AGO Has Got The Goods

And by “the goods” we mean Marco Proccedu.

We’ve been eating Proccedu’s food ever since he was cooking seafood waaaay ahead of the Moonen/Bartolotta fresh fish curve waaaay back in 1999 at Francesco’s at the TI.

His food then was waaaay to hip for the room back, and way too good for the fannypackers that packed that place.

From there he jumped to Bella Luna on West Sahara, where, once again, his talents were too refined for the mouth-breathing, red-sauce-lovin’, early-bird-special-insistin’ hordes who patronized him.

Now, he’s taken over the kitchen at this playground for the hotchickswithdouchebags set, and we can only hope for his sake that they get what this food is all about.

Because what Marco is about, and what his food is about, is a purists’ depiction of simple, direct flavors in the best Italian tradition.

As you know, we at ELV aren’t especially fans of summer truffles (generally tasteless), and disdain truffle oil (a fraud), but somehow, the cheesy, crisp version he put before us made us forget these objections.

Likewise, the generally boring, bland, over-hyped, oversold warhorse that is tuna tartare is made to sing here with a lively green onion vinaigrette, and slices of grapefruit.

You would expect his pastas to be flawless, and with one exception — an overly starchy risotto alla pescatora — they are. The two that more than made up for this small misstep were mushroom-stuffed agnolotti in a brown butter sauce (light beyond belief despite an appearance to the contrary), and strozzapreti con gamberi e zucchine — thick strands of chewy goodness so-named because they could be used to “strangle” greedy priests who would overstay their welcome and eat too much of a host’s food.

Both of these went perfectly with a Nuchese ‘o7 aglianico (a legitimate steal at $54), as did a perfectly grilled wood-fired rib-eye with roasted vegetables with a smattering of rosemary-olive oil-infused-demi-glace.

You’re won’t find a lot of surprises on this menu (and the average Hard Rock customer wouldn’t appreciate them if they showed up and bit them on their tattooed vitello tonnatos), but what you will discover is the precise flavor palette of great Italian cooking. It’s a lot more than we could ever hope for in this hipster hotel, and Proccedu’s presence gives us many reasons to return, even if we have to be surrounded by folks who look like this.


In the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

4455 Paradise Road

Las Vegas, NV 89169-6574


Last Rites For AJ’s STEAKHOUSE

It had been years since I’d been AJ’s but I had to go back one last time. I wanted to see what it was like to walk back into a 1999 time warp that was itself an evocation of our 1950’s past – both eras long gone, but represented by the art, the architecture and that certain something that AJ’s had, and that we probably won’t see again.

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