Las Vegas Sun

November 13, 2018

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Preview: Four-day La Cucina Food & Wine Festival at Venetian, Palazzo features star chefs, singing butcher


Los Caraballo

Buddy Valastro, Lisa Valastro, Elizabeth Blau and Kim Canteenwalla at Buddy V’s Ristorante in Palazzo on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013.

A Taste of Italy With Mario Batali at Palazzo

A Taste of Italy with Mario Batali at the Palazzo on Saturday, June 1, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Anthony Bourdain and Dario the Magnifico

Buddy V’s Ristorante at Palazzo

A cake of spaghetti and meatballs at Buddy V’s Ristorante in Palazzo on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013. Launch slideshow »

It’s one of the most ambitious Italian epicurean experiences in Strip history complete with celebrity chefs and hosts, prestigious winemakers and my Tuscan friend Dario Cecchini, the famed singing butcher of Panzano, Italy, on his first visit to Las Vegas.

Tonight’s first dinner salute to Dario at Wolfgang Puck’s Cut steakhouse in Palazzo is hosted by “Cake Boss” star and fellow Italian Buddy Valastro, who will arrive from his own book signing upstairs at his eatery Buddy V’s Ristorante. Chefs will include Wolf’s team, master pizzaaiolo Roberto Caporuscio, wine authority Anthony Giglio and Italian chef, author and food writer Faith Willinger.

On Friday, the most lavish banquet for 200 high-roller VIPs at one long table set up in the Venetian’s Grand Hall off its lobby is hosted by celebrated Italian TV star chef Mario Batali.

Kristen Hertzenberg (formerly of “Phantom — the Las Vegas Spectacular”), Smith Center resident singer Clint Holmes and violin-playing triplets Alizma provide the entertainment. Dario will sing a five-minute section of Dante’s “Inferno,” which he can recite in the poem’s entirety of 300 pages from memory.

After dinner, Mario will take guests up to his new restaurant B&B Burger & Beer for its official opening and unveiling with its Strip-facing patio beside the property’s sports book. It will be Mario’s fourth venue at the side-by-side casino hotels.

Saturday morning’s “How to Italian” will feature 11 cooking demonstrations with Dario, Mario, Buddy, Roberto, Anthony, plus, Francine Segan, Giamcomo D’Alessandro, Barbara Seeling-Brown and Terry Mirra and experts from Perugia Chocolates, Delverde Pasta, Belgioioso Cheeses, White Lily and Artisanal Pasta Tools. Buddy promises that you’ll leave knowing how to make the perfect cake.

Mixologist Francesco Lafranconi will be on duty all weekend with winemakers Francesco Mazzei, Allesio Planeta, Alessandro Bottega, Valentino Sciotti and Winebow founder Leonardo LoCascio, who will be honored at Saturday night’s Bella Notte, moved from the Doges Palace forecourt to the Bellini ballroom because of the chilly forecast. Mario and Buddy also will be honored as Italian Americans who have made a significant impact on the U.S. culture. Dario will present them with official “Passports to Panzano” after the dine-around dinner served by nine Italian chefs.

Entertainer Jimmy Hopper makes a welcome return to Las Vegas to provide entertainment throughout the evening. Larry Ruvo, founder of Keep Memory Alive, which will benefit from the fundraising events, will attend each one with Venetian/Palazzo President John Caparella, and I will handle MC duties and the KMA auction all weekend.

The fabulous feasting finishes Sunday with an Urbani truffle hunt at Mario’s four restaurants. A four-course brunch will be served in sections at each as guests seek out the prized hidden truffles that let’s them move onto the next restaurant.

Vittorio Giordano of Urbani Truffles will award three prizes to winners with Mario autographed items and dinners at his Venetian/Palazzo venues. One grand-prize winner will win a trip to Italy for the La Cucina Italiana Cooking School.

Mangia Bene, Vivi Felice! Eat well, live happy!

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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