “It’s just a shitty, unseasoned, deep-fried(?) meatball.”

And with that, the lesson continued.

It was relatively easy to study the pasta special of the day: thick, al dente penne in a good, spicy light tomato sauce with peppers and spicy sausage. It wasn’t anything any home cook couldn’t throw together, but compared to the first two dishes in the experiment, it felt like Lidia Bastianich had taken the kitchen reins.

But Prof. ELV, known to be a strict taskmaster to his students, needed another all-too-common species for them to study. So without too much digging, he uncovered a “signature” dish of fried veal “kickerillo” that had no kick, served with fettuccine Alfredo that had no ‘Fredo. “Notice class,” he proclaimed, proudly patting his pate over his perspicacity (and for using other words too big for his students to get parathesia over trying to parse), “Notice whilst you persue the paltry pasta, how parviscient the kitchen is in promoting such pavid, paltry, pallid provisions. It is a pastose of of improbable paste, tasting of neither cream nor cheese.”

Confused, exhausted, still hungry but much wiser, our students looked to their oracle for one more pearl of perception. And it came in the form of the coconut cream pie.

“Your attention class,” their prodigious pontificator pleaded. “On this last discovery, we need to perform an experiment. May I have a volunteer…someone who’s also willing to stay after school for some extra credit? Good. Now, close your eyes and open your mouth. (No, this won’t be like the last time I asked you to do this.)”

He then sighed ever so audibly as he slowly, gently but firmly slid the cream-engorged utensil towards her awaiting orifice….Whoops! Wrong blog.

“Good…good…” he murmured softly. “Now tell me what’s the first thing you taste.”

“OMG!” she screamed. “It’s like totally without the taste of coconut or cream. I am so going to twitter a picture of what it doesn’t taste like to all my friends.”

Prof. ELV’s meal for two, served to his entire class (for research purposes only), with a single glass of $14 wine, came to $118.00.


In the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino

129 Fremont Street

Las Vegas, NV 89101-5603



* Prof. ELV, unlike Mr. Hand, tries to be hip and ultra-cool with his students by using bad-ass slang whenever possible.

22 thoughts on “Bad Italian Food Review – GROTTO

  1. Ate here only once. The food wasn’t too warm and was very pedestrian, sure, but the worst part was the staff disappearing at 6PM because of a compulsory staff meeting called by the manager. Allegedly it “always happens around this time.”

    Yes, at the time when everyone wants to eat, pull everyone off the floor into the kitchen for a big huddle. Smart man.

  2. Wow those meatballs are scary….but I must point out the quality at The Flame at El Cortez….and it’s on Freemont! Keep up the good work!

  3. Just want to clarify, a true caprese does not have balsamic. Tomatoes, Mozz, olive oil, basil, salt. Done. And sorry you had to eat that food. :(

  4. Haven’t read any reviews lately. While I value your reviewing skills and opinions, I can’t say as much as your style of writing. No hilarious, not even cute, just clumsy to the point of being distracting from the main purpose of the review… say how poor the food was.

  5. We’ve heard many good things about the Flame before. On my last trip, I had a nice meal there. And, yes, those meatballs look scary.

  6. tough crowd Cuz…lol
    This place was better 20 years ago when it was called soemthing else (name escapes me for da moment), but I may be giving it the benefit of the doubt as my patera worked there back in the day (plus I was only 16 so what the hell did I know anyway)…

  7. Hey John,
    Sorry you had a bad experience at our Grotto location in Las Vegas. Is it possibly for us to contact you about your visit to our restaurant and get some additional feedback? You can reach me at

    Social Media Manager
    Landry’s Restaurants

  8. I forgot to add that I once took a food-writing course from Professor ELV. He’s the one who taught me to use the word “Yuck” to describe horrific renditions of “Italian” food. Just trying to have a little bit of fun.

  9. Lindsay –

    To save ELV some time, why not eat at the Grotto yourself to experience how bad the food is. Even the lunch lady at my high school some 20 + years ago could tell you that the kitchen is doing a poor job, the Grotto negativity reflects upon the good name of the Golden Nugget.

    If Landry’s would invest some time in fixing this atrocity, I think you would see a big uptick in business.

  10. You’ve been reading Damon Runyon lately haven’t you?

    I had a passable experience at Grotto about a year ago… but I suspect there have been many changes since.

    Only places I generally recommend on Fremont are Binion’s Ranchhouse and The Flame…

    P.S. I can’t imagine what MORE info they’d want from you, JC. Some people are gluttons for punishment!

  11. The title caught my eye because it’s so true–there are a lot of awful Italian restaurants in this country. The shtick of the piece quickly wore thin. Way too much preamble. Too precious to sustain my interest.

  12. “Hey John,
    Sorry you had a bad experience at our Grotto location in Las Vegas. Is it possibly for us to contact you about your visit to our restaurant and get some additional feedback? You can reach me at

    Social Media Manager
    Landry‚Äôs Restaurants”

    Hey Lindsay,

    Just so you know, you full of it. Why dont you offer all your guests the oppurtunnity to give feedback on a personal level? What, one low blow by a local food critic and your up in shambles!!!!
    (“Ohh shit John Curtas slammed our biggest secret, SHITTY FOOD!!!”)

    We all think your joint (and if you dont your a loser) is a hack house a go go and its pretty damn funny that you would even post a concern on this blog, thinking that the writer and viewers could possibly be the real problem, protecting the interest of your BAD ITALIAN FOOD!!!

    Man, we all get a kick at these blasts. Those others out there dont give a shit anyway if they enjoy consuming the slop you serve up anyhow. You’ll get your $50 dollar check average. ELv has no real impact on your customer base.

    Those meatballs are a joke!!!!!!

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