Warm Bread – Olive Oil
Housemade Mozzarella – Caponata, Peppers, Olives, Grilled Bread
Beef Carpaccio – Arugula, Truffle Pecorino
Insalate Frutti di Mare – Shrimp, Calamari, Lemon, Seasonal Greens, Tomatoes, Radishes
Tuna Crudo – Orange, Olive Oil, Black Olive, Arugula
Fritto Misto – Crispy Shrimp, Vegetables, Lemon, Tartar Sauce, Cocktail Sauce
Focaccia di Recco – Flat Bread, Stracchino Cheese, Olive Oil
Meatballs – Whipped Ricotta, Basil, Pomodoro, Grilled Bread
Salsiccia Pizza – Sausage, Fennel, Onion
Piccante Pizza – Salame, Calabrian Chiles, Honey
Rigatoni alla Norma – Pomodoro, Eggplant, Basil
Linguini & Clams – Garlic, Chiles, Lemon
Fettuccine – Neapolitan Beef Ragu, Pomodoro, Pecorino
Corvina Acqua Pazza – White Sea Bass, Tomatoes, Basil, Onions, Peppers
Pollo Parmigiana – Breaded Chicken Breast, Pomodoro, Housemade Mozzarella, Basil
Garlic Potatoes – Parsley
Broccoli Rabe – Garlic, Chili Flake
Roasted Mushrooms – Olive Oil, Rosemary
Eggplant Rollatini – Breadcrumbs, Pomodoro, Mozzarella
Olive Oil Cake – Whipped Cream
Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake – Whipped Cream
Neapolitan Cookie Gelato – Rainbow Cookies
Tiramisu – Dark Chocolate Crisp
To any local in tune with the Las Vegas dining scene it seemed only a matter of time before Portofino shuttered, the combination of its out of the way location, poor marketing and an older Casino virtually guaranteeing only regulars and those in-the-know would seek it out, yet a mere thirty two days after closing its doors Chef Michael LaPlaca and team are back with Osteria Costa and although only three days in at the time of this writing it is safe to say what’s past is in the past but that there are plenty of good times ahead.
Located in the old Samba Brazilian Steakhouse between Pantry and the Buffet, an expensive build-out with a bar and lounge that extends up to the gaming floor backed by a more formal dining area and open kitchen, Osteria Costa continues a recent trend in moving Italian Cuisine from North to South and towards the sea, several months of research and recipe development helping to create a menu that reads lighter than Portofino with a price point that is also more accessible.
Focused on the Cuisine of Naples and the Amalfi Coast with a menu divided into six sections, a collection of housemade Pastas the largest but surrounded by Salads, Pizza, Antipasti, Secondi and Sides, it was after greetings from familiar hostesses that guests were led past the Wood-fired Pizza oven to a slate four-top in direct view of the kitchen, general manager Chris Zadie looking dapper as ever in a three-piece suit and overseeing a team of ladies and gentlemen mostly familiar from his prior front-of-house.
Looking over the menu and realizing more than one visit will be necessary to fully sample its breadth, a table of four likely able to walk away completely satisfied by a Pizza plus a couple Salads or Antipasti plus an equal number of Pasta or Entrees, it was with eyes bigger than stomachs that a six course menu was selected, Iced Teas plus glasses of Sangiovese refilled as necessary and the meal starting off with Warm Housemade Bread featuring a robust Crust and delicate crumb that paired well with Olive Oil but even better when grilled and served next to Housemade Mozzarella or Chef LaPlaca’s peerless Meatballs ported over from Portofino.
Sticking with the light and sharable theme throughout Antipasti and Salads, though any of the $10-20 plates could easily make for a healthy dinner or snack prior to the show or club, it was with a light head of Truffles that Costa’s Beef Carpaccio found itself in the company of Fiamma for the best at an Italian Restaurant following the closure of Olives while the Insalate Frutti di Mare, peppered Tuna Crudo and golden Fritto Misto all took fresh Seafood and let it shine amidst good Produce without too much manipulation.
Showcasing a 900°F wood oven along the right side entering the restaurant, a quartet of Pizzas plus classic Focaccia di Recco emerging from the fire hot and lightly charred, it is with little more than Flour, Water, Salt and a bit of Olive Oil that two distinct styles of Crust are created, the former pliable with a puffy cornicione while the less well-known product of the city it is named for outshines any local version by being Cracker-thin and crisp despite a thick layer of Cheese.
Moving next to Pasta, the purchase of a top-end extruder allowing Chef LaPlaca to create nine separate versions in-house daily, it is somewhat unfortunate that neither Gnocchi nor his signature Agnolotti made the jump but remaining true to the region fans are not left wanting for choices, a mistake with the Pasta Water first seeing Rigatoni a bit too saline though the re-fire was textbook al dente with subtle spicing while the Linguini with Clams and ribbons of Fettuccine were spot on from the start with the latter not afraid to show a meaty sapor and all the better for it.
At this point fairly well sated, about half of the Rigatoni and a few twirls of Fettuccini both packed to-go, it was with two of six Secondi plus all four Sides that savories concluded, Michael’s billing of the Eggplant Rollatini as “the best thing on the menu” at first seeming a little overzealous for a $6 item written in a six-point font but in reality fairly true as the thinly shaved Vegetable and gooey Mozzarella ate like the lightest Mozzarella stick one can imagine, though the White Sea Bass in Tomato Water and thick-cut Mary’s Organic Chicken Parm were not shabby themselves, nor were the boiled, smashed and fried Potatoes teaming with Herbs and Garlic.
Declining Coffee or Espresso after a long day and plenty of Iced Tea, the online menu and Social Media images of Dessert slightly different from Osteria Costa’s actual offerings, it was with 4/5 of the menu served that eyes widened at a portion-to-price ratio far more generous than expected, just $5-$7 for Cakes and Sweets that cost double elsewhere and highlighted by lightly sweetened Olive Oil Cake plus chalices of Gelato and Tiramisu that are perfect for sharing given their substantial size, though if one is forced to pick just one the Tiramisu was said by a few to be the best they’ve tasted in Las Vegas.
FOUR AND HALF STARS: Undoubtedly the best first-week experience in Las Vegas since Yusho, a lot of research and several familiar faces assuring an almost seamless transition from Portofino, Osteria Costa offers an incredible value on the dollar compared to the average Casino Restaurant without skimping on quality, quantity or experience – now hopefully MGM’s marketing department, locals and tourists will give Chef LaPlaca and his team the respect they deserve.
RECOMMENDED: Housemade Mozzarella, Fritto Misto, Focaccia di Recco, Meatballs, Piccante Pizza, Rigatoni alla Norma, Fettuccine, Corvina Acqua Pazza, Garlic Potatoes, Eggplant Rollatini, Olive Oil Cake, Tiramisu.
AVOID: The Chocolate Cake featured in Social Media images and Nutella Zeppole listed online are not available while Roasted Mushrooms were a bit too salty, as was the first run of Rigatoni.
TIP: Mon – Sun 5:00 PM – 10:30 PM
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.