Dinner as Show

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of fine dining are an exaggeration — and Marc Vetri plans to prove it. The James Beard Award winner’s Vetri Cucina at the Palms, expected to open Nov. 19, will be the chef’s first restaurant in the Southwest.

The rooftop spot, which replaces Alizé, will not follow the trend away from fine dining, says Vetri, who has read “article after article” about the shift to less-formal dining and small-plate menus. “I’ve sort of laughed at that,” he says. “I want longer menus, more expensive prices, finer silverware, finer service, more elegant. It’s what I love.”

Dinner at Vetri Cucina will be an event, according to the chef. “When I think about a restaurant, I don’t like to think of it as, ‘Hey, we’re going to go eat somewhere, and then we’re gonna head out afterward,’ ” he says. “When you come to Vetri, that’s the night out. It’s a whole thing. It’s ambiance, it’s service, it’s atmosphere, it’s food that … takes you away and makes you feel like you’re not in your present life. And I love that.”

Vetri provided a preview of his cuisine at a dinner Oct. 10 at Masso Osteria at Red Rock Casino Resort. The menu started with snacks of foie gras pastrami, herb tart and house-cured salumi before moving on to sweet onion crêpe with white truffle fonduta, scallop crudo with persimmon, and squid and artichoke gallette with lemon. Pasta choices were meat-filled casoncelli pasta with amaretti cookies, raisins, sage and pancetta; wild boar ragu with chestnut fettucine; and spinach gnocchi with brown butter and shaved ricotta salata. Entrées were guinea hen breast stuffed with mushrooms, and halibut with assorted legumes and bean crema. For dessert, there was chocolate polenta soufflé with vanilla gelato and polenta budino with gianduja mousse and candied hazelnuts.

The Station Casinos connection looms large in Vetri’s resolve to stick with his dinner-as-an-event philosophy here. Though restaurateurs from other cities have long said Las Vegas guests are different because they want to eat quickly and move on with their evening, he’s confident there’s an audience for his style of dining. “When you’re a visitor, you want to go to a show, but I think nobody’s taken into account there are a lot of locals,” he says. “I want something for the locals to say, ‘Hey, it’s my anniversary, it’s my birthday, let’s go celebrate.’ I love that Station is known for locals.”