Lago by Julian Serrano

So fresh and so clean.

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Las Vegas is a city of stimuli, an endless parade of things to experience, see, and eat. The hustle and bustle is cherished, to be sure, but so is a chance to sit, to dine, to take in the scene. Perhaps one of the best places to seek this solace is Lago, the third and newest restaurant from James Beard Award-winning and Michelin Star chef Julian Serrano. Lago serves Italian food in small share plates, the perfect chance to try a bit of everything—you’ll want to. And located in the Bellagio hotel, right on the strip, it offers some of the best views of the famous water fountains.

But Lago is first and foremost about the food, of course, as Vegas continues to establish itself as a culinary destination as much as an entertainment one. “It’s something we needed,” Serrano says of the city’s growing foodie status. “Food is a very powerful thing; people come here for that. You have to have some attractions for people to come.” And Lago, only open for a few months, is already drawing crowds. A must is the crudo, particularly the tuna with blood orange and caper, a refreshing combination of sour and salt. The risotto with mushroom and mint is rich and warm, while the fusilli with spicy lamb ragu is delicious and comforting. The menu is expansive but not overwhelming, a storied sampling from different regions around Italy—a reflection, Serrano says, of the diners. “People have more knowledge [about food],” he says. “When you have more knowledge, you try different food. More places serve tapas as a way to allow you to try different flavours. And it’s friendlier because everybody shares.”

Serrano has been a celebrated staple of the Las Vegas scene for 17 years; he began his stint with Picasso at Bellagio, a world-renowned French restaurant, and then opened a self-named Spanish tapas establishment at Aria. When the old Circo at Bellagio space became free, he jumped at the chance to put his stamp on Italian cuisine and redesign the whole place, too. A crisp mix of blue and white accents runs throughout the restaurant, creating a sophisticated yet playful atmosphere. Serrano took out the square windows and put arched ones there instead, allowing for more light and stunning views. He also added the patio, a must-visit place to enjoy a refreshing house-special mojito with edible pineapple cone and mini fruit pearls. “I wanted to make the restaurant fresh and clean,” he says of its aesthetic. “We wanted to make the restaurant very enjoyable and open. It’s not stuffy.” He likens creating a restaurant to choosing an outfit: you start with a concept, perhaps a dress or skirt, and then need to fill it out with bag, shoes, top. With Lago, Serrano’s initial idea was simple: bring inspired, high quality Italian fare to the strip. Evidently, the rest of the outfit came together immaculately.

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July 14, 2015