Las Vegas unites us. Known as a silly shiner in the Nevada desert, this city of sin has a way of enticing almost everyone. From the music groupies, to the high rollers and the quiet smoking Wheel of Fortune spinners, to the busy bee convention-goers on their corporate merry-go-rounds, to the dutiful sun worshippers with their $3.99 cocktails in hand, to the dying-to-wed-in-a-chapel immortally fit for a drag queen and Elvis, all the way to what made the town famous across the planet: the party die hards that live only once. And even they have to eat.
But somehow the seekers of true upscale never really had their fragment of this lovely action in the last decade or two. Now, finally, that has changed. The tastemakers have a place to sleep with the opening of the Nomad Hotel, and on the top floors of the fresh Park MGM. And more importantly, the true foodies amongst us have a place to eat, in the latest incarnation of Eataly, at the aforementioned Park MGM.
A new heyday of Vegas might be on rise, just off the Strip.
The Eataly in New York’s Flatiron district (there’s also one downtown in the World Trade Center) is the uber-Italian market people usually know best. I thought it may be a tourist joint, but now spending time there I realize it’s a place for New Yorkers famished to learn new things about Italian food and culture. In a country where most people understand Italian food, and in fact, eat Italian food all the time, the challenge was to show America a new, expanded regional Italian way. The approach of the Italian marketplace: where you can eat something extraordinary that will make you weep or fall into a fetal position of heaven and then go replicate just that at home. And in the middle of this foodie’s paradise superstore, there are multiple, exquisitely rendered restaurants, as there are in all subsequent iterations around the country.
You can come into Eataly and order a pasta dish that you may have never heard of before, pair it with a glass of incredible wine, that you may have never heard of before. Then you can scoot around the market and buy that salt, that specific olive oil, the butter you just enjoyed, the gorgeous cheese that you licked off your fingers, and maybe even some new herbs you’ve never used. You can now dunk it all in a soft cloth bag and go enjoy making it with your family at home. Eataly is reminding us of these simple pleasures — away from noisy restaurants that irritate, or bad take-out in strip malls. Trust the Italians to teach Americans this simple, glorious lifestyle. Grazie.
Eataly Vegas opened its doors in the dying embers of 2018, just before the New Year’s Eve weekend, and will now be open — forever more. (At least for the foreseeable future.) The doors will never close — 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Perfect for Vegas, where two in the morning feels similar to eleven in the morning.
Nicola Farinetti, CEO of Eataly United States, and son of founder Oscar Farinetti, told me “Vegas Eataly is about fun and coming off the strip — one day we want to think about it as either seeing a show or coming to Eataly.” And in that spirit it is a little different to their other outposts — more interactive, more theatrical. With Vegas open (the sixth location in the United States), Eataly’s next ventures are Toronto, Paris and London in the next two years and another two locations in the U.S.
“We’re not a chain,” adds Nicola with his signature warm smile. “We’re a value experience.”
As I stand in this gorgeous market space, the truffle guy walks in. He’s pulling a little carry-on bag filled with the finest truffles money can buy. “That bag is like gold, he’s dragging a couple of thousand dollars around there,” says Nicola. And that’s when I start thinking about value, perceived value and how there is an adjustment in thinking — if you want the finest produce, well it’s just more expensive. It’s worth paying that little more — and having less.
“The truth is, we think, most people can afford it,” says Nicola. “It’s not much more expensive, but the quality is incredible and so superior.”
And that’s the beauty of Eataly. It’s preaching to people across the world about a food culture that respects seasons, produce and the quality of everything from soil, to farmers, to distribution.
“I think there are two important food cultures — Japanese and Italian,” shares Nicola.
And what do these two have in common? They’re simple. Not overcooked. Few ingredients. Just think about Italian food: it was born at home not at restaurants like French cuisine.
Nicola says he wants Eataly to be remembered as a communication company, more than a restaurant and marketplace. And its goal is to spread the love of food, the importance to health, and most crucially, how food is all about family.
Visit Eataly in Las Vegas now in the Park MGM, 3770 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109
And before I forget, for some gambling love: There is a tiled bull on the floor, right at the casino entrance to Eataly. If you stand on its balls (or so the legend goes) and turn counter-clockwise three times it will bring you very good luck.