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October 22, 2017

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Photos: Mario Batali has even more expansion plans in Las Vegas


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A Taste of Italy with Mario Batali at the Palazzo on Saturday, June 1, 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 »
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A Taste of Italy with Sebastien Silvestri, Mario Batali and John Caparella at the Palazzo on Saturday, June 1, 2013.

It’s a tough 60-day deadline that star chef Mario Batali faces for his new B&B Burger & Beer restaurant at The Venetian. If he gets his fourth restaurant at The Venetian and Palazzo open on the tight timetable, he’ll have his beer-driven menu up and running before the end of summer and in operation for September.

However, he’s already got plans for another restaurant there for next year and is looking to see if he can bring his Eataly food-hall concept here. “We are really bullish on Las Vegas right now,” he exclaimed. “This is such a hotspot. You just can’t match it — even if New York and L.A. pretend to be more sophisticated.”

Mario’s visit was a whirlwind affair. On Saturday morning, he fed his son breakfast in Manhattan before marching in for his SATs, flew here to kick off the summer-long Carnevale with A Taste of Italy at the adjoining two hotels and on Sunday flew back in time for a family sports game.

Hotel execs and yours truly wore Mario’s trademark orange Crocs as hotel President John Caparella, Sebastien Silvestri, VP of F&B, and he cut the purple ribbon for the launch of the three-month festival of food, art, wine and music. This Saturday, chef Emeril Lagasse is king of the grill at a BBQ party with rocker Sammy Hagar.

Mario and his business partner, restaurateur Joe Bastianich, hosted a Taste of Italy where guests mingled with the chef and sampled delectable treats from his three restaurants Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, Carnevino and B&B Ristorante at The Venetian and Palazzo. B&B Burger & Beer will feature a menu with local ingredients and a beer-driven beverage menu. Mario and Joe also have two restaurants at the parent company Las Vegas Sands Singapore Marina Sands.

Their new restaurant, taking over the former Rattlecan, will have 120 interior seats and another 100 seats on the 2,000-square-foot outdoor patio facing the Strip. There will be more than 20 TV screens for sports fans. Mario promises menus that feature local ingredients and beers from Las Vegas and Southern California craft breweries. The burgers will be made from Carnevino’s high-quality American beef.

“Las Vegas Sands has been a great partner over the years, and, with their support, Joe and I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to do something we’ve never done before,” Mario said. “We are committed to sustainability and a no bottled water policy, whole animal purchasing and energy-efficient lighting, so we conserve and reduce waste wherever possible.”

Mario and I have been friends since 1992 in New York when I worked with him in the early days of The Food Network. We talked one-on-one at A Taste of Italy:

So the first question is can you ever have too many restaurants in Las Vegas?

“The answer to that is obviously not! Las Vegas has gone through many changes, and there was a down period a couple of years ago. I think more than anything in any part of America right now, Las Vegas is back and stronger than ever. We are here to embrace it.”

So your new Burger & Beer, the new B&B, Bastianich and Batali means many things?

“Right. Interpret it as you will, but we’ll have a very casual place where you can eat the kind of food that we like to eat when we’re not eating in our Italian restaurants. There’s Italian joy to it, there’s Italian spirituality to it, but at the end of the day, there’s a little piano player in the back of my head saying, ‘How about we have burgers and delicious beers and milkshakes!’ Kind of a craft cocktail situation, but nothing too fancy. It’s a casual place where I would go on my day off.

“We’re going to have our traditional Italian hospitality, we’re going to have the meat from Carnevino, we’re going to have side dishes that feel a little Italian, but as much about Italian joy of life than say plates of spaghetti. There’s going to be nice Italian-style subs, really great bread, but no pizza this time around.”

I don’t normally think of burgers being Italian.

Click to enlarge photo

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

Click to enlarge photo

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

Mario Batali and Martha Stewart talk Eataly

“Right, but the idea is that this is more like a pub. We’ll have a meatball sub, you’ll have fried calamari, you’ll have a classic hoagie or a grinder in a kind of Italian/American way, but all the ingredients are Italian. That’s why we’re going to do it differently.”

You speak very bullish on Las Vegas. Do you have plans for more fine dining?

“We are entertaining that thought right now. We’re committed to Las Vegas, and we’re committed to the Venetian/Palazzo team. We are happy to do stuff here, and we love the way they treat us. They treat us right, they bring the right customer to us on three different tiers already, so this is the fourth tier for us, and this is a place where they can still experience our beef at a less-expensive level. This isn’t going to be a reservation place; this is going to feel like a giant bar, a quick in and out in 25 minutes.

“This will be our 23rd restaurant. It’s working out all right for me, don’t ya think? You remember me before the very first one! Now we are as far afield as Hong Kong and Singapore!”

Do Asians love pasta, and who had it first, the Italians or the Asians?

“There’s a question about the 12th century whether the Chinese actually invented it and whether Marco Polo took it back. There are quotes in books, records, in the 10th century in an area around Naples where they were eating noodles, and they were called strings. So I’m not going get into that fray. It will be an unanswered question forever because of the murky depths of history, pre-Renaissance. It’s really hard to say who really came up with anything.”

Why do you Italians love life so much, with food most important?

“I think it’s their fundamental lack of responsibility. They eat well, they live well, they make great art, they have beautiful people, they understand the things about pleasure that are guilt free.”

You’re still on ABC every day with “The Chew,” but is your own internet TV network ready to go now?

“We’re just about to sign the final deal, so we’re very excited about it. At ‘The Chew,’ I never would have chosen these people as my roommates, but I love them all like family now.”

No slowing down for Mario or Joseph B?

“Joseph is much younger than I, so he can carry this torch farther into the future, but, at only 52, I can only see up and growth and incredible opportunities.”

What comes first, food or family?

“Family, but they’re almost indivisible. For our family, food and family come together at the same time. Certainly we wake up in the morning, and we don’t say let’s have a ‘Kumbaya’ session with all the family. We have breakfast; then we have a ‘Kumbaya’ session.

“My son was taking his SAT this morning, so I had to make him the right breakfast, then jump on the plane and come right here. Tomorrow night, I will be back for my other son who has the end of his first year of high school celebration.”

So final question, what nationality of food do you eat when you don’t eat in your own restaurants? Are you an Asian guy?

“I love Southeast Asian food, I love Japanese food, I love just a simple shellfish seafood restaurant. I’m a big fan of oyster bars, so I tend to go out less for fancy and more for casual.

“That’s why we’re opening the B&B Burger & Beer bar because it’s a casual opportunity to enjoy our experience on a different set of terms. You don’t have to make a reservation; you don’t even have to know what the words mean.

You have your giant Eataly food market project in New York; where else is it going?

“Next is Chicago. We’ve signed for Istanbul and Dubai. I’m looking at Sao Paulo Brazil, Mexico City, Los Angles if I can find real estate, but those real estate guys out there are tough. I’m not sure if we would do the full on one here, but we’re trying to figure out something to do in Las Vegas. A baby version. We’re trying to figure it out; a bambino!

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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