The Scariest Thing in Las Vegas
Happy All Hallow’s Eve!
We at ELV hope you enjoy your horrors on this night of terrors.
Which got us to thinking (and no, it didn’t hurt): What is the scariest thing to most people?
Clowns under your bed? (see above)
Then we got to thinking a little harder (and yes, it began to hurt, a little), and then we realized what scares us more than anything in Las Vegas: wine lists with lots of commas.
And then we realized, without thinking hard at all, what was the scariest thing in Las Vegas restaurants, and the answer was easy. Behold if you can, ladies and gentlemen, the most terrifying thing in Las Vegas, the wine list at Carnevino:
As you can see, it is not for the timid. It is huge: it is massive; it is intimidating; it can be hard to read, and it is also stocked with only a single bottle for under $100 — a mediocre, overpriced prosecco in the upper left hand corner for $85. The cheapest Italian white wine on the list is $150. (Ed. note: there isn’t an Italian white wine on earth worth $150/btl.)
The last thing it is for (as you’ll read below) is selling wine to the average, well-heeled restaurant consumer who has a healthy interest in drinking Italian wines.
It is a list so overpriced as to make a mockery of every other tourist-soaking, conventioneer-gouging, fuck-you wine list on the Strip.
It is a list so ridiculous it will make you run to Joël Robuchon, Guy Savoy, or Twist by Pierre Gagnaire for relief.
It is wine pricing so outrageous that it should embarrass co-owner Joe Bastianich, who, in the foreward to his 2010 book Grandi Vini – An Opinionated Tour of Italy’s 89 Finest Wines (2010) wrote that wines on restaurant wine list should never be priced at “over 2 1/2 times over their wholesale cost.”
This is the same Joe B. who wrote in his book Restaurant Man (2012): “We’re in the business of of taking people’s money, but we’re not in the business of ripping people off.” He also claims in the same book that he sometimes “can’t sleep at night” thinking about the size of the checks in his restaurants.
To which I call horseshit.
So what is it Joe? Are you interested in people appreciating wine, or just bending over high rollers? Or are you and Mario Batali too busy being TV stars to care anymore?
Bastianich also says that the price of wine is “…more like art than cars — the subjectivity is what drives its price, but the quantitative costs quickly dissociate themselves from the price when the product reaches the consumer.”
To which I would ask him: What subjectivity makes a $60 bottle of Jermann Tunina (that cost you $30) worth $210 on your wine list? Is it really your appreciation of the “art” in the bottle that has you selling your entire wine list for 4-5xs the wholesale price of these wines?
Wine most definitely is not like clothing, or furniture, or cars. It is the only consumer product I know of where a certain type of retailer (restaurants) unblinkingly, unapologetically, charge double or triple the retail price of something you can buy much cheaper just down the street. Because, atmosphere.
To which I am finally forced to call bullshit.
But there is a reason for this rapacity, oh yes, there is.
As one general manager of another Strip restaurant told me, “Carnevino has a partnership with the Venetian, so all it (the wine list) is there for is to soak up comps.”
Another local wine purveyor of great repute calls the list a “rape job,” and that about gets it right.
None of this will endear me to the folks at Carnevino, but someone has to say it out loud, because enough is enough.
I love you Carnevino, I love your food, and I love your atmosphere, and I love what you’ve done for the Las Vegas food community and restaurant scene. And I used to love your wine list, like five years ago when it was merely expensive.
But I know a clip joint when I see one, and I will drink wine no more in your establishment.
Your list has given me a bad case of oenopinaciphobia (fear of wine lists), and the only cure I know for it is to do my Italian wine drinking in Italy. Or Ferraro’s.
I am divorcing the “vino” from Carnevino, until some sanity is restored. Until then, enjoy counting your money Mario and Joe, and stop slinging the bull about sleepless nights and your “love” of Italian wine.
ELV update: Last night at dinner we received this tweet from Mario Batali:
hey jc for tonite
@CARNEVINO we have 29 wines under $80 16 wines under $60 2 wines under $50 and that’s just the start! thanks bud!
Mario Batali added,