Family Matters

At her sister’s Bratalian, chef Alessandra Madeira shines entirely in her own right

If Italian dining is supposed to be about the camaraderie of eating with family, then Alessandra Madeira has always been in the right place. As chef de cuisine of Bratalian in Anthem, Madeira gets to see more locals and their families, rather than the ebb and flow of strangers that chefs would usually encounter on the Strip. Cooking for and with family has been the path that has led her to her post today.

Madeira is the younger sister of Carla Pellegrino, chef at Bacio at the Tropicana, and she runs Bratalian’s kitchen for Pellegrino while Madeira’s husband, Walter Ciccone, mans the front of the house. Both sisters grew up in Rio helping their mother with her catering business in Brazil, sometimes being taken out of school to help with big events. Madeira was recruited at 8 years old as a pastry chef and taught how to cook traditional Brazilian cuisine by Pellegrino. Later, when they were living in Italy, Pellegrino taught her to cook Italian food. (Thus the “Bratalian” concept.) After Pellegrino attended the prestigious French Culinary Institute, Madeira learned some French cuisine and technique as well.

Best of Bratalian

Lasagna Bianca. This white lasagna is richer and creamier than its tomato-based counterpart. The béchamel is made with a variety of mushrooms and enhanced with truffle oil.

Frittata-Stuffed Roasted Veal. Eggs and Parmesan cheese are baked into a frittata, which is rolled into a pounded veal chop with bacon and mushrooms, then tied off and roasted.

Grouper in Umido. Fresh grouper is given the same treatment as the calamari on the menu, cooked in fresh tomatoes, white wine, capers and Gaeta olives. The fish makes for a heartier dish than the calamari.

Chicken Marsala. Madeira has been trying to convince Carla that Marsala should be on the menu full time. The classic dish, features chicken in a slightly sweet reduction of Marsala wine, is a huge hit among guests.

Madeira found herself working pastry again in the kitchen of Pellegrino’s former New York restaurant, Baldoria. It was only a matter of time before she was put on the line to cook so that she would eventually be able to run the kitchen on her own. She met the promotion with some resistance, since she loved working pastry, but enough time on the line made her fall in love with cooking even more, especially since she was learning to be in control of the kitchen.

When the family relocated to Las Vegas so that Madeira and her husband could run Bratalian, she was fully aware she’d be executing Pellegrino’s menu again. But there’s no tinge of jealousy; there has never been a sense of competition between the two. Boyfriends of Madeira’s would think Pellegrino was beautiful, but, “Yeah, so what? I’ve never been jealous of Pellegrino,” she says.

Because even though everyone loves the everyday menu items of chicken parmigiana and calamari stewed in tomatoes with olives, it’s the specials where you can find Madeira’s touches. Her dishes are more country, they feel more home-style, which relates nicely to the rustic atmosphere of the dining room, complete with clotheslines of laundry strung across the room. Her dishes are ones you’d expect a mother to make, and she cooks food for her regulars like they’re family.

The restaurant in New York was in the Theater District, so guests at Baldoria, and New Yorkers in general, were always in a rush. “New York people just want to eat,” Madeira says, “and go fast. Here, we don’t have that problem, people actually want to stay.” She also prefers that she’s working off-Strip rather than at her sister’s restaurant at the Tropicana. “It’s like home,” Madeira says. “Here I can have more control of everything.”

The couple have worked their respective stations ever since New York. Their communication style can be, let’s say, “heated,” much to the amusement of the guests. “Working with Walter is horrible,” Madeira jokes. “We fight every day and busy nights it gets worse!”

Those who sit near the front window or at the corner of the bar get the best seats in the house. “Screaming, yelling, it happens,” Madeira says with a laugh.

With that, her husband pipes up from the other side of the room: “Guests are paying for the show!”