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Carlos Buscaglia Is Leaving DUE FORNI

The pizza ovens will remain. The pastas will continue to be made. The uber-cool drinks, funky wine list and Neapolitan pies aren’t going anywhere.

But Due Forni is losing the man who (along with Alex Taylor) invented the concept and has kept it going for the past six years.

Yes, Carlos Buscaglia is moving on, going back to the Strip, and leaving his pizzeria progeny behind.

And suddenly, Las Vegas feels a little less artisanal, more by-the-numbers, and not quite as culinarily compelling.

Six years ago it was a match made in heaven. Six years ago, the Strip was in the doldrums, and chefs like Buscaglia, Howard Choi, and Daniel Ontiveros were looking to make their mark in the ‘burbs. One by one they sought to pioneer and present a better way of eating to the citizens of Las Vegas. One by one they tried to elevate our food scene, and one by one they (along with David Clawson, Bradley Ogden and others) have crashed upon the rocks of our insatiable addiction to prefabricated, freeze-dried and franchised food.

There have been some success stories, to be sure: Dan Krohmer’s Other Mama being the most notable of the bunch. But by and large we are a blue collar town who prefers the sanitized and safe to the original and thought-provoking.

“There’s too many chain restaurants and too many people who want to eat in them,” is how Carlos put it to me last night. “It can be very discouraging.”

Indeed it can. Every day at my office I’m confronted by staff and co-workers who prefer Jimmy John’s and Claim Jumper to something owned by a local. All they really know is that these places are safe and predictable, and that’s all they really want. Instinctively they know, what Buscaglia and I know: that it takes a certain leap of faith to put yourself in the hands of a local chef. Better by far to trust the judgment of thousands before you, and give yourself over to a formula that’s worked millions of times, be it in making a mediocre sandwich or a fried chicken chalupa.

That’s what Due Forni and Buscaglia have been up against from the get-go, and that’s what they’ve succeeded against, against all odds.

But, as he explained to me, it’s time to move on.

“Frankly, I’m tired of cooking everything in two ovens and in a 400 square foot kitchen with no stove. I’m looking forward to managing a big kitchen again.”

That shouldn’t be a problem where’s he’s going since HEXX (where he’ll be running the kitchen), is a multi-tiered, high-volume operation that will keep Carlos on his toes.

What they are gaining Due Forni will be losing: a chef with great taste, and serious cooking chops. Buscaglia has been on the Vegas food scene since the early 90s when he was slinging noodles at Pasta Mia. From there he worked his way up the kitchen ladder all the way to becoming top toque at Fiamma, before departing to pursue his dream of bringing great ingredients and great pizza to the neighborhoods.

He succeeded and Due Forni succeeded, but time marches on and new challenges must be faced. From the sound of things, new ownership is taking over DF and, for the time being, the template will remain in place. (It still does a bang-up business most nights of the week, despite being surrounded by shopping malls with loads of shitty dining options that the public can’t get enough of. I’m talking to you, Downtown Summerlin.)  It remains to be seen if they do Carlos’s legacy proud, but let’s keep our fingers crossed that the dough will be just as crispy-chewy, and the toppings just as top-shelf as ever.

Even if they do, however, not having Carlos Buscaglia cooking off the Strip just made eating off the Strip a little less tasty.

ZYDECO PO-BOYS is Closing (Sigh)

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Zydeco Po-Boys — that bastion of casual N’Awlins cooking in Downtown Las Vegas — will shut its debris doors for good on March 3rd.

Here are some of the comments (taken off Facebook pages) from some of its fans and other folks about its demise:

This was predicted by City planning when they recommended to deny Container Park’s box enclosure plan realizing it would artificially cut off the streets behind it from normal urban flow. Making it many times harder for a business to succeed. But Council let amateurs make planning decisions for better (sometimes) and worse (most times).

“Unfortunately, people don’t want to be eating inside a restaurant while watching someone dig in the trash directly outside the window.” – Chef Bradley Manchester – Glutton (Who knows a thing or two about operating downtown.)

This is the most pathetic excuse I have ever heard. Obviously chef Bradley Manchester has never been to San Francisco or any other major metropolitan area in the United States. To even make a comment like this is beyond the pale. I can’t even believe I spent a dime at Glutton.

Parking rates are too high and parking control hovers around more than a panhandler needing a fix.

Parking, planning, panhandlers…what caused the failure? Well, to answer the question, we put it to the chef/owner Brandon Trahan, a thoughtful fellow who poured his heart and soul into the business for the past two years. Here’s what he had to say:

Was it the landlord?

