EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 50. ART OF FLAVORS


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Let’s get one thing straight, shall we?

Art of Flavors is not a restaurant. It has no menu; it has no waitrons. There is no maitre’d to seat you, nor are there many real seats to be had. The flatware is plastic, the dishware is cardboard, and the appetizers and main courses are as non-existent as the good judgment of the girls dancing across the street.

So why is is number 50 on our list of The 50 Essential Restaurants of Las Vegas? Because, quite simply, no eating tour of our humble burg would be complete without a stop here.  Because, even more simply, lying in the shadow of both the Olympic Garden strip club (literally) and the Luv-it-Custard ice cream stand (figuratively), lies the best goddamned gelato ever to melt on a Las Vegas sidewalk.

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The brainchild of pastry chef Desyreé G. Alberganti, these luscious concoctions are all made on premises, with all natural flavors, no additives, and a ton of passion — passion (and intensity) you can taste with every silky smooth spoonful.

It is gelato so good that we at ELV have been in dozens of times and have to fight with ourselves not to go on a daily basis. It is gelato so good it single-handedly raised the foodie IQ of downtown Las Vegas the day it opened. It is gelato so good you will never be satisfied with store-bought ice cream again.

Yeah, it’s that good.

There’s nothing generic about AoFG. It is as hand-tooled and artisanal as food gets in the High Mojave Desert, and after one bite of Alberganti’s cioccalato di pepperocino (chocolate spiced with the back-of-the-throat warming glow of peppers),or her Fior di Latte (basic vanilla gelato base), or the Pumpkin Spiced Pie Creme Brûlée, or Smurf (yes, it’s very blue), or the last word in Cookies ‘n Cream, you will foreswear all other forms of frozen desserts forever.

And if it’s boundary-pushing sweets you’re after, you’ll swoon over things like Roasted Garlic with Herb and EVOO, Black Sesame Seed with Edamame and Caramelized Soy Sauce, or…..wait for it….Chicken Wings:

…each of which tastes exactly like the thing(s) it is named after….yet somehow manages still to be a sweet, palate-pleasing, slurp-worthy dessert.

How Desyreé does it is anyone’s guess, but one lick in and you’ll know you’re in the hands of a devilishly creative kitchen angel — with a heavenly sense of humor that’s going to be hell on your waistline.

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Favorite dishes: The gelato, Bozo. All of them.


1616 Las Vegas Blvd. South #130


10 thoughts on “EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 50. ART OF FLAVORS

  1. First of all, I’ve enjoyed reading this new essential 50 list. Thanks for writing it!

    The few times I’ve visited Art of Flavors I’ve found the gelato great and the owners very warm and welcoming, but the store empty. As someone who would like to see them thrive in their tricky location, I have a modest suggestion. By no means would I recommend dumbing down the challenging / savory / envelope-pushing selections – but if Joe Shmo walks in and just wants a scoop of vanilla, maybe there ought to be vanilla. Art of Flavors wants to push you out of your comfort zone, but they’ve chosen a medium that people associate precisely with staying in your comfort zone. After a pork chop at Twist, sometimes you just want chocolate without the pepper. Have some “safe” flavors on standby and I think they’d do a brisker business.

  2. Should be titled John Curtis 50 faves to eat. Not essential resto’s. Tell me why Scarpetta would not make your top 50?

  3. ELV responds: Scarpetta is a chain Italian restaurant — one of eight if memory serves — which basically serves the same, cookie-cutter menu of all other Scarpetta’s. It is also trading on Scott “Beefcake” Conant’s celebrity more than on the food — which is very good, but not in the same league as Bartolotta or B&B.

    The argument could be made that the food is better than Giada’s, but she is doing something different with her menu (giving it a Cal-Ital spin), while Conant hasn’t changed his template much since the place opened almost five years ago.

  4. I like Scarpetta, certainly a lot more than ELV does, and it’s a go-to restaurant on the Strip for me, especially for folks looking for good Italian who haven’t eaten there before. The mushroom polenta with truffle oil is a sublimely good dish. Still, I’m not sure I would put it on *my* LV Essential 50, and I can’t blame ELV for not including it on his. I certainly agree that while good, it doesn’t rate as high as B&B or Bartolotta, both of which must be on an Essential 50 list. I admit that I’m skeptical that I’d add Giada to the list before Scarpetta, but I haven’t eaten at Giada’s place yet, so I’ll withhold judgment for now. Do I suspect the fact that Scarpetta’s menu hasn’t changed much in years and Giada’s is brand new strongly influences ELV’s opinion? Yes, yes I do, but that’s a reasonable criterion to use, even if it’s one someone else may not share. Certainly, I’d say if you haven’t eaten at Scarpetta and you want good Italian food on the Strip in LV, you should definitely stop in. The one question I’d ask ELV is, other than the restaurant count being eight to three, can’t you level the same criticisms about Rao’s that you state about Scarpetta? Also, isn’t Rao’s like 3 or 4 years older, making it’s, ahem, staleness even more of a crime? Yet it makes the Essential 50?

    Actually, I suppose that’s three questions, but it’s really one big one. Also, it’s more than a little unfair. Any human generated list will have inconsistencies in it. If any of us were forced to create such a list, and then we had our memory of the event erased and were forced to rewrite it, I feel certain it would be different. My list would be similar to yours in a pile of spots and very different in others, but at the very worst you’ve given me some things to think about and some new places to try, and I thank you for that.

    I hope the spate of writing that has been triggered by generating this list continues to some extent.

  5. ELV responds: Rao’s is sui generis no matter how they clone it. It simply does Italian-American food better than any other restaurant on the planet. Because it is the best, it is iconic. Scarpetta, good as it is, is not the best or iconic by any standards — unless you count Conant’s car commercial as a one of a kind triumph for a chef. ;-}

  6. Compare the L’Atelier menus at different locations. Then compare the Scarpetta menus at different locations.

  7. ELV responds: The difference between Scarpetta and L’Atelier is, of course, that L’Atelier is perfect — Something a couple of gastronomes like Quincy A. and Jay are more than well aware of. ;-)

  8. On the topic of Rao’s, it cannot be considered a chain because the food at the New York location is not even close to being as good as the food pumped out from the kitchen at the Caesars location. Rao’s in NYC is a place people go to only because they can capture one of the very very very rare seatings; consider Rao’s NYC to be a members only club – each member owns a table reservation (its not exactly this way, but this is an easy way to explain their reservation system). I’ve eaten at Rao’s in NYC precisely once and thought it was possibly the worst meal I had that week… admittedly it was before Rao’s vegas opened, but it was rather bad nonetheless.

    Since the dining experience is so night and day different from NYC’s Rao’s, it is certainly fair to consider our local license a stand alone operation. John was certainly right to consider this for his list; the same as he was certainly right to include L’Atillier because L’Atillier personifies perfection even though it is a licensed chain. I’ve heard from friends in the know that the NYC’ Rao’s has learned a few lessons in the kitchen from the Vegas operation, as far as the food is concerned Vegas is certainly the flagship – and it is probably the best Italian-American joint in our humble burg. Now with that said, I personally would not include Rao’s in my top 50 – which means I would not include any Italian-American joints in my personal top 50; but thats another topic.

    PS: I also agree with John on on all Scarpeta topics discussed here, except calling Scott Conant “Beefcake” is laughable. No offence Scott, you’re an awesome dude with a great vision, but you’re not that pretty in real life anymore – age has a way of fucking us all up, sorry bud! Keep putting out the glamor press shots though, its great for biz! ;-p

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