40. B&B RISTORANTE
Mario Batali simplified Babbo’s menu when he and partner Joe Bastianich brought B&B to the Venetian six years ago. They slightly modified the format to best comport with the middlebrow tastes of the average Vegas conventioneer, rather than challenge the pasta hounds as they do every night their flagship in Greenwich Village. The good news is the bold flavors that put that flagship on the map made it out here without losing much in the process, and this kitchen still manages to crank out Vegas’s most interesting pastas half a decade later.
Before you get to your primi piattii, however, you must first navigate molto Mario’s antipasti offerings, which are a joy unto themselves. The Warm Lamb-Tongue salad will make a lamb-tongue lover out of you, as will any of the sliced meats that are either house-made or come from Batali’s dad in Seattle. If it’s been a while since you’ve gotten any head, we at ELV can also heartily recommend his Testa with Pickled Pearls and Thyme Vinaigrette.
Of the pastas, every one is worth a try, but we couldn’t live without the mint pockets with spicy lamb sausage, or the Pumpkin “Lune” that are, likewise, straight out of the Batali canon — they being little moon-like crescents being stuffed with everyone’s favorite squash seasoned with sage and Amaretti. Moreover (ELV loves talking like a lawyer-at-law), you won’t find better papparadelle, bucatini or any kind of spaghetti any better anywhere in Las Vegas.
With the secondi courses, we’ve always been less impressed. You can almost feel the gas run out of the kitchen after your pastas, and the meat-and-fish main events never seem to be in the same league as the crazy-good, Fennel-dusted Sweetbreads with Sweet-and-Sour-Onions salad, or the Gnocchi with Wild Boar Ragu. That being said, classicists among our loyal readers will prefer this Pitman Farms Chicken “alla Cacciatore” to the more modern version at Giada’s, and the veal chop takes no prisoners, either. There’s also no beating the Chocolate Bundino with Warm Chocolate as a dessert.
Some of you may be wondering why all of these tasty foodstuffs can’t catapult B&B to a higher ranking on our list, and the answer is simple: as good as the restaurant is, it’s too goddamned loud for civilized conversation. The day Batali and Bastianich quit force-feeding Mario’s stoner-chef music to their patrons is the day this place will leapfrog a dozen others. (Don’t hold your breath, but do hold your ears.) Also, the menu gets changed about as often as ELV paints his humble abode.
And finally, we can’t quite forgive Joe and Mario for the tourist trap that is Otto upstairs. How a chef of Batali’s rep can let such mediocrity exist within a stone’s throw of his two temples of Italian gastronomy is a question beyond the reach of our feeble brain. But major points get deducted for such wanton avidity…and such craven not-giving-a-shit.
Max Jacobson says: “[Batali] is a great cooking teacher and a tireless Italian traveler, two reason why B&B is still among the best Italian restaurants in Vegas. You might have the rabbit porchetta from the Marches in this dark, clubby room, or offal-filled ravioli from Piedmont, depending upon which Italian region is being featured. [The] wine list, done by the other “B” on the marquee….is mostly about boutique Italian wines. [Even] the busboys here can describe the papparadelle with stinging nettles and wild boar, or the minted-lamb raviolis they call “love letters.” Looking for spaghetti and meatballs? They’ll help you find the nearest Olive Garden, if you insist.”
Favorite Dishes: Testa with Pickled Pearls and Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette; Fennel-Dusted Sweetbreads; Bucatini Alla Amatriciana; Lamb-Tongue Salad; Veal Chop; Pappardelle with Stinging Nettles; Gnocchi with Wild Boar Ragu; Calamari “Lifeguard” style; Rabbit Porchetta; Beef-Cheek Ravioli; All Salumi; All Pastas; Pumpkin “Lune;”Love Letters; Chicken “alla Cacciatore;” Chocolate Bundino with Warm Chocolate.