There was a time when Alex Stratta was viewed as one of the top chefs on the Strip. He ran the award-winning Renoir at The Mirage before following Steve Wynn to his eponymous resort to oversee the Michelin two-starred Alex and the more casual Italian spot, Stratta. Alex closed in January 2011, and the chef left Stratta later that year. Stratta then spent time in restaurants in New York and California. Recently, however, he has forsaken the glitz of Las Vegas Boulevard, and seems intent on revolutionizing neighborhood dining on the west side. And his sights are set even further.
“Fancy restaurants that have been very successful—I’ve been there, done that,” Stratta says. “I need to go to the next phase. How can I make this food accessible to people who aren’t ready to spend a couple hundred bucks on dinner four nights a week?”
The Wisconsin native’s first venture into Las Vegas neighborhood dining occurred in mid 2011, when he became a consultant at longtime west-side hot spot Marche Bacchus and helped elevate the restaurant’s cooking to its highest level in years. More recently, he teamed with Preferred Restaurant Brands (formerly Dixie Foods International) to develop a series of restaurants with his name on them, first locally, then regionally and beyond. While they were developing ideas, P.R.B. bought Elements Fine Casual Dining & Cocktails on Rainbow Boulevard, where Stratta helped hire staff and develop a new menu. The group also has plans for two new concepts: Tapas by Alex Stratta is set to open December 17 in Tivoli Village; and in March, Alex Stratta Italian Steakhouse is slated to open in the Gramercy.
The tapas restaurant will occupy a spot that formerly housed a pizza lounge, and Stratta says the venue is being developed in less than two months. “It’s pretty intense,” he laughs, “which is great.” For the menu, Stratta’s looking to both the traditional Spanish bar snacks that once defined the word tapas, and the broader definition the term has acquired in recent years. “In the beginning, we’re gonna make it much more Spanish in style,” he says of his opening menu. “And then eventually, once people get comfortable with us, we’re gonna evolve into what I do: Italian, French, Moroccan and Malaysian.”
While Tapas by Alex Stratta will be the first off-Strip restaurant with the chef’s name on the door, the steakhouse was originally intended to be his big re-launch. In a town well-stocked with steakhouses, why choose such a well-trodden path?
“I said ‘I’ve got to do something that is definable, identifiable, comfortable and approachable, yet can always be better,’” he says. So he’ll offer steaks alongside Italian cuisine, and a raw bar. And he’s promising something for every price range. “If you want to come in and spend 90 bucks on a shellfish platter, we’ve got that for you,” he says. “But if you want to come in and spend 18 bucks on an incredible bowl of pasta, we’ve got that for you, too.”
Even in the midst of launching these two projects, Stratta is already looking forward. “[P.R.B.] is a restaurant franchising company,” the chef says. “And we’re gonna build a brand with my name.”
Who knows? Before long, Alex Stratta could become a household name—and not just in Las Vegas.