Satisfaction Garantita

D.O.C.G.’s easy Italian is hard to beat

D.O.C.G. is an acronym for an impossible-to-pronounce string of Italian words that refers to quality assurance for food and wine products (Denominatzione di Origine Controllata e Garantita—got that?). It is also the name of a casual Italian restaurant and enoteca owned by Scott Conant, who operates the upscale Scarpetta next door at the Cosmopolitan.

The Strip needs a place like this, a combination of Henderson’s Settebello Pizzeria Napolitana and an Italian trattoria, where one can just as easily eat pasta with duck ragu as house-made stromboli or biscotti. Pizzaiolos slog away at the wood-burning oven located in the dead rear of this long, narrow dining room, where conversation is a challenge, if not a fantasy, because of the din.

Yes, it’s loud in here, whether you sip wines by the quartino at the bar, or take a seat at a table on the “patio,” which protrudes out into the area that I have dubbed the Cosmo Food Court (a commons area providing access to all third-level restaurants at the casino).

Every time I’ve dined here after 7 p.m., the restaurant has been full to capacity, so reservations are essential. Such a mob can’t be there for the décor—a rustic room with wood beam ceilings, a roughly hewn parquet floor, a brick wall and empty wine boxes stacked at one end of the bar. But it certainly could be for this pizza, the blistery, black-bottom variety that can only be achieved by a wood-fired oven. And toppings are imaginative. On a recent visit, a friend insisted on one I would not have ordered, topped with the Tuscan soppressata salami, red pepper and ricotta cheese. And you know what? I ended up loving it.

Matter of fact, I love many dishes here, to the point that this has become my go-to Italian joint on the Strip. Affettati misti is a platter of whatever cold cuts the chefs have around, plus a few Italian cheeses. One lucky night they had mortadella, which I crave, along with salami from Italy, Parma ham and cheeses including Taleggio and Grana Padano.

Another dish I can’t resist is clams al forno, a small pyramid of baked clams coated with a delicious marinara that has picked up the flavor of wood smoke from a turn in the oven. One of the best deals on the menu is assaggini, a selection of four creative vegetable dishes for $13. Fennel and orange is a must, followed by artichokes and sorrel. They come on a special dish with four compartments, each served at room temperature.

Pizza and pasta together seems like carbo-overkill, but the pastas are just too tempting to resist. Pici, thick Roman spaghetti, laced with one of the richest sauces anywhere, is redolent of black truffle and minced duck. Gnudi are gnocchi made with ricotta and spinach, simply served with a sage and Parmesan blend. Can you say “trendy”?

There are meats, too: fire-roasted chicken with spring vegetables, absurdly indulgent braised short ribs and various steaks and chops.

And save room for desserts from talented pastry chef Vita Shanley, who makes her own foccaccia, biscotti and sweets. Salted caramel budino—caramel mousse topped with a layer of caramel and pretzel brittle—is amazing. So is the seasonal fruit crisp. Pray for peach.

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Risotto Aragosta e Tartufo at Ferraro’s

Dishing With Grace

Risotto Aragosta e Tartufo at Ferraro’s

Ferraro’s recipes come straight from chef Mimmo Ferraro’s Italian upbringing, and everything is made fresh daily. While the whole Valley knows the osso buco is delicious, another dish on the menu caught our eye, the risotto aragosta e tartufo (lobster and truffles). Traditional Italian rice is cooked with fresh lobster meat, truffles and mascarpone cheese, and drizzled with truffle oil. It’s authentic and creamy and you definitely won’t find it at Olive Garden. $36, 4480 Paradise Road, 364-5300.