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BUDDY V'S RISTORANTE

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Palazzo

3325 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702-607-2355

website

$40-$80

Sun-Thu 11:30am-10pm

Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm

Italian

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AT A GLANCE

What is it?

A fantastic Italian restaurant from "Cake Boss" star Buddy Valastro.

Where is it?

At Palazzo Las Vegas on the Center Strip.

What kind of food is served?

Classic Italian-American comfort food, many of which are based on family recipes.

What is the atmosphere like?

A casual kitchen vibe with big windows overlooking The Strip.

How is the service?

Absolutely fantastic from the entire staff. They treat you like family.

What are the prices like?

Moderate, although you can rack up quite a bill if you let your stomach do the talking.

What else do I need to know?

Valastro's bakery, Carlo's Bakery, is now open right across the hall.

What's the bottom line?

The best Italian food in Las Vegas.

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FULL REVIEW

Best known for his reality show "Cake Boss" on TLC, Buddy Valastro does more than just make wild baked goods, as is evidenced by his first Las Vegas venture Buddy V's. Located at the Palazzo, this casual cucina serves up hearty Italian classics, many of which are based on Valastro's family recipes; everything from "My Wife's Eggplant Parm" to "My Mother In Law's Shrimp Scampi."

Do yourself a favor and start with the macaroni and cheese carbonara, done with mozzarella and fontina cheese, egg, and pancetta. Of course in this case the "favor" is to your taste buds and not your cholesterol or waistline, but one bite of the creamy, gooey, rich concoction and you will not give a hoot about such pedestrian concerns. In fact with food (and portions) like this, you probably want to leave most illusions of dietary sanity at the door.

To that end, we also ordered the garlic bread, also dripping in mozzarella and fontina, and remain proud of our decision. This is what cheesy garlic bread should be like and I actually wish I could have some right now, even though it is only 8:30 in the morning as I type this.

I also want some of the meatballs, which you can order on top of various pastas or as an appetizer or side dish on their own. Beef, veal, and pork in an almost creamy tomato sauce and topped with pecorino cheese. Yes, you could stop right here with a very successful meal, but we were just getting started.

We skipped past the handful of salads and the pizzas to go right for the pasta section. The lasagna had layers of noodles, beef, pork, Italian sausage, four kinds of cheese, and tomato sauce piled so high that it was probably visible from space. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but about two inches thick and deliciously dense in both texture and flavor.

Another winner was the Valastro Sunday Gravy, an Italian classic with sausage, lamb, meatballs, and pork all cooked in a pot with the tangy tomato sauce and a bowl of rigatoni to ladle it on to. Each piece of meat was insanely tender, slow-cooked and spiced "just so." It's the kind of meal where you need hunks of bread to sop up the leftovers; not there will be any.

If you feel as though pasta just won't do it for you, there are plenty of Italian style entrees from seafood (roasted branzino, sea scallops), chicken (parm, marsala, and picatta), veal (osso buco and more), and beef (steak pizzaiolo, etc.). Go at lunch and you have some sandwiches (meatball sub, chicken parm, etc.) and a couple of the entrees.

Of course we can't forget about dessert. You could head across the hall to Valastro's Carlo's Bakery, but there is still plenty of sweet to go around here. It's presented in a family photo album style binder and is filled with all sorts of temptations. We sampled two - the mini donuts with raspberry and chocolate dipping sauce and the "lobster tail," a massive pastry stuffed with a creme filling. The donuts were merely okay while the tail was sent down from heaven.

How much you spend here really depends on what and how much of it you order. Appetizers, pizza, salads, and sandwiches are mostly under $15. Pastas are all in the $20-$30 range but there is more than enough for one person or one serving. Entrees start in the low $20's and go up to the mid $40s. So you could do a really satisfying meal for under $40 all in, but you could also go nuts with the meatballs and garlic bread and desserts and double that, so be careful in both financial and gastric ways.

One thing that is absolutely worth mentioning is the stellar service. From the front desk to the wait staff to the management, we got treated like family and it wasn't because I was there to review the restaurant. They doted on everyone and it makes a great impression.

The restaurant is located in the space formerly occupied by First Food & Bar, on the main level of the Grand Canal Shoppes, up one floor from the Palazzo casino, down a hall near Barney's New York. The space has a comfortable kitchen vibe and big windows overlooking The Strip.

I'm a big fan of Italian cooking but there aren't a lot of great Italian restaurants in Las Vegas. Now there is at least one.

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