When he was a child, chef Marc Vetri spent Sunday nights having dinner with his Sicilian grandparents. Their passion for meatballs, stuffed artichokes, fried squid, baccalà, lemon chicken, and yes, ricotta pie instilled in him a love of Italian culture and cuisine.
“Everything they do, whether it’s talking, cooking, having an opinion … it all very passionate. I love that,” Vetri says.
That inspiration has driven the acclaimed chef and founder of Vetri Cucina in Philadelphia to offer outstanding rustic fare, handcrafted pastas, innovative flavor combinations and artful presentations for the past two decades. Now he and his family are looking to deliver contemporary sensibility to classic Italian cooking at a second home for Vetri Cucina in Las Vegas.
“We saw the space, the view, the vibe,” he says about his new location set to open in mid-November on the 56th floor of Palms Casino Resort and Spa. “I had a similar feeling when I walked into Vetri [in Philadelphia] for the first time. There was just some sort of energy.”
“Marc is a wildly talented chef, with a deft touch and the ability to develop flavors very, very well,” Conant says. “I was happy to welcome him into my kitchen as if I were welcoming him into my home.”
The four-course, prix fixe menu showcased Northern Italian specialties and Italian wine pairings beginning with a selection of antipasti offerings, including the beloved sweet onion crepe with white truffle fonduta or a squid and artichoke gallette.
Vetri Cucina’s signature hits followed: spinach gnocchi with brown butter and shaved ricotta salata; handmade casconcelli; stuffed guinea hen breast with mushrooms; and halibut with seasonal vegetables and bean crema.
Rounding out the menu was a selection of desserts, including Vetri’s chocolate polenta soufflé with vanilla gelato and polenta budino with hazelnut mousse.
Each course was paired exquisitely with regional Italian wines ranging from Cusumano Etna Rosso and Borgogno’s Barbera d’Alba, to Antinori’s Bramito Del Cervo’ Chardonnay and Ca’ Dei Mandorli Brachetto d’Acqui.
“Vetri Las Vegas will look extremely similar to Vetri Philly — rustic elegance!” Vetri says of his 80-seat cucina. “We really tried to emulate the same feeling when you walk into the room. Very authentic, not too stuffy, but at the same time for Vegas we needed to make a statement as well.”
Staying true to Italian sensibility, Vetri plans to source his ingredients locally. “Vegas and surrounding areas have much to offer along with being very close to California.”
Accompanying the food will be a vibrant and thoughtful beverage program, including cocktails, as well as wines focused on Italy and other parts of the Old World and California. “We really like to offer the big names as well as a deep range of more obscure but super tasty vineyards!”
A busy family man, with a love for jujitsu, fly-fishing and guitars, Vetri finds inspiration everywhere. “Sometimes I wake up with crazy ideas, sometimes they come from traveling.”
He also finds a connection between music and cooking. “They go together like peas and carrots,” Vetri says. “It’s the same creative process that drives both. That’s why so many musicians love cooking and food, and so many cooks play music.”
Where once he was a struggling guitarist working in kitchens to pay his rent, he now has his audience at Vetri Cucina, where his “creative process” is deliciously delivered on his plates. If asked, maybe Vetri will offer a jam session to deliver pleasure to all five senses.