Gaetano Palmeri

Sicilian restaurateur shares a flavorful pasta dish that’s a favorite of his wife’s

When local cognoscenti hear the name Gaetano, chances are they think only of one man and his restaurant in Henderson, at 10271 S. Eastern Ave. Think Frank, Dean and Sammy. Anyone who is anyone in Vegas, to paraphrase the writer John Gregory Dunne, is known by one name.

But, if you insist, his full name is Gaetano Palmeri, and he’s been operating his plush, spacious Italian restaurant here since 2002, along with his ever-present partner and wife, Rory.

The Palmeri family, which includes three sons (two of whom are waiters at the restaurant), moved here from Southern California that year after a 20-year run in a restaurant there, also called Gaetano’s. They’ve had a loyal local Las Vegas following ever since.

And why not? Gaetano had a long career on Sitmar Cruise Line before he opened his first restaurant in the early ’80s. He’s a mustachioed and personable gent, native to Sicily, but his wife is a California girl all the way, and the two complement each other perfectly.

Customers come for specialties such as fresh fish cooked piccata-style or with pistachio crust, and for sumptuous pastas such as pappardelle with filet mignon tips and porcini mushrooms in a Marsala cream sauce. One of my favorite dishes here is a homemade gnocchi with Gorgonzola cheese sauce. This isn’t, as you’ve probably guessed, Italian food for sissies.

We asked Gaetano to share his angel-hair pasta dish because it is easy to make and relies on ingredients that are familiar and comforting. Also because his wife loves it. Although it’s not on the menu, Gaetano will cook it—if you ask nice.

Rory’s Angel Hair

Photo by Peter Harasty

Pasta with Chicken and Asparagus

Serves 4

  • 1 pound angel hair pasta (Rory likes the brand called Barilla)
  • 2 8-ounce chicken breasts, grilled and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 10 asparagus, cut diagonally
  • 2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 medium shallot, finely diced
  • 2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces veal or brown stock (available at most supermarkets)
  • Splash white wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Cook pasta to taste. Rory likes hers al dente (slightly chewy).

Sauté shallots with olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes, then toss in the chicken and asparagus, giving it a few turns. Add the cooked pasta. Finish with the veal stock, butter and white wine, making sure no part is dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and sprinkle on cheese at the finish, before serving.

Suggested Pairing

Gaetano likes to serve the dish with Matua Sauvignon Blanc from Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, which sells for about $12 locally, and is $38 on the wine list at his restaurant. “The dish is light,” he says, “so a crisp and fruity wine like this one won’t overwhelm it.”

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