No, not at all. The Downtown Project did everything they could; they built the space and gave me every chance to succeed.

Was it your location?

In a way, yes. It’s hard to get tourists to make the trek just a couple of blocks over from East Fremont Street to here.

Was it the closing of Glutton?

That didn’t help. Glutton created foot traffic on the block that we definitely benefited from. Once they closed, there were a lot less people walking by. Also, after Glutton closed the street got much darker at night. It’s really dark down here and not having that business open on the corner did not help things.

Are there too many places downtown?

Maybe. Maybe there aren’t enough people (living) here to support all of us. VegeNation does great though, so does EAT, Carson Kitchen and the Donut Shop. They’ve been great neighbors. We’re like a community down here.

Was it the bums?

Not really. I didn’t see some of the bad activity that others have described. Besides, anywhere you go in any big city you’ll see lots of bums. You’ve been to San Francisco, right? There, you can be having a fancy meal and see all sorts of homeless right outside the window of a nice restaurant.

Was it your food?

People here don’t really understand Cajun food. They think it’s real spicy. It can be, but it mostly is just well-spiced. We also fry a lot of things so it isn’t a light cuisine, but, of course, that’s where the flavor is.

What about parking? Everyone always wants to blame the parking.

Everyone wants to blame the parking situation, and it could be better, but I don’t think that causes a business to fail.

What would it have taken to stay open?

40%. 40% more customers, 40% more gross revenue. Without that it just didn’t make any economic sense to continue.

Any parting words?

We tried our best. The landlord was great, it was all on me to make a success of the place. They let me do my thing my way, and for that I am very grateful. In the end, there just wasn’t enough daily business down here to keep the place open. Some days we were busy; some weekends I’d see a line out the door at EAT and we’d have only a handful of customers the entire day. I’m sad but I gave it my best.

We’ll miss Brandon — a second career chef who went to culinary school and left Louisiana after the Hurricane Katrina disaster wiped him out. We’ll miss his warmth and good humor, as well as his gumbo and shrimp po-boys. He also fried the best skinny onion rings on earth:

If my waistline would’ve allowed it, I would’ve eaten his food at least once a week.

Zydeco Po-Boys closes a week from tomorrow – March 3, 2017.


616 East Carson Street


Bah Humbug!

‘Tis the season to be jolly, isn’t it? The time of year for rejoicing and celebrating; for toasting the year’s ending with reminiscences, good cheer, and hale and hearty fellowship. Am I right?

Nope, not this year. Not by a long shot. Why? Because lovers of good food downtown are in mourning.  Because Bradley Manchester’s Glutton closed its doors for good last night, after just twenty months of operation. Because the number of good places to eat in downtown Las Vegas just got cut in half. Six days before Christmas.

That means Manchester and his small crew of chefs and bartenders and waiters are out of work, less than a week from what is supposed to be the happiest day of the year. The day of the year when gifts are bestowed and glasses are raised in celebration of the year’s past, and in hopes of a prosperous new one.

Not for Glutton, and not for downtown. Because the closing of Glutton portends dire days ahead for the downtown dining scene. Soon enough, a chain restaurant called Eureka! (exclamation point essential) will open in the space once occupied by The Beat coffee shop, and the marketing muscle it will bring to the scene will no doubt further endanger the survival of the small, locally-owned stores like Carson Kitchen, The Smashed Pig, Bõchõ, and La Comida — places that, like Glutton, had  foodies all atwitter just a couple of years ago.

Truth be told, we were never fond of the name, or the logo of Glutton. The name sent all the wrong messages, and the logo looked like some cheap eatery you’d find in a food court. But from our very first bites back on April 10, 2015, we were taken by the place. Manchester’s concept was everything people say they want in a restaurant: intimate, local, chef-driven, and delicious. The size was right, the corner location attractive, and the open kitchen/bar/dining room just the sort of Millennial-friendly space that the post-recession zeitgeist seemed to call for. He also had a solid mixology program as well as what might have been the best burger in town.

Alas, it was not enough. “I strongly stand behind the product we offered. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get enough consistent business through the doors,” is how Bradley put it when I asked him what went wrong. Sometimes, though, quality isn’t enough. To succeed in the restaurant business, you’ve got to capture people’s imagination, and perhaps that’s where Glutton fell short.

Or perhaps downtown Las Vegas is about to get the (boring, derivative, franchise) restaurants it deserves.


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