Paul Bartolotta didn’t even want a new restaurant. As anyone who has dined at his incomparable Bartolotta Ristorante Di Mare at Wynn Las Vegas would attest, no change was necessary. In fact, it would seem impossible to make improvements.
But in the interest of keeping things fresh—an ironic endeavor for a restaurant known for serving seafood just hours removed from Mediterranean seas—Steve Wynn decided it was time to spruce up the place, and Bartolotta couldn’t be happier. The results are brighter, more contemporary colors and textures, from cream-colored walls to a floral mosaic and shimmering gold-leaf fish “mobile” installation now decorating the grand stairwell leading into the main dining room.
Designed by the great Roger Thomas, the restaurant opened with the hotel in 2005. Through the years and different dining changes at both Wynn and Encore, Bartolotta has consistently shined, emerging as the signature restaurant set in the twin resorts.
Gold-trimmed napkins, dark wood chairs and creamy upholstery highlight each table, and new lanterns and ceiling fans have been added to the cabana tables wrapping around the outdoor lagoon. At a recent media event, Bartolotta told the tale of how his family’s meal at those lakeside cabanas on opening night changed the course of the restaurant. As the chef bounced from the kitchen to the dining room, trying to please everyone and make sure each dish was perfect, he decided to send out large platters of simply prepared seafood salads and whole roasted fish for his relatives to enjoy. Bartolotta realized that was the way he liked to eat, and it was the perfect way to showcase the pristine coastal cuisine he wanted to highlight at this restaurant. “I consider this my bistro, a real seafood trattoria, even though Steve Wynn built me a palace,” he said.
Both Bartolotta (the restaurant) and Wynn’s Wing Lei closed late last year for renovations and re-opened just before Christmas. The decorative changes at Wing Lei, also designed by Thomas, are less subtle and more striking than at Bartolotta, recalling the stunning 2012 transition of Wynn’s Japanese restaurant into the red-hued Mizumi.
Wing Lei is all gold with hints of bright jade. The less-secretive entry is an interpretation of a dragon gate, recycling crystals from chandeliers that once hung in the dining room. The bar to the right is now backed by a window view into a garden, and two antique earthquake sensors with turtle and dragon statues keep watch over the back bar. The dining room walls are flecked with gold leaf and white stripes, and huge picture windows are framed by handmade white chenille.
The cuisine at both Wynn restaurants is forever acclaimed; Bartolotta won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Southwest in 2009 while Wing Lei was the only Chinese restaurant in North America to receive Michelin stars in 2008 and 2009. Wing Lei also received the Four Stars award from the Forbes Travel Guide last year. Their original environs were just as stellar as their food, but the long-established standard of artful luxury at Wynn properties also demands periodical updates, when the time is right.