New District dining, a big gourmet effort and a Panevino treat

This has been a busy week for the Vegas food world. Presidio at the District at Green Valley Ranch is the new kid on the block, having replaced Kennedy’s. The concept belongs to the same folks behind the popular Henderson mall’s pizza parlor, Balboa, among them Pete Kaufman, a longtime casino host, and entrepreneur Jeffrey Fine.

Picture a brick cellar on the ground level, dominated by a glossy black U-shaped bar in the dead center. The menu is eclectic: cheese fondue; flatbreads such as pesto shrimp; chicken and beef satay; entrées such as a Cajun pork chop; even mud pie for dessert.

Not far off, at 2275 E. Sunset Road, another entrepreneur, 25-year-old Brett Ottolenghi, has opened a gourmet food store, Artisanal Foods. If you read Dana Goodyear’s profile of him, “The Truffle Kid,” in the Aug. 16 issue of The New Yorker, then you may know him already. It has to be the most ambitious gourmet food project of the year.

The store is stocked with imported meats such as Pata Negra ham from Spain, cheeses such as flor, a pecorino from Sardinia, exotic caviars, Ecuadorean chocolate, aged balsamic vinegars, and many other hard-to-find products. “This is for chefs who want to cook at home, and any other serious food people,” Ottolenghi says. Call 436-4252, or visit

The old master, Wolfgang Puck, was on hand to do a cooking demo for Grazie Club members on Sept. 16 in the Venetian’s showroom. In front of a packed house, he prepared a seafood Louie, risotto with matsutake mushrooms, and raspberry soufflé, along with a team of his chefs from Postrio, including pastry chef Melissa Zahnter.

Puck, always entertaining and a tad raunchy, took the recipes from his cookbook, Wolfgang Puck Makes It Easy (Thomas Nelson, 2004). As he did his customary handshakes after the demo, I sneaked onto the stage to taste everything, and the dishes were all terrific. Life is hell.

Lastly, I had a wonderful dinner at Panevino—the hangar-like restaurant just south of McCarran International Airport’s runways (246 Via Antonio, 222-2400)—prepared by chef Mario Andreoni from Italy’s Trentino Alto Adige, just south of Austria. This man can cook. Tagliatelle with lamb ragù, risotto with sautéed clams, pancetta and peas, wild-caught Alaskan halibut with caramelized fennel in Pernod sauce, braised saddle of rabbit with artichokes, Kalamata olives and cherry tomatoes on mascarpone cheese polenta and grilled lamb Porterhouse with asparagus tempura were highlights. Dessert was a homemade prickly pear semifreddo.

Hungry, yet?

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Gaetano Palmeri

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Gaetano Palmeri

By Max Jacobson

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.