When architect and designer Vincent Celano was hired to redesign the closed Venetian restaurant First Food & Bar into a home for Cake Boss star Buddy Valastro, the first thing he did was meet with the baker. “I met with Buddy V., went to Hoboken [New Jersey], toured the facilities,” Celano recalls. “We just had a real nice sit-down conversation about what he’s about, what his family’s about, what’s the menu and the food. So I really absorbed his personality.”
What Valastro was planning for Las Vegas was a restaurant that offered the type of home-cooked Italian-American cuisine he enjoyed growing up in Hoboken. Celano could relate. “I somewhat connected to it because I grew up in Brooklyn with an Italian family,” he explains.
That concept of family is everywhere in the new Buddy V’s. As guests dine on dishes such as Dad’s Bucatini and Nonna’s Lasagna in the large, open space, they can’t help but feel comforted by the rolling pins that line the walls, the light fixtures shaped like oversize whisks and the open pantry of ingredients in front of the kitchen. “It’s essentially deconstructing some of the components in the kitchen,” Celano says of the effect. “We wanted to sort of bring forward the pieces that put together what the product is.”
Celano, who recently launched Celano Design Studio out of New York, has a long history of shaping the rooms in which Las Vegans and tourists eat. At his former firm, Seed Design, he and partner Gonzalo Bustamante (working with various local architects), created the looks of Social House, Holsteins, China Poblano, Bagatelle and the Venetian’s Public House. Each offers a drastically different sense of style that combines architecture, décor and even place settings to set the mood for a specific chef’s vision. But he says he always keeps one thing in mind when working in our town: “When people come to Las Vegas they expect to have the Las Vegas experience,” Celano says. “They have certain anticipations, whether it’s over-the-top or just a new experience.”
Celano studied architecture at New York’s Pratt Institute. But his decision to concentrate on restaurant design dates back to his childhood. “I’ve been around restaurants since I was 6 years old. I’ve been in the kitchen, in the back of the house. I’ve been in the front of the house,” he says. “When I went into architecture and design, and then brought that back into what I do, it kind of completed everything.”
And Las Vegas diners haven’t seen the last of Celano’s work. While his new firm has projects scattered across the country, he’ll be spending plenty of time here. He’s currently working on a new Va Bene coffee shop in the Cosmopolitan, to be located on the casino floor. And at Red Rock Resort, he and his team are designing a Mexican concept called Mercadito. He says his goal is simply to continue to evolve this city’s dining scene.
“What are we going to do in Las Vegas to take it to the next level?” he asks out loud before offering a frank admission. “We haven’t resolved that yet. It’s a conversation we’re still having.”
But he’s clearly excited to continue that conversation.