This week here in Vegas all three of Mario Batali’s restaurants closed. All three were on Sheldon Adelson properties and even though Batali removed himself from the business, all three closed their doors on Sunday evening.
While all three restaurant closings are sad, the saddest closing for me was Carnevino Italian Steakhouse. Fellow upstate New York homie, and my pal, Chef Nicole Brisson will retain her position within the Bastianich organization, opening Eataly Las Vegas in December. But Carnevino’s closing is especially sad for me because Chef Brisson helped change the way I feel about eating at a steakhouse at Carnevino.
A Steakhouse was a Boring Dining Option
Growing up in upstate New York, my step father was a butcher. My father-in-law was a butcher and my husband, prior to the military, was a butcher. We ate, and still do eat meat, but going to a steakhouse was not my idea of a good meal out on the town because I cooked it at home. Going to a steakhouse was the second most boring option when dining out, topped only by eating a main dish salad. Mom always encouraged us to “eat something you don’t get at home” from the time we were very young, so my choice was almost always a fish dish, never a steak. Sister Nancy and Friend Sue ALWAYS want the steak and going to a steakhouse is perfect for them. Sister Nancy took me to the NYY Steakhouse in Florida (Yes, that’s New York Yankees for those unfamiliar) and I ordered the veal chop…not steak. In my head, eating at a steakhouse meant overpriced, average meat that I could buy anywhere, cooked to my liking (sometimes) and served with a baked potato and some broccoli. Big fucking deal! I can do that shit at home! Chef Nicole changed that for me and completely flipped the script on what a steakhouse SHOULD be.
I Promptly Shut the Fuck Up and Quit My Mental Bitching
The first time John and I ate there, we left the choices up to Nicole and she sent out her faves (always a pleasure to let the chef choose – but beware, it can get costly). She sent out the tomahawk ribeye, John’s favorite cut of beef, carved table side. My head screamed, “DAMMIT! Where is the fish?” but my face smiled and I said, “WOW!”. And then I ate it…and I promptly shut the fuck up and quit my mental bitching! If you ever have the chance to eat at a premium steakhouse with aged beef, and you have the scratch to do it, just reward yourself and do it. Aged beef is a thing of beauty, and marbling, and tenderness, and funk and…oh man! It tastes like what you always wanted beef to taste like, but didn’t know that you wanted, and probably didn’t even know that taste existed. And don’t even get me started on the mashed potatoes! Whipped with mascarpone and topped with guanciale and a poached egg that gets stirred into the potatoes as if they weren’t rich enough already.
We had our final meal at Carnevino on Saturday the 21st of July with friends Al Mancini, his lovely wife Sue, friend Eric Gladstone, and friend Jason Harris. With four of us at the table all being writers of varying distinction, many photos were taken. FTR – I am the low man on that totem pole of writers. Al had called ahead and reserved a piece of the riserva aged beef. Minimum 6 months in the ice box gave it a texture and flavor unlike anything I had ever enjoyed before. All of the meats were carved tableside and that is a show in and of itself.
As a parting gift to regulars, friends, and fellows in the industry, Carnevino sold off the aging beef in the meat locker at a ridiculously low price per pound and I happily picked up 25 lbs of 120 day aged beef yesterday. No, I am not sharing it with you. No, I am not having a cookout. This will be savored, relished, cooked only for my family. Never again will I be able to fill my freezer with beef of this quality. Steakhouse quality. The stuff we mere mortals can’t buy.
Even though Carnevino is closed for now (they are hoping to find a new location here in Vegas), I can still, for a short while, enjoy the beef that changed my opinion of eating at a steakhouse. I will, however, have to cook it and carve it myself.