Gaetano’s is the type of restaurant we ordinarily ignore. The reason being, something-for-everyone Italian may be what the common American loves to dine upon, but it is generally so generic we can’t work up much enthusiasm for it one way or another.
And, as you know, ELV may be all for the common folk, but he has no desire to be one of them. Or eat their by-the-numbers, boring, cliched, over-sauced and under-thought chow.
Even more to the point, whenever we chow on someone’s sacred cow — like Cafe Chloe, Piero’s, Buon Gusto — and tell its acolytes what we really think of the food, all we get in return is a bunch of scrunched faces.
So we usually take a pass.
But Steve Sebelius insisted. So here we go.
The room is big, well-lit and inviting. The tables and chairs well-spaced and very comfortable. We didn’t gander too long at the wine list, but it seemed well-chosen and well-priced for the clientele. The bread was moist and fresh (not always the case out in the ‘burbs).
An antipasti platter arrived as soon as we sat down and the house-marinated veggies (and the sharp cheeses) were a hit with the table. Next came a scamorza-draped portabello mushroom that was a belly bomb, but a belly bomb in the best of ways — oozing melted, smoky cheese on a big, meaty ’shroom.
Next came a pasta tasting of four ravioli of which the mushroom and English pea-stuffed one got our attention, while the others, while tasty enough, would hardly challenge Luciano Pellegrini or Vincenzo Scarmiglia for pasta hegemony on our shores.
The meatballs were next and they were positively Rao-esque — light-yet-beefy and napped in a vibrant tomato sauce.
Main courses were exactly what we expected: filling and fun, but about as challenging as an episode of Jersey Shore. Steve ordered the gnocchi with gorgonzola and both the pasta and cheese were properly made — if done with a slightly heavy hand. Pillow-light little knots or knuckles these were not, but the tangy cheese sauce atoned for its sins.
It was hard to cover the sins of the braciola (rolled beef) dish we had — it being so dry it took our voice away. Eryn (Steve’s wife) implored us to try a center piece, and while it didn’t hit our throat like a High Mojave wind in July, it didn’t remove the memory of our first bite, either.
Things improved immeasurably with the sauteed sea bass, and a stuffed veal chop that could’ve fed a corps of NFL linebackers, or one Steve Sebelius.
Mr. Gaetano took it easy on us by offering a sampling of gelatos and sorbets (all quite tasty), and by lubricating us with a second bottle of wine.
Our final impression of Gaetano’s: it’s a darn sight better than any chain Italian, with a warm, welcoming staff that obviously knows its customers and knows how to keep them happy. Don’t expect Valentino, Scarpetta or Sirio and you will eat well…and a lot.
On the other hand, if Valentino, Scarpetta or Sirio opened in Henderson, they’d probably go out of business…even with much softer prices.
So there you go.
ELV’s meal was comped.
10271 South Eastern Avenue
Henderson, NV 89052