Osetra and Colatura Crostini – Colatura Di Alici, Burrata, Lemon Zest, Chives
Polpette – Beef & Veal, Fonduta, Tomato Bread
Farroto – Roasted Mushrooms, Mascarpone, Chives
Quattro Formaggi Calzone – Sage, Sea Salt, Local Honey
Prosciutto Cotto Pizza – Aged Provolone, Artichokes, Black Olives
Bucatini Genovese – Dandelion Pesto, Potatoes, Haricot Verts
Stracci – Braised Beef Cheeks, Wild Mushrooms, Pecorino, Sage
Rigatoni Bolognese – Wild Boar, ‘Nduja, Ricotta
Pollo alla Milanese – Marinelli Polenta, Braised Escarole, Salsa Verde
Double Espresso – Ice
Chianti Affogato – Vanilla Bean Gelato, Wine Syrup, Cherries
Nutella Mousse – Passion Fruit Meringue, Pistachios
Bomba – Coconut Budino, Lime Sugar
Long supporting not much aside from chains (and Honey Salt) it was Tuesday night that residents of Summerlin again packed La Strega, the former home of Due Forni completely re-imagined with a lighter color palate sourcing the Italian coast and Cuisine to match from Gina Marinelli.
Translated as “The Witch,” a connotation which may escape locals unaware that tales of “good witches” outnumber evil overseas, it is immediately on entry that guests will find the old patio replaced by an indoor space featuring organic elements, turning right putting a full kitchen on display with Due Forni’s Wine bar removed and an ambiance far more welcoming.
A long-delayed project for several reasons, though Marinelli’s desire to cook in a kitchen where she calls the shots has been a long-time coming, it was seated in the parlor amongst affluent Summerland residents that skilled service took center stage, a female Valley-native proving well-informed about La Strega’s plates as well as the local dining scene.
Certainly an important Restaurant, Chef Marinelli’s former boss and television-star Scott Conant set to shutter nearby Masso Osteria after just two years, it is from a list of thirty items divided across seven categories that guests are asked to choose, drinks all named after Women joined by Beer and Wine available by the glass or bottle.
Opting for a dozen dishes despite just two diners, portions such that this would be too much for many, it was while the man across the table sipped his Gin and Tonic that first bites arrived, a daily special of Caviar Toast with lightly-applied Fish Sauce not as briny as it reads, and actually fairly mundane despite what would seem to be an intense combination of ingredients.
Focused on the menu henceforth, $14 Meatballs from the “Butcher” section overworked and dense amidst melted Cheese and Tomato Sauce, the evening’s first highlight arrived by way of Farroto featuring tender Grains and Mushrooms adrift in creamy Mascarpone while two “Pizzas” to follow were each well constructed, the version folded around Taleggio simple yet striking with or without a drizzle of Honey and a combination of imported Prosciutto plus Vegetables nicely balanced despite Crust not leavened long enough to develop much of a cornicione.
Opting for three Pastas and one “Main,” the former ranging $15 to $19 and slightly over-cooked Chicken $23, Bucatini Genovese seems destined to become a signature as a result of al dente Noodles mixed with contrasting textures and bright Herbs while Rigatoni Bolognese is also structurally peerless with tremendous depth of flavor that starts porky before developing a bit of heat that quickly dissipates to leave behind a lingering note of Tomatoes enriched with Wine.
Less fond of “Stracci,” the savory Stew of Beef Cheeks and Mushrooms marred by cut ribbons of Pasta that were at least 25% thicker than necessary, it was after finishing the last of Marinelli’s chunky Polenta that Coffee transitioned diners to Dessert, Pastry Chef Betty Park’s Bay Leaf Panna Cotta passed over in favor of Vanilla Gelato doused in sweetened Chianti, airy Nutella Mousse with inoffensive shards of Passion Fruit and La Strega’s “Bomba” featuring smooth Pudding at the center of soft Brioche that is best torn in half and dragged repeatedly through toasted Coconut shavings.
THREE AND A HALF STARS: Not always perfect, but assertive and fairly priced, La Strega will be a space worth watching as its audience evolves and if momentum can be sustained it could spark a cultural shift in Las Vegas’ wealthiest suburb.
RECOMMENDED: Farroto, Quattro Formaggi Calzone, Bucatini Genovese, Rigatoni Bolognese, Chianti Affogato, Bomba.
AVOID: Polpette, Stracci.
TIP: Serving from 5pm till 10pm Tuesday through Friday and open an hour earlier on Weekends. Reservations recommended.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.