Old School is New Again at Andiamo, and Indian Returns to the Rio

If you haven’t been to The D, the Downtown casino formerly known as Fitzgeralds, you may be in for a surprise: The property has been totally revamped, with redesigned rooms, a new logo and new restaurants, the best of which is easily Andiamo (388-2220).

This elegant, old-school Italian steakhouse, also known by its longer name, Joe Vicari’s Andiamo, has soft lighting, formal service and soaring black-leather booths—in short, the perfect date restaurant. And did I mention that the food is terrific? It is. Apparently, there are Joe Vicari-owned restaurants all over the state of Michigan, so the boss is no novice when it comes to running a fancy joint.

This place reminds me of those classic American restaurants such as Locke-Ober in Boston and Gene & Georgetti in Chicago. My wife and I began our dinner with a great caponata, a complimentary appetizer composed of eggplant, olives, tomatoes and other stewed vegetables, sort of an Italian ratatouille.

Then we ran through the menu, starting with perfectly light, crisp calamari, a textbook Caesar, an impossibly rich pasta e fagioli soup with chunks of sausage and agnolotti—stuffed half moon-shaped pasta pockets—before tackling main courses. Pat LaFrieda, a top New York butcher, provides the beef, only top-notch Strauss lamb is used, and the rest of the products are first rate.

The service may be formal, but it’s quite accommodating. When I mentioned that I was stuck choosing between the blue crab-stuffed shrimp and the George’s Bank swordfish, the server suggested the latter and brought a stuffed shrimp on the side—a nice touch.

Meanwhile, at the Rio, the long vacant space once home to Gaylord of India has finally gotten a tenant, and it’s another Indian restaurant, a Phoenix import called Royal India Bistro (777-2277). The elegant décor, etched glass, gilded ceiling and Indian objets d’art, remain intact, but the wooden elephants by the front door are gone. There are also new, rather plush chairs in the main dining room, one of several changes to this labyrinthine restaurant.

There is, of course, a somewhat abbreviated lunch buffet during the week for $14.95, but it’s not as grand as the one Gaylord served and is pricier than local Indian buffets, such as the one at Mint Indian Bistro, (also on Flamingo Road, but east of the Strip.)

I tried four dishes for dinner. Our dal makhni (creamed, curried lentils) was delicious, and so was the garlic naan bread from the tandoor oven. Goat vindaloo—ordered spicy—was tasty and the meat tender, although we would’ve liked more heat.

But chicken biryani, a rice casserole, had almost no chicken—shocking when you consider that the place has put a $26 price tag on what is essentially a humble dish. The manager came by to ask how everything was, and when we told him the biryani needed more chicken, he insisted we have an order of tandoori chicken, on the house.

Hungry, yet?

Follow Max Jacobson’s latest epicurean observations, reviews and tips at VegasSeven.com/Blogs.

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