If you were to imagine Frank Sinatra’s quintessential Italian hangout, you’d be smack in the middle of Piero’s. While the Strip has evolved significantly over the last three decades, Piero’s has stayed much the same just a stone’s throw off Las Vegas Boulevard.
Everything about this nearly-hidden restaurant says classic. The small entryway leads to a long bar room with small tables, where martinis are poured to the brim and the term ‘craft cocktail’ hasn’t come into existence yet. The regulars flock here, creating a hustle-and-bustle reminiscent of walking through a relative’s house during a holiday reunion.
The journey then continues into the main dining room. Dark chairs and dim lighting. Soft melodies sounding from walls lined with pictures that make you smile. White tablecloths and white coat-sporting servers that pull tables out for guests to enter their booths. And those booths have history—celebrities from across the world have made the pilgrimage to those very same seats since the restaurant’s opening in 1982.
The atmosphere here is truly iconic. But this experience comes at a price, and unfortunately the food doesn’t live up to the history Piero’s has created for itself.
Let’s start with the highs. The agnolotti freshi alla crema, or spinach-stuffed pasta in cream sauce, practically melts from the fork to your mouth. The Vitello “del chef,” a veal osso bucco, is Piero’s signature dish. It boasts a good cut of meat highlighted by the bone marrow alongside, served with fresh pasta and homemade tomato sauce.
The rest of the menu needs to catch up. Appetizers and salads, while using fresh, quality ingredients, pose limited selection and a rather basic flavor profile. Yes, true Italian cooking stresses few elements and looks down on extraneous spices, but the dishes here are simply missing the ‘pop’ that leads guests to close their eyes and savor that first bite.
Overcooked lobster turned the linguine all’ aragosta into a letdown. Even still, the tomato sauce, while excellent, overpowered the natural succulence of the shellfish. The fettuccini alfredo had been sitting on the kitchen counter too long, with the sauce crusting over by the time it was served. The biggest disappointment, however, came in the desserts. Standard-at-best strawberry cheesecake and cannolis, profiteroles that fell flat, and a chocolate mousse cake that looked as dry and flavorless as it tasted.
My heart goes out to Piero’s for creating a truly remarkable experience for the eyes, ears and heart. When taking the palate and the wallet into account, however, this city holds dozens of places more worthy of a top-dollar indulgence.