The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino’s annual Winter in Venice kicked off in mid-November, but it’s just starting to heat up this weekend. La Cucina Italiana Food & Wine Festival kicks off today with chefs such as Mario Batali and Forbes Travel Guide Tastemaker Wolfgang Puck participating in the foodie fun. Activities range from an extravagant banquet to “truffle hunting” (featuring stops at Batali’s three hotel restaurants, B&B Ristorante, Carnevino and Otto Enoteca Pizzeria). And next weekend (December 13-14) marks the second year of the Culinary Clash Master Chef Competition, during which chefs and mixologists from restaurants and lounges throughout Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Venetian and neighboring The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino compete in what is often described as a “culinary smackdown.” Our Forbes Travel Guide editors chatted with Sebastien Silvestri, the vice president of food and beverage at the two sister hotels, to find out what’s on tap for this year’s month of gastronomy.
For the person who has yet to experience The Venetian’s Winter in Venice celebration, what exactly are they missing out on?
When you think of the holidays, Las Vegas would probably be the least thought about city to celebrate the season. However, for the third year now, The Venetian has proven that thought to be wrong. We have transformed our properties to be the grandest place to be during the holidays. From the most beautiful décor to strolling characters, holiday lights, elves serving apple cider all day to our guests, and holiday shows, Winter in Venice is an experience to look forward to and should not be missed.
The risotto con Parmigiano vacche rosse e tartufo bianco di Alba [risotto with Parmesan cheese and white Alba truffles]. White truffles are currently in their prime season. This is a dish I have had several times in Italy, and Mario Batali just simply has the best recipe.
What’s the draw for The Venetian and The Palazzo chefs to participate in the Culinary Clash?
There are a few reasons chefs participate in the Culinary Clash competition; it is an opportunity for them to showcase their talent and be the “best chef” on property; the chance to win a trip to Italy; the recognition — the event gets a lot of press and media coverage, which would benefit their career; it is an opportunity for chefs to get out of their comfort zones and just “have fun”; and they get to meet celebrity chefs such as Emeril Lagasse [who has a total of two restaurants and one sports lounge between both properties].
Which restaurant do you tend to visit often and why? What is your go-to dish at this place?
Carnevino. Growing up in France and Italy, there were dishes in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy that I loved, and Mario Batali is able to execute these dishes exquisitely. One of them is the gnocco fritto (fried dough puffs) served with prosciutto di Parma and/or Italian dry meats. I love to start a meal with this followed by a beef cheek ravioli, which is Mario’s classic recipe.
Photos Courtesy of Tom Donoghue