Tuesday, April 1, 2014 | 2:33 p.m.
Carlo’s Bakery by Buddy Valastro
They lined up by the thousand, not the hundreds. They started the queue at 8 a.m. Monday, and it continued until midnight. It was an extraordinary sight, and one would have thought One Direction was about to appear.
Gold bricks weren’t being given away for free. These fans just planned to be the first to buy and taste their hero’s cannoli, cakes and cookies all in the classic and trademark red-and-white pastry boxes.
Foodies made up of dating couples, parents, kids and babies stood (or stretched out on the floor) awaiting the arrival and 6 p.m. opening of celebrity chef Buddy Valastro’s Carlo’s Bakery in the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian/Palazzo, the first west of the Mississippi.
The line snaked out to the Grand Canal Shoppes, and nobody minded the extra-long wait. All they wanted was to catch a glimpse of the star of “Cake Boss” and “The Next Great Baker.”
“We never expected crowds like this,” Buddy told me Monday night. “We’ve never seen anything like this kind of a turnout before. I’m simply blown away by it.”
Mayor Carolyn Goodman attended the red ribbon-cutting ceremony with Buddy and his wife, Lisa, the cast and crew of the TLC reality TV shows and young Make-a-Wish Southern Nevada fan Amanda Cooper, who wore a pink cupcake-themed outfit.
Said Buddy: “I’m humbled. I’m just a baker from Hoboken. I know my dad’s looking down on me, and he’d be really proud.”
Once the doors were opened to the first customers, Buddy and his team held a celebration party across the hallway at his Buddy V’s Ristorante. He served his family’s Italian-American recipes of Grandma’s Meatballs, Buddy’s Favorite Pizza, chicken rigatoni alla vodka, roma-style gnocchi, bruschetta and charcuterie (meats and cheeses), plus his signature lobster tail desserts as food fanatics cheered him with ”Salute!”
I had a wonderful reunion with New York chocolatier Jacques Torres, who I’ve known for 30 years. He just completed two days of filming with Buddy and flew to Las Vegas with the “Cake Boss” to celebrate the opening.
Our thanks to contributing photographer Tom Donoghue for his exclusive pre-opening, behind–the-scenes photo gallery and the red ribbon-ceremony coverage with proclamations from the mayor and Gov. Brian Sandoval. Thanks also to contributing videographer Richard Corey for his video posted on YouTube and to Las Vegas Sun photographer L.E. Baskow.
Over champagne, Buddy revealed that his expansion plans are running full tilt with two more East Coast locations to come before he thinks about additional West Coast outlets.
“I love Las Vegas so much, especially here at the Venetian/Palazzo,” he told me. “For now, this will be the only place west of the Mississippi where you can get Carlo’s Bake Shop goodies. I want to get what I already have working perfectly and smoothly before we think about Los Angeles or San Francisco. So you’ll have to come to Las Vegas for Carlo’s for now.”
The original Carlo’s was established just across New York’s Hudson River in New Jersey. It’s so famous and popular, the street was renamed for the store: 95 Carlos Bakery Way opposite Hoboken City Hall. Fans nationwide rave about it for the best-tasting, highest-quality wedding cakes and baked goods in America. NBC’s “Today” voted Buddy’s cakes the best in America.
Buddy told me that his father Bartolo, aka Buddy, purchased the store in 1964 when Carlo Guastaffero decided to retire. Carlo opened it in 1910, but his son joined NASA and didn’t want to take over the family business.
“My father had been his top baker for years, so it went from the owner to his best employee,” said Buddy.
Buddy’s father died in 1994, and matriarch Mary Valastro decreed their son Buddy would run it with his sisters Grace, Mary, Lisa and Maddalena.
“I’m a fourth-generation baker,” said Buddy. “I love being a baker. I love the pastries we make. My father taught me all his skills. He made me promise to follow in his footsteps and keep up his dedication to quality and excellence. We’ve taken the artistry he taught to higher levels. Every cake we make is customized to individual needs and desires.”
Buddy is proud of the hundreds of notes, letters and emails he receives from satisfied customers — but was still overwhelmed by the Las Vegas turnout. “I love these people. I walked the line to thank so many for coming. Can you believe how many came today because I can’t?!”
As busy as he was with congratulations from VIPs, hotel execs and fellow chefs who turned out for the opening, he still broke away often to wave to, greet and pose for photographs with fans — even in between answering a nonstop series of cell phone calls.
“They are the ones who make this all possible,” he told me.
He also revealed that he has two new TV projects in the planning stages.
“I’m keeping them up my sleeve for the moment, so I can’t even tell you about them,” he laughed with me. “But I’m developing them, and I’m certain once we wrap this series and block out the next, we’ll find time to get these up-and-running, too.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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In the spirit of Venice, The Venetian is a little piece of romantic Italy right here in Las Vegas. The Venetian is an "all-suite" hotel, with rooms accented with plush linens and Italian marble. The 4,027 suites are divided into two towers: The 36-story Venetian Tower that offers guests a taste of luxurious Las Vegas and the Venezia suites, which guarantee 12 floors of high-end elegance. The top five floors are the hotel's highest level of luxury with its private access, concierge lounge, upgraded features and even a dedicated staff.
The flagship of Venetian nightlife is TAO, an ultra-hip nightclub located inside of TAO Asian Bistro. V Bar is The Venetian's super smooth ultra lounge, made by the owners of New York City's club Lotus and Los Angeles' super swank Sunset Room.
The Venetian features 19 restaurants including Thomas Keller's award-winning French restaurant Bouchon, Mario Batali's B&B Ristorante, Aquaknox for fresh seafood and the 42,000 square foot TAO Asian Bistro. There's also the food court inside the Canal Shoppes for those looking for a quick bite.
Guests can float along The Grand Canal Shops in an authentic Italian gondola ride and pass stores like Burberry and Kenneth Cole along the way. And if you haven't caught a real celeb, on the street in Vegas, you can head over to Madame Tussauds to check out a wax version.
With top accommodations, first-rate entertainment, high-end shopping and a slew of acclaimed chefs, the Palazzo has positioned itself as one of the most luxurious resorts on the Strip.
More than 3,000 all-suite rooms start at 740 square feet and are decorated in a modern, yet classic, Italian style. Each room features a sleeping area, with a king or two queens, and a sunken living room area with floor to ceiling windows.
A cathedral ceiling tops the Palazzo casino, while a second 80-foot dome brings natural light to the property's lobby. The 105,000 square foot casino features more than 2,000 slots and 80 table games but lacks the stale smell of cigarettes, as the property is LEED certified with smoking off limits in most of the Palazzo — including 50 percent of the casino floor.
Dining at the Palazzo is among the best of the Strip, starting with Wolfgang Puck's CUT. Chef Simon To serves up authentic Chinese cuisine at Zine, while Sushisamba combines Brazilian and Peruvian flavors with Japanese techniques. At LAVO, club-goers can dine on Mediterranean dishes before heading upstairs to the bath house-inspired nightclub.