Stone crab at Siegel's 1941 by Anthony Mair

Lent Means Meatless Fridays and Bountiful Fruits of the Sea

During this time of year, lapsed Catholics such as myself occasionally try to observe the Lenten ritual of meatless Fridays. Although we can eat fish on a technicality (because they’re cold-blooded, not because a medieval Pope made a secret pact to sell more fish), those fish sandwiches we grew up with are more for nostalgia, and there aren’t too many Friday fish frys to be found in the Valley. So crustaceans count, right? I plan to get cracking at Siegel’s 1941 (in El Cortez, 702-385-5200). Fridays and Saturdays starting at 5 p.m., the old school-style coffee shop offers 1 pound of stone crab claws flown in fresh from Florida, with classic Dijonaise sauce on the side, plus cole slaw and cottage-fried potatoes for $42, until the claws sell out.

During the rest of the week, however, it’s game-on for indulgent eating.

Have you been to Otto Las Vegas lately? Mario Batali’s wine bar and pizzeria is still worth a journey to St. Mark’s Square in the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian. The cured meat game is still strong, part of B&B Hospitality Group’s in-house program that sees a whole, heritage hog come in every Monday to be broken down and transformed into luscious charcuterie such as coppa, lonza and mortadella.

Technically, all you really need with a board full of salumi are some house-made pickles and a glass of wine, but you should also revisit Otto’s pizzas with their charred and blistered, chewy crust, which takes about 90 seconds to cook in their screaming-hot ovens. Sure you can get pepperoni or sausage and peppers, but you can also get those toppings from your local joint. I’m going for the pie topped with escarole and radicchio, along with guanciale, eggs and bagna cauda, a Piedmontese dip of garlic, anchovies and oil that dresses the whole thing—it’s a combination of mildly bitter, salty and umami flavors that sing together like the harmonies coming from the roaming minstrels within the square. End it all with gelato made on-site; the creamy and surprisingly light olive oil variety comes highly recommended, but pistachio is my go-to because I’m secretly an old lady.

And by the by, that’s otto (OH-toe) as in “eight” in Italian, not Otto, the school bus driver from The Simpsons, or so they keep telling me.

Photo by Anthony Mair.