Sunday, November 21, 2010

D.Vino is Devine-oh!

Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas. Fantasy Island for adults, centrally located in the middle of a dry, hot desert. Las Vegas. Conjures up many different realities for many different people. Las Vegas. It's a city that started as a hotspot for sex, sin, skin and slots. Since the mid-1980's it has morphed into a mecca of moveable feasts. Where else in the world can you get a 5 pc. shrimp cocktail for a dollar (U.S.) and less than one mile away get one piece of shrimp for $6.00? I know one place, and it's called LAS VEGAS, NEVADA.

Alone on a Monday night, I wandered to a new Italian restaurant on the Strip - D.Vino, located in the Monte Carlo hotel. Opened for less than one year, the aroma of warm bread, oregano, basil and simmering sauces beckoned to me me as I strolled through the casino, in search of a good dinner. I had the added benefit of someone directing me toward it as well - they had just given me a 2-4-1 coupon for one of their "hand-crafted" cocktails. (A little pretentious there, I thought. Isn't every cocktail "hand-crafted"? Well, except for the margaritas from a jug, but who really orders those?)

D.Vino is an Italian food and wine bar. Asked if I wanted to sit at the bar, I declined and was quickly seated at a table towards the front of the restaurant. It was a little noisy, but not a bad place to people-watch. From my vantage point, I could see the casino, the bar, and the restaurant.

The host immediately asked if I cared for some water. Of course! I'm in a desert - who wouldn't want some water? A young man stopped by and poured me a glass from bottled water. Immediately I got a little ouchy. I don't like to pay for water unless I'm in another country. But that was the last ouchy feeling I felt all night.
I wanted to use my 2-4-1 coupon for one of their wines, but my waitress insisted I use it on a hand-crafted cocktail. I started with the Aperol Spritzer - a simple, light beverage that features Aperol (light orange flavored drink) and Prosecco (Italian sparkling white wine). It was pretty and delicious, a lovely shade of pink-orange with just a hint of fruit flavor. It made for a nice before-dinner drink to sip while I waited for my bread to arrive. I would definitely recommend it for any time you're in a desert or in a generally hot location. Poolside comes to mind.

Aaaah. The bread has arrived. I'm not usually a big bread fan, unless someone else has recently baked it and served it to me. Then, I am truly a sucker for bread. What will come with the bread tonight? Simple butter, garlic-infused butter, some other type of butter? Or maybe the overdone but still delightful olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette? No, no no.... Not here at D.Vino.

At D.Vino, the bread arrived with a couple of friends. First on the left, we have friend Bread Roll. Served warm with a slightly crusty exterior, the interior was still steamy and yeasty. In the middle we have friend Foccaccia. Friend Foccaccia is a close relative to Friend Wonder Italian Bread, just cut into cubes and with a slightly pocked exterior. But the best friend on the plate came in the guise of green stuff in olive oil.

I will tell you this. I am not afraid of any substance in olive oil. At first I couldn't identify this bright green friend, but one small dollop on my roll, and oh my. I knew we'd be friends til the bitter end. What is the mystery ingredient?, I asked myself. It tasted nutty, green, just slightly lemony and with a little hint of heat, above the light olive oil taste. Sadly, I was not able to identify it and I had to ask the waitress.

What is the mystery ingredient?It is fresh parsley, ground with a smidge of garlic and red pepper. Hands down, this was the best accompaniment to bread I've enjoyed in a while. Too many Americans only recognize parsley as that green stuff on the plate, next to the twisted orange slice, and it gets cast aside. But, fresh parsley is an amazing ingredient. (Next time you make rice, chop up a tablespoon of fresh parsley and add it in. You will love it!)
I looked up from my delightful bread and olive oil to notice the D.Vino cheese case. They have a vast array of cheeses for the cheese aficianado. But I came for the food and the wine.
I had been taking some notes on the dinner.

And observing some of the cooks. And at this point, Sr. Iginio Pignatelli, General Manager of D.Vino made his first appearance at my table. "Everything alright, miss?". Everything is wonderful.
Tonight I ordered the Gianni Russo Monte Pulciano. It was new to the menu, I had to repeat the request to my waitress because she was unfamiliar with it. Turned out it was a nice medium-bodied red with a slight acidity. Would have been great with a typical, saucy Italian meal, but tonight I planned to enjoy the special - Sole with Brussel Sprouts. Nonetheless the Montepulciano was very nice: mild, slightly-cherry, with a hint of oak at the finish. Quite tasty.
After a long day, and an Aperol Spritzer, I just wanted something light and deliciousfor my meal. The Sole sounded like it fit the bill. Sole with carmelized brussel sprouts and potatoes. It arrived at my place shortly after I took my first sip of the montepulciano. This plate of heaven, with a little bit of soul, was almost too much to bear. The sole was hot and the edges of the fish were seared and crispy, yet the inside was moist and tender. This deliciously light-flavored fish was served wtih an unbelievable butter cream sauce. The sauce did not add any weight to the meal, it was strictly a beautiful flavor enhancer. Choose to dip your fish in it and experience heaven, or eat the sole alone and be at the Pearly Gates. The meal was divine. The brussel sprouts and soft potato pieces almost seemed like an afterthought. The brussel sprouts were perfectly cooked, seared and drizzled with beef au jus. Very tasty. I thought the potatoes were a complete waste of space. I would have preferred another light vegetable instead of the potatoes. (Oh, hi again Sr. Pignatelli. Yes, everything is still very delish, thanks for asking.)
End of the evening. Another wonderful meal, a delightful glass of wine, and now my second Aperol Spritzer to reflect.
D. Vino is a little schizophrenic. I suppose I can understand why. It's in a hotel that has to cater to high-rollers, mid-westerners, families, business travelers, international visitors, and everyone in-between. It offers excellent, upscale entrees at typcial las Vegas prices, but the atmosphere screams mid-range family food with the cliche'd red and white checked tablecloths of a pizzeria. (And it offers stone-oven baked pizzas as well.) But I have to ask, why would anyone go to a gourmet restaurant for a pizza when you have your favorite at home, and there are so many gourmet food options in Las Vegas?
At the end of my visit, I give D.Vino and A-. Excellent service, scrumptious dinner choices, impressive wine and cocktail menu. Open less than one year. Go, see for yourself. Hope it's still open this time next year. It is worth the trip to Las Vegas.

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