Last week, my husband and I flew into Las Vegas. Feeling traveled out, we decided on a relaxing no frills, casual dinner before we jumped into the energy of the city. Since we were staying at the newly renovated Tropicana, we elected to have dinner at their quaint trattoria “Bacio Pasta & Vino” not expecting much more than a hotel dinner and a glass of wine.
I have experienced many meals that fizzle out after the appetizers or make it through the main course only to fail miserably with dessert. Subconsciously, I think I expected this emotional food rollercoaster when choosing to dine at Bacio Pasta & Vino. What we ended up with was an absolutely delightful dinner that held our attention and amazement from start to finish.
Bacio serves a straight forward Italian menu with an ample selection of comforting meals. Nothing on the menu was unrecognizable so it was easy to decide.
Our waiter Lloyd started us off with a basket of hot bread sticks that were accompanied by the most amazing fresh tomato sauce. Surprised by the simple clean flavors of the tomato sauce I started to inquire as to the ingredients and began a rapid Q & A with our waiter. Are these San Marzano’s? What is it that makes this sauce so naturally sweet, is there sugar in this sauce?
He kindly asked the kitchen and came back to me with the answers. No, this sauce is made from fresh roma tomatoes that have been simmered for 12 hours. There is no sugar added to the sauce (they must oven roast their tomatoes to give it that natural sweetness). He must have thought I was nuttier than a fruitcake since all we had eaten up to this point was the free bread and tomato sauce.
The next course was fried calamari which received another layer of Q & A’s from me… The general manager Stephen Billings was a gracious host and knowledgably filled in all the blanks.
Tender lightly fried calamari placed on a bed of that amazing fresh tomato sauce, enhanced with the nutty flavor of garlic and drizzled with balsamic vinegar to give it an another layer of subtle sweet that was a perfect match.
A caesar salad followed the calamari and definitely held its own in the line up. Such a simple salad that is more times than not, fancied up too much only to distract from the wonderful balance of sweet romaine, salty anchovy, and acidic lemon, mellowed together with a well-rounded olive oil. Bacio’s straight forward rendition showcased the quality of ingredients used. With each bite, amazingly tender and crisp romaine lettuce finished sweet on the palate with a flawlessly balanced dressing.
For my main dish I ordered the Bucatini which is a pasta that you normally don’t see offered too often. This pasta has the thick long shape of an udon noodle but with a perfect al dente bite. It was served in a spicy tomato broth with pan seared lobster, shrimp, clams, calamari and sea bass. The blend of textures and flavors complimented each other ideally. Chef George Bargisen certainly knows how to change the flavors of his fresh tomato sauce to make each dish uniquely different.
My husband who makes a fantastic Veal Marsala surprised me when he ordered it as his main dish. When the dish arrived, the sauce was very loose, appearing as if it would be lacking in flavor. We were certain that our culinary windfall was over. But were we wrong! The sauce was incredibly full flavored and still just light enough to compliment the delicate flavor of the veal.
Finally we ordered two desserts. Still feeling like a skeptic even after 4 flawless courses, I purposely ordered the pistachio cream tart due to the fact that whenever I order a pistachio flavored dessert it never tastes like pistachio. Most look the part, light green in color with a sweetness that if you really stretch your imagination, might convince you that this is what a pistachio tastes like. Not so with Bacio’s pistachio tart. As soon as it hit my palate I could immediately taste the clean nutty flavor of pistachios. Surprised once again at how something so simple could taste so good.
The second dessert we ordered was the Tiramisu that was served in a short martini glass that I spooned up all the way to the bottom wanting to get all the layers at once. My first bite told the whole story of not only this dessert, but of our entire meal. From start to finish, Bacio’s use of straight forward ingredients in an amazingly balanced approach can turn a good meal into an amazingly Great Experience.