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.
– 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.
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