Chef of the Year – Francesco Di Caudo at FERRARO’S
How do you take a venerable, very good local restaurant and make it great? Should a local’s favorite eatery even try to mess with success? Shouldn’t it leave well enough alone, especially when it’s been serving solid renditions of Italian food for over thirty years?
There is no magic formula for upping a restaurant game, and an argument can be made not to fiddle with a good formula. And when you’re dealing with a place as iconic as Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar, you run the risk of alienating customers if you change so much as the breadbasket. That being said, there can be no progress without change, and the change the Ferraro family effected by putting Francesco Di Caudo in the kitchen in 2015 has paid big dividends for them, while not disturbing what has kept this place at the top of the Italian food chain since 1985.
Di Caudo is a Sicilian by birth (born at the foot of Mount Etna), but his training took him all over Italy until he arrived in Las Vegas over a decade ago. Stints at Circo and Sinatra no doubt prepared him for a life of leading corporate kitchens, but when he landed at Ferraro’s doorstep, they had to know there was a show pony in their midst who was dying to strut his stuff. Taking over an operation as famous for its osso buco as its wine cellar had to be a balancing act, but Di Caudo has managed to incorporate such push-the-envelope dishes as risotto roccaverano (risotto with Rabiola cheese, lamb ragu and pistachio-coffee dust), with such classics as the house-made salsiccia Calabrese (spicy sausage), without losing a customer….while gaining a lot more.
The trippa satriano is about as old school as you can get, but when paired with Di Caudo’s sea urchin pasta in a ginger-carrot sauce, or new-age beef tartare, you have the best of old and new Italy all in one meal. The Ferraro’s crowd has always been a meat-loving one, but the things Di Caudo does with black bass and salt cod are now enticing true gastronomes, as well as the conventioneer crowd.
Making an established kitchen sing a new tune while still playing the golden oldies is a remarkable feat. Ferraro’s is better than ever in 2017, and that is quite an accomplishment for the restaurant, for Francesco Di Caudo, and for the whole Ferraro family.
FERRARO’S ITALIAN RESTAURANT & WINE BAR
4480 Paradise Road