John Curtas is …

Bad Italian Food Review – CANALETTO

Tourist traps like Canaletto love to advertise their bona fides. There’s a big poster at the entrance telling you all about the Venetian cuisine supposedly on the menu and the “men behind the menu” – chefs who supposedly have this cuisine in their blood.

You read. You become intrigued. You look at the faux Piazza San Marco setting and it looks enchanting — in a faux, Vegas kind of way, that is. You sit down. You peruse (the menu), and then you order from “La Cucina Delle Tre Venezie” and wait to be impressed.

Then you take a bite…or, in our case, a slurp.

What happens next is a phenomenon peculiar to customers in the Italian restaurants of Las Vegas. A cognitive dissonance sparked by a disconnect between the advertised and the delivered, and having its origins in the deeply cynical management of expectations manipulated by restaurateurs who know a rube when they see one (or a million).

These blackgards know Mr. and Mrs. Fannypacker from Bumfudge, Utah need only to be shown shiny objects (or made extravagant claims) to be wowed. Tell them it’s good, and enough will believe you (even when it isn’t) to keep the coffers full. Because after all, how many of these folks have the slightest idea what Venetian cuisine is about anyhow? Tell them that’s what they’re getting, serve them tepid, under-seasoned but over-hyped food in a decent setting and most will pay the bill without complaint — and walk away thinking: “It wasn’t that good, but that’s the way they must do things in Venice (Italy, not New York).”

And how many of these hayseeds are going to bother to come back a second time, anyway?

Canaletto is a huge restaurant. The “patio” alone must seat 150, and there’s two floors of tables inside. These days, those patio seats are the only ones with fannies in them, and most get filled by the slack-jawed hordes too scared to ask what an enoteca is. (Hence the reason Batali/Bastianich just changed the name of neighboring Enoteca San Marco (“Gosh honey, that’s three EYE-talian words in a row!”) to Otto — a palindrome that tells you nothing, but at least is easy to pronounce.

If only the food at its neighbor was as easy to swallow. Our minestra de riso sedano pomodoro (tomato rice soup), probably didn’t come out of a can, but tasted like it did. Correction: it was so in need of salt, pepper or any definable seasoning even Campbell’s would be ashamed. Next up in our hall of Venetian shame came mezzi ravioli al vino rosso (Canaletto is big on showy, florid all-Italian descriptions that promise the world and deliver bupkus). This prosciutto stuffed pasta pocket corrected our salt deficiency — with a vengeance.

How salty was it? It was so salty…

- We’ll never be in danger of drowning again.

- Deer were lining up at the back door for a lick.

- The Mclhenny Company wants the secret.

- The Dead Sea is jealous.

- Frito-Lay wants the recipe.

- Mormons are making pilgrimages here.

- Female sperm whales won’t swallow it.

Yeah, it was that salty.

Things improved not a bit when the main course arrived: the highly touted pollastrini plini e boni — basically a Cornish game hen that was never threatened by any highly-spiced almond/cream cheese mixture as promised on the menu. It cost $22.59, another indication of the cynicism behind the menu. ELV is certain that $.59 makes a big difference in making it seem like a bargain to the one-and-done customers.

On the plus side, the service was fast and friendly and the bread (baked in-house) was very good, but if you want to taste the food of Venice, the Veneto, Alto Adige, and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, we suggest booking with Alitalia and taking Gianopaolo Putzu and Maurizio Mazzon (Canaletto’s chefs) with you.

ELV’s meal for one came to $75 – $60 + a $15 tip – and included a single glass of wine.

CANALETTO

In the Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian (Remember: When they spell shops with “ppes,” they saw you coming.)

3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702.733.0070

http://www.venetian.com/Pages.aspx?id=838

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6 Responses to Bad Italian Food Review – CANALETTO

  • What a shame. At least there’s still Bartolotta where I will be dining this evening.

  • Otto? WTF is an Otto? lol
    I never thought Enoteca San Marco was a great name (it’s like saying “Place To Drink”) but why not um…. Salumeria?

  • You gotta try Vit’s. Cheyenne and 215 behind the Chevron. Zero atmosphere but everything is made from scratch. Plan on waiting a bit longer than usual. Mom and Pop operation. Would love to see what you think.
    Mark

  • I actually like Canaletto. I had a whole fish dinner there once and it was great. The other times were good too. Ive been and had Venetian cuisine in Venice…it was terrible. Talk about tourist trappy. Nothing like Tuscany where the food in Florence was the best!! Ive also eaten at the formerly named Enoteca San Marco, and they should worry less about the name and more about the food as our experience there was ‘tremendo’ (thats terrible in Italian). Maybe the chef at B&B should give them a lesson since they are affiliates (thats legal mumbo jumbo meaning the same dude owns them both)…

  • At a certain point it’s no longer about singular bad restaurant managers, but that Las Vegas is an entire town based around seeing you coming, as you said about the Venetian mall. There’s simply only a few chefs out there really trying to do what they do best anymore.

    By the way, after five years of passing up Burger Bar because of the crowds milling around outside waiting for a table, I was seated without pause at the San Francisco location last week and finally gave it a try. Excellent, even if expensive for what the middle class has come to expect to pay for an angus burger. I’ll give it a proper go in Vegas one of these days.

  • There’s just too much garbage information in the internet. Good thing I found your site, finally a real food for thought.

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