A visit to Vinny’s, a farewell to Nico and hello Beer Fest!

Italian food dominated what was a good but high-calorie week of dining out. The northside appears to have a winner in Vinny’s New York Seafood Bar and Café, at 2950 N. Durango Dr. It’s one of the few places in town where you can get scungilli, or conch—but when it’s pronounced, leave off the last syllable, Sicilian style, and say skun-jill.

This is the sort of retro southern Italian fare that Las Vegans can’t get enough of: stuffed clams, baked ziti, a greaseless chicken Parm. I love the marinara sauce here, and there is two-for-one pasta Wednesdays nights—a terrific deal, especially since nothing on the menu is more than $18.

Las Vegas lost one of its best Italian chefs when Café Giorgio at the Mandalay Place closed, and Sardinian Nico Chessa decamped for Santa Monica, Calif., to become the head chef at Valentino. Some of you may know Luciano Pellegrini’s cooking at Valentino in the Venetian. If you ate Chessa’s food at Giorgio, however, he’s kicked it way up (sorry, Emeril) at his new post.

I recently was privileged to dine on the amazing dishes he has created for the upscale celebrity crowd in his new position. Perfectly charred octopus came on black pasta colored with squid ink, followed by a toothsome risotto with summer truffles, malloreddus—a bite-size Sardinian pasta with a wild-boar ragu—and rose-pink lamb chops.

I recommend that you try the desserts at our Valentino; they’re by pastry master Davide Giova, who makes the world’s best cannoli. Then take the kids down the Strip to M&M’s World, at the Showcase Mall (3785 Las Vegas Blvd. South) to see the new “Welcome to Las Vegas sign, made from 50,000 multicolored M&M’s. They’re also unveiling a personalized machine that will allow you to emboss your own candy with any message you like—providing, of course, you don’t overstep the bounds of politeness.

Finally, did you hear the good news? The Golden Nugget is putting on a Beer Fest, Oct. 15-16, which will feature more than 300 craft beer producers in one place (the Grand Events Center), as well as live music, chef-inspired appetizers and general frivolity. Participants such as Shiner, Blue Moon and one of my faves from my misspent youth in Wisconsin, Leinenkugel, are featured in what promises to be an ocean of suds. Tickets are $50; call 386-8100.

Thirsty, yet?

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The Eastern Front

Neighborhood Epicurean

The Eastern Front

By Max Jacobson

The stretch of Eastern Avenue that runs from Interstate 215 to Anthem may be the most diverse “restaurant row” in the Valley. As soon as you exit the freeway you see an In-N-Out Burger and a Coco’s, and continuing south, you get to Richmar Plaza, which features Grimaldi’s, where you can enjoy coal-fired pizzas and good beer on the patio, and one of the city’s best coffeehouses, Espresso Culture & Cuisine. People often make the trip across the Valley just for those two hot spots.