When Alex Stratta’s eponymous, exalted French dining room at Wynn closed for good in January 2011, it was symbolic. The overdramatic dubbed it the death of fine dining and a gateway to the proliferation of casual restaurants on the Strip. But Stratta sees that trend in a different light.
“Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, or I’m understanding the business from the clientele side and being more communicative, but the more I adapt to what people want, the more successful I am,” he says. “You know, not everybody likes sweetbreads, but everybody likes a really good roasted chicken. It’s not that I don’t love the whole idea of fine dining, but I want to evolve. It’s about what I feel people want, not what I want.”
Stratta, a Michelin-starred, James Beard Award-winning chef who first came to Las Vegas in 1998 to anchor Renoir at Mirage, moved back to the city in November after 15 months away. After his masterpiece Alex closed, he left Wynn in August of 2011, where he was still cooking at the Italian restaurant Stratta. He also appeared on Top Chef Masters that year and had a brief run at Bigoli in Greenwich Village in late 2011.
Stratta moved to California to be closer to his children, working in a developmental role with Michael Mina in San Francisco before taking a gig at the Montage Beverly Hills, a luxury hotel with a branch of Scott Conant’s Scarpetta.
Stratta says he enjoyed a turn as “a cog in the wheel,” and working with Montage took him to Utah and Montana, too. But those environments weren’t a great fit. “You ever see The Shining?” he jokes. “You know what? Las Vegas is always good. It worked before. All my friends and connections are here, and it was just time to try again.”
His time away brought new perspective. “I wouldn’t say it was a humbling experience, but it brought out a lot of humility and gratitude for what I accomplished here, and it certainly wasn’t accomplished on my own. I didn’t take it for granted, but maybe I wasn’t as grateful as I should have been.”
Stratta had maintained his Vegas side gig—consulting chef at Marche Bacchus—during the time he was gone, and now that he’s back, he’s ready to hone the Desert Shores bistro into the best version of itself. “We’re going to amp it up,” he says. “Certainly the quality is not changing, but we’re looking at the menu and pricing with the goal of making it more approachable, that classic, delicious bistro fare with a five-star eye on it.”
The chef has noticed the way local dining has continued to blossom in Las Vegas, even in his short time away. Other opportunities will undoubtedly come his way, but for now he’s focused on Marche Bacchus.
When it’s time to expand his duties, it’ll be on new terms. “Once this thing is humming, I’m going to have to fill that other time with something else, but not until this is nailed down,” he says. “I would love to be a part of developing and establishing the validity of off-Strip dining here.”