Freddie Glusman

If it’s old-school Las Vegas you want, Piero’s is your restaurant. The famed eatery’s owner talks about how life in the restaurant business, and the city, has changed.

The walls of Piero’s, Freddie Glusman’s Italian eatery on Convention Center Drive, are filled with pictures of some of Las Vegas’ biggest characters. Whether it’s Sammy Davis Jr. sipping cognac, Wayne Newton nibbling on osso buco or Joe Pesci filming the movie Casino, the history of one of Las Vegas’ most notable restaurants is right there when you walk in the door. Much of the restaurant’s storied past can be recounted by its charismatic owner, who has been in Las Vegas since 1957. Glusman opened Piero’s on Karen Avenue in 1982, and it quickly became one of the town’s toughest reservations, frequented by celebrities and casino bosses. Glusman, known for his hands-on management style, harkens back to a Vegas run by an entirely different set of entrepreneurs, when deals could be sealed with a handshake. These days, Glusman splits his time between Las Vegas and Newport Beach, Calif., where he owns Piero’s sister restaurant, The Ritz.

What’s the secret for success in the
restaurant business?

Good food and good service. From the valet to the moment a customer gets his check, you have to be consistent through all of it. You have to be consistent in any business. That’s my success, besides good food, and having a great personality.

Who is your all-time favorite customer?

The locals, the old casino owners, the old casino bosses—they’re my favorite customers. They’re more fun. They were real, and everything was a handshake.

Who was the most interesting person you’ve had dinner with?

Jerry Lewis was my favorite, and Steve Lawrence. They still come. Steve Lawrence comes in every Thursday night. Jerry comes in all the time. We also deliver Jerry food to his house.

Why are old-time Vegas people attracted
to Piero’s?

Because of the good food and because of the ambience. It was a comfortable restaurant. They were all friends of mine. As long as the food was good and the service was good, they supported me. There aren’t too many left; they’re all old and gone, but they still support me.

What’s the “Glusman Rule”?

Well, that’s a long time ago. I have a gruff voice. I’m from old Las Vegas. And then on the other hand, I’m very charming and people don’t get offended when I tell them, “Just relax, you’ll get your food in an hour or two.” They take me with a grain of salt, and they get the attention and I don’t believe the customer is always right. He may be beefing with his wife or she may be beefing with him and they take it out on the waiter or they take it out on someone else because they’re afraid of saying anything to their spouse. I haven’t had too many of these customers and if they start something I just ask them to leave. But that’s only happened once or twice in about 28 years.

What’s your favorite Piero’s memory?

Jerry Tarkanian was, and is still, one of my closest friends who used to come and support us, and when we started playing basketball at the [Las Vegas] Convention Center I had good seats. Jerry actually was instrumental in putting Piero’s on the map with all the sports figures in the country. When he had the problems with UNLV and the NCAA, we used to sit there and think of ways to save his job and the conspiracy that they had against Jerry Tarkanian. That’s my favorite story.

How has owning a restaurant in Las Vegas changed over 30 years?

Competition. I was one of the very few gourmet restaurants in Vegas in my old location on Karen Avenue in 1982. We only had 80 seats, and you couldn’t get in the place. [What changed is] competition, with the city growing and all the great chefs that are here now.

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