Savoring the Colorful Flavors of ‘TRATTORIA BY CHEF MARC’

Ahern Hotel’s centerpiece restaurant delivers comfort food, international flair, and fine dining all in one…

Man does not live by brunch alone, yet it’s a surefire way to start a weekend. And if you’ve been to Chef Bruno Morabito’s famed brunch at TRATTORIA BY CHEF MARC, then you already know what a hidden gem this place is. Since my original piece, readers have been clamoring for me to return to AHERN HOTEL to share my impressions of Chef Marc Sgrizzi’s dinner menu, and it’s finally happening. Two visits and plenty of photos later, VEGAS 411 is ready to report on the experience.

Executive Sous Chef Joel Ott (left) and Chef Marc Sgrizzi bring elevated affordable dining to their guests

While this writer is no food critic, I do enjoy an elevated dining adventure from time to time. That’s also a pretty fair assessment of the typical Vegas visitor, who usually sets aside at least one evening for a special meal. TRATTORIA BY CHEF MARC is the perfect place to accomplish that desire.

Just steps from Sahara Hotel Casino, this American/Italian restaurant offers Strip-quality cuisine and a welcoming ambiance at a price that will make you smile. It also boasts the distinction of being the Strip’s only “Celebrity Chef Restaurant” in which said chef is a Vegas local.

If you’ve been to AHERN, you’re aware that it is a property under transition. The structure is being reimagined from an Asian-themed casino into a multi-purpose events center with expanded dining and entertainment options ahead. Don’t let that throw you…there is already something intriguing here that has warranted return visits and stays. In the meantime, it’s exciting to witness AHERN developing into what may deservedly be the next big little thing.

Chef Jose Garcia prepared a delightfully engaging presentation for VEGAS 411 readers.

Earlier this summer I arranged an overnight stay at AHERN and knew that dining at TRATTORIA BY CHEF MARC would be a must. Although Chef Marc was away, he left me in the capable hands of Chef Jose Garcia, another member of his gifted culinary team. Chef Jose inquired about food allergies and preferences, then designed a luscious presentation for myself and another guest.

The dinner menu at TRATTORIA is a combination of regional specialties and Italian family favorites. Choices for the  “INSALATE” course include a Classic Caesar ($12), Don’s Salad (above, $12) with carrots, cucumbers, and olives, Sicilian Calamari Salad ($14), and a family-style Italian Antipasto Salad (below, $24).

We started off with a colorful Burata Cheese ($14) made with quartered tomatoes, olive oil, and balsamic. A somewhat unique alternative to their traditional Caprese Salad ($16), it was bold and bursting with a variety of flavors. Of course, we added some Garlic Bread with a bit of melted cheese ($8) to dip into the dressing.

Our antipasti selection was Sausage and Peppers ($12) served “Italian Feast” style. Authentic and rich in Italian seasonings, the flavor and aroma of this dish took me back to my childhood. Growing up in a small Pennsylvania steel town, I was surrounded by neighbors of Italian descent who filled their homes (and our backyards) with the fragrances of Sunday cooking. What Chef Jose brought to the table is the real deal.

Five other “ANTIPASTI” selections include Sausage and Peppers Castelrosso with Piedmontese Cheese Sauce (above, $14), Utica Escarole Greens ($14) and Parmentier Soup ($12) made with potatoes, leeks, and light cream.

My meat course was a flame-grilled USDA Prime New York Strip (above, $65) with an herb crust. This steak is procured from Revier Farms, a respected provider of sustainable, highest-quality Black Angus beef. My companion enjoyed New Zealand King Salmon (below, $39), an increasingly rare variety known for its juiciness and extremely tender texture.

Chef Jose wasn’t about to let us close this delectable “teaser meal” without a beautiful dessert. He sent over a pair of pastry selections from Chef Fabrice Bendano, along with a sampling of world-class gelatos. Guests can witness the restaurant’s gelato station in action, with each flavor made from meticulously-chosen ingredients.

Once I thanked everyone for their wonderful culinary and hospitality skills, I was reminded that Chef Marc would have me back soon for a one-on-one presentation. After such an exemplary evening, a return visit couldn’t come soon enough.

In Part Two, I return to TRATTORIA BY CHEF MARC for a meal custom-created by its namesake Chef. The extensive dinner will cover everything from Butternut Squash Soup to Charred Octopus, Pounded Veal Cutlet to a Roasted Cauliflower “Steak”, and Shrimp Scampi to Rigatoni with Calamari. Stay tuned.

Trattoria by Chef Marc is located on the main level of Ahern Hotel, 300 W. Sahara Avenue. Call 702-214-4950 for reservations or online by clicking hereBrunch is served every Saturday and Sunday from 7 am through 2 pm. Weekday breakfast hours are from 7 am until 10:30 am. Weekday lunch is from 11 am to 2 pm. Dinner hours begin daily from 5 pm until 9 pm on weekdays and 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

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