Salume and Smoked Mozzarella Stromboli – Eggplant Caponata, Roasted Garlic and Parmesan, Broccoli Rabe Pesto
Bread Basket – Ciabatta, Fennel Whole Wheat, Green Olive Sourdough, Butter, Broccoli Rabe Pesto
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup – Crema, Red Pepper Oil
Creamy Polenta “Boscaiola” – Bacon, Preserved Truffles, Mushrooms
Wood Roasted Octopus – Guanciale, Smoked Potato Aioli, Cherry Tomatoes, Broccolini
Little Gem Caesar – Parmesan Frico, House Caesar Dressing
Kale Parmesan – Pistachios, Green Onion, Avocado Vinaigrette, Pickled Radish
Pasta Al Pomodoro – Chef’s Signature Sauce, Basil
Ricotta and Mascarpone Gnudi – Primavera-style Vegetables, Parmigiano Reggiano
Squid Ink Tagliolini – Spicy King Crab, Calamari Ragu, Tomatoes
Tagliata di Manzo – “Pizzaiolo,” King Oyster Mushrooms
Veal Chop “Parmigiana” – Watercress, Pickled Onions, Tomatoes, Burrata
Market Mushrooms – Sunchoke Puree, Cipollini Onions
Brussels Sprouts – Neonata, Crispy Shallots
Double Espresso – Ice
Salted Caramel Budino – Gianduja Crumble, Whipped Cream, Butterscotch Cookies
Tiramisu “Affogato” – Mascarpone Mousse, Espresso Gelato, Vanilla Gelato, Chocolate—Coffee Sauce
Sticky Toffee Banana Pudding – Cookie Crunch, Coffee Cardamom Gelato, Butter Rum Sauce
Harvest Apple Crostata – Calvados Gelato, Brown Butter Crumble
Fortunate enough to have visited Scarpetta NYC in May of 2009, long before Scott Conant’s rise to Superstardom, it was nonetheless with skepticism that Masso Osteria at Red Rock was viewed at first, the overwhelming failure of its predecessor from day one dissuading a visit until a trusted friend spoke of top tier service and Food to match.
Now open for nine months in the old Salute space, Station Casinos no doubt having learned a thing or two about pricing and the importance of customer service in Clique Hospitality’s side-by-side shutters, Masso Osteria brings Chef Conant’s unique style of Italian from Las Vegas Boulevard to the Suburbs and does so without the pretense of “Celebrity,” instead placing the face of Chopped as a footnote even though he continues to make at least monthly appearances.
Sitting down to dinner one night after one of Masso’s special events, a 5:20 arrival finding the space quiet but soon more than 3/4 full, it was in a curved booth suited for four that greetings were offered by General Manager Christian Pollock, the familiar face from Jean Georgs Steakhouse ever a gentleman and in full control of a staff that never missed a beat over the course of nearly three hours.
Toqued by Chef Victor Rodriguez in the tile kitchen originally built for Salute, subtle changes in lighting and two bars giving the lengthy space a more soulful feel, it was after perusing menus that the Chef’s Tasting was selected with a few additions, course one featuring housemade Stromboli stuffed with smoked Cheese that tops the complimentary version at Scarpetta by miles while three styles of table bread also fare well, though the still-frozen Butter was certainly an oversight.
Impressed further by three Spreads, though wary to overindulge with several courses to come, it was on Mr. Pollock’s suggestion that Masso’s first Soup was next presented in a tasting portion, the creamy Puree of Squash given depth by Red Pepper Oil and a nice lead-in to smoky Octopus atop Broccolini and Tomatoes plus Conant’s oft-copied Polenta that is just as creamy and decadent today as it was nine years ago thanks to lots of Butter, Bacon and Mushrooms plus just a touch of Chicken Stock.
Not anticipating a Salad Course, though the Tasting Menu is only listed as “Family-style for the Table,” it was with serviceware re-set that two large piles of green arrived next, the Caesar a fairly standard presentation save for Cheese Crisps while Masso Osteria’s “Kale Parmesan” may just be the best of its kind thanks to plenty of moisture and textural contrast provided by finely crushed Nuts and elegant Avocado Vinaigrette.
Obviously not about to leave out Chef Conant’s empire-building Spaghetti, the Pomodoro’s secret now published but its simplicity still inspiring, it was with a light tingle of Red Pepper on the lips that clouds of Ricotta and Mascarpone were tasted, the sliced Asparagus and Squash creating a very fresh plate while Squid Ink Squid Ink Tagliolini was not as hot as “Spicy Crab” would lead on to believe, though the bounty of Seafood and vibrant Tomatoes made it delicious just the same.
Well-sated but smartly saving room for Secondi, the Tagliata di Manzo a beautiful cut of Beef that was unfortunately a little overwhelmed by Salt and roasted Peppers, it was perhaps expected that the 14oz Bone-In Veal Chop would steal the spotlight by more than just size-criteria, the kitchen using sliced Tomatoes to protect Breading from Sauce and melted Burrata which kept each and every bite crisp, some of it even so twelve-hours later as leftovers.
Barely making a dent in Sides of tender Mushrooms or Sprouts dressed in an Anchovy-based Dressing, both also re-warming well, it was after the palate was cleansed by Coffee that Dessert arrived, Conant’s Salted Caramel Budino every bit as praiseworthy as Nancy Silverton’s famous Butterscotch version in terms of taste and smoothness while the tableside Triamisu and seasonal Crostata are also excellent, though none come close to a thick round of “Sticky Toffee Banana Pudding” that melds Fruit, Coffee and Booze with hot and cold components into Sin City’s best Dessert of 2018.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Unfortunately allowing “celebrity chef” biases and Red Rock’s previous Italian Restaurant to delay a visit it is with great pleasure that this writer admits he was wrong about Masso Osteria, the fact that Chef Conant visits frequently from his home in Arizona no doubt keeping Victor Rodriguez’s kitchen inspired while Mr. Pollock continues to show the same quality leadership skills that have always made his front of house great.
RECOMMENDED: Salume and Smoked Mozzarella Stromboli, Creamy Polenta “Boscaiola”, Kale Parmesan, Pasta Al Pomodoro, Ricotta and Mascarpone Gnudi, Veal Chop “Parmigiana”, Salted Caramel Budino, Sticky Toffee Banana Pudding.
AVOID: Frozen Butter should never make it to the table and Tagliata di Manzo could have used a little less Salt.
TIP: 5pm-10pm Sunday through Thursday, till 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays plus Brunch from 10:30am – 2:30pm on Sundays.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.