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Tropicana and Carla Pellegrino end partnership as chef focuses on new projects

Chef Carla Pellegrino, Tropicana Chairman and CEO Alex Yemenidjian and Arda Yemenidjian at the Nikki Beach and Club Nikki White Party Grand Opening at the Tropicana on May 26, 2011.
Photo: Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau

Bacio by Carla Pellegrino at Tropicana

Carla Pellegrino says, “I wish there were two of me!”

Hey, it’s difficult enough just keeping track of the original.

A woman who sets all of her burners on “high,” Pellegrino has found herself too busy, and in too high of demand, to continue operating Bacio at Tropicana. One of the city’s top chefs and, in fact, a member of the cast of star chefs featured on the upcoming season of Bravo’s “Top Chefs 10 Seattle” announced today that the Trop and she have ended their year-and-a-half-long business partnership.

“I have other needs for my time that are really important for me right now, and spending 70 hours a week inside Tropicana doesn’t make any sense for me,” Pellegrino said in a phone conversation tonight. “This was hard for me. We love each other, I love the family, (Tropicana CEO) Alex (Yemenidjian) and his family, I love them all. He has treated me like his own daughter, and he wishes me well.”

“I just had to make a choice. I am exhausted.”

Even so, and characteristic of Pellegrino’s tireless approach to … well, everything, she returned a phone call while finishing her dinner shift at Bacio on what would be her final night at the restaurant. Pellegrino said the eatery is to remain open, with the staff trained by her and her recipes on the menu, even as she is no longer involved in the operation.

Pellegrino has explored options outside Bacio for months. She is one of the more prominent cheftestants in the upcoming “Top Chef” Season 10 on Bravo, which debuts Nov. 7 and features guest chef judges such as Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse and Rick Moonen (check out the preview clip here, with an energetic Pellegrino spotlighted at the end).

Trop officials granted Pellegrino permission to spend six weeks filming the show this summer, hiring additional staff to fill the void in her absence. Expect the Trop’s promotional signs, showing Pellegrino cradling a glass of wine under the Bacio logo, to come down soon.

Pellegrino also is owner of Bratalian Neopolitan Cantina on South Eastern Avenue in Henderson and is about to launch the Meatball Spot in Town Square next month where Nu Sanctuary once operated.

Pellegrino has been busy drafting a proposal and finishing a set of recipes for a cookbook and has been working with what she describes as “an international literary group in New York,” though she has not yet signed a publishing contract. Her proposal is due in early December for a book that, ideally, would be available by the holiday season of 2013.

“I need to take some time to sit down and move some things off my plate,” Pellegrino said, then added that she had to get back to work -- to fill plates. It’s what she does.

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John Katsilometes is a columnist and magazine writer for the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Weekly and editor-at-large for ...

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