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FELLINI'S RISTORANTE

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The Stratosphere

2000 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

Las Vegas, NV 89104

702-383-4859

website

$20-$40

Daily 5pm-11pm

Italian

B+

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

Terrific Italian food by a local Las Vegas institution.

Where is it?

At the Stratosphere hotel and casino on the North Strip.

What kind of food is served?

Traditional and very hearty Italian.

What is the atmosphere like?

Themed dining rooms are simple but fun.

How is the service?

Excellent from beginning to end.

What are the prices like?

Very reasonable for the amount and quality you are getting.

What else do I need to know?

Although the original location on W. Sahara and the location at Sam's Town have both closed, this one is still going strong.

What's the bottom line?

If you are looking for Italian comfort food in Vegas, look no further.

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FULL REVIEW

I love Italian food and have always come away from Italian restaurants in Las Vegas being somewhat disappointed. Perhaps it's simply from being spoiled (there are some fantastic Italian places in Los Angeles) or perhaps it's just that I hadn't found Fellini's yet.

For this, I have to thank an intrepid group of readers of this column who sent me e-mails raving about the place. You talk, I listen, and I finally went to go check the place out. I thank you, and now the rest of our readers can thank you as well because Fellini's is without a doubt one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Las Vegas.

The original location on W. Sahara and the branch at Sam's Town have both closed, but the restaurant at The Stratosphere is still going strong. Tucked away in the farthest corner of the casino you can imagine, it definitely qualifies for the "best kept secret" category.

Once you get inside though it's an entirely different world, with three themed dining rooms offering high-ceilings, hand painted murals of various Italian landscapes, and a pleasantly intimate environment in which to dine.

The service is spectacular from the moment you enter to the time you walk out the door, with a pleasant blend of old-world friendliness (you expect somebody's mother to come out of the kitchen wearing an apron) and professional efficiency.

But to heck with all that - let's get to the food.

The menu here is satisfying hybrid of traditional Italian favorites (Chicken Alfredo, lasagna, veal parmigiana), some Mediterranean influenced dishes (Osso Buco, Veal Marsala, linguini with clams and mussels), and the kind of Americanized Italian dishes that make people with less adventurous palates happy (spaghetti, pizza, ravioli).

My dining companions and I covered all of those bases during a recent visit. We started simple with the garlic cheese bread. I know, it's kind of a boring choice when you have bruschetta, jumbo shrimp in garlic and olive oil, carpaccio in lemon and Dijon mustard, or even a giant Portobello mushroom stuffed with crabmeat as options (among others) but I just find it impossible to turn down a good garlic cheese bread, and this definitely was. Toasty, Ciabatta bread (thank you Jack in the Box for educating the world) with a zippy mix of goldeny cheeses and not too much garlic. Excellent.

We considered the Pasta Fagioli under the salads and soups section of the menu but wound up choosing a simple garden salad (uneventful but good) and a bowl of the minestrone. The latter was fantastic, the vegetables almost frighteningly tender and the pasta bursting with a warm, herby flavor.

If those don't do it for you they have almost a dozen other salads to choose from including Caesars with chicken, shrimp, or classic.

For our main courses we selected a couple of things from the pasta section and one from a "specials" menu as an addendum to the entrees. The tenderloin tips with gnocchi (potato dumpling pasta) were smothered in a mind-blowing gorgonzola cream sauce with tons of fresh mushrooms and shallots. A similar sauce topped the special filet mignon entrée and neither that nor the cut of meat disappointed. Finally, if you're looking for a traditional pasta with a twist, I can't recommend the Rigatoni alla Amatriciana enough - tender tube-shaped noodles tossed in a marvelous tomato, white wine, and basil sauce with tons of Italian bacon and onions creating a superb blend of subtle and bold flavors.

A full dessert menu and drinks are also available.

As if the food wasn't good enough, you have to take a look at these prices: starters, soups, and salads are mostly under $13; pastas are mostly under $17; entrees from $14 to $30; and pizzas for $14. That's a bargain for just about any restaurant on The Strip, much less one this good.

I wish it hadn't taken me this long to "discover" Fellini's. Don't make the same mistake I did.

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