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October 20, 2019

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This restroom came from Italy — mostly

In the Venetian, it’s up for national award


Sam Morris

This is a stall in the ladies restroom at Zeffirino Ristorante in the Venetian Friday, July 10, 2009. The restroom is in the running for the title of America’s Best Public Restroom.

Zeffirino Ristorante restroom

This is a stall in the ladies restroom at Zeffirino Ristorante in the Venetian Friday, July 10, 2009. The restroom is in the running for the title of America's Best Public Restroom. Launch slideshow »

As notable achievements go, this one doesn’t rank with the Nobel, the Oscar or even the Daytime Emmy.

But if Zeffirino Ristorante in the Venetian wins the title of America’s Best Restroom, it will be no mean feat.

Consider the competition: The Zeffirino edifice is up against such big city toilet cathedrals as New York’s Radio City Music Hall and the Macy’s in San Francisco’s Union Square. Past winners of this prestigious prize include Wendell’s Restaurant (an “upscale casual dining” establishment in Westerville, Ohio) and the Fort Smith Regional Airport (in Arkansas).

(You may be wondering how this competition works. It’s simple. Any public restroom can be nominated by anyone. The editorial staff of America’s Best Restroom culls the nominees to a list of 10, which anyone at all can vote for on the award Web site: The restroom owners tend to leave signs or fliers urging their customers to vote.)

So what does Zeffirino’s bring to this battle for King Commode?

Jerry Mannino, Zeffirino’s general manager, ran down the amenities offered in his $750,000 imported-from-Italy bathrooms.

• Inch-thick Carrera marble tiles (“Carrera, spelled like the Porsche.”)

• Handcrafted wooden doors to completely private stalls

• Venetian plaster

• Solid-marble sink

• Limestone columns

• Silk curtains

• Murano glass chandeliers

And that’s just the men’s room, of which Mannino says, “The only thing missing is a flat screen over the urinals.” The women’s room encloses each toilet in a private bathroom with Murano glass sinks. In the main section, there’s a Murano glass mural surrounding a stone lion head mounted over a small pool with silk roses in it (originally the lion head was a fountain and the roses were real, but Las Vegas’s hard water put an end to both). There’s also a couch, in case a woman needs a break from her date.

And out front, in between the two bathrooms, there are more chandeliers, a Murano glass mural of a harlequin and more Carrera marble tile.

All in all, about 4,400 pounds of Carrera marble were used.

It wasn’t always so. When the Zeffirino’s opened, it had but two toilets, which were overwhelmed by the 400-seat restaurant. It had to change. So, in 2006, out went a little-used private dinning room and in went two bathrooms fit for a Bourbon king, a Medici pope or Al Pacino in “Scarface.”

It’s been well-received.

“One lady, one time, she asked me if she could get a table in the bathroom,” Mannino says.

And now, fame beckons. Mannino says that while he would like to win an award for his restaurant, “but you got to start somewhere.” And, of course, in situations like this, it’s an honor just to be nominated.

Voting continues through the end of July. A winner will be announced in August. In the meantime, the restroom’s routine is untouched by celebrity.

Every night, a careful cleaning crew waxes the marble floor and polishes the wooden doors that are finished so smooth that your fingertips seem to float just above, rather than touch, their surface.

It’s almost sepulchral, beyond a bathroom. It wasn’t until later that we thought to ask Mannino about the toilets.

Oh, Mannino says, the toilets are Kohlers.

The home remodeler’s favorite?

Yup, Mannino says.

“Those are the only things we didn’t have shipped over from Italy.”

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