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Catching up with chef Luciano Pellegrini

He’s staying busy with gelato and an upcoming appearance at Nove Italiano

Chef Luciano Pellegrini ran the kitchen at Valentino at Venetian from start to finish.
Photo: Sarah Feldberg

Daniel Boulud’s DB Brasserie opened recently at the Venetian, a welcome return for the New York chef who first operated a Las Vegas restaurant at Wynn. The DB design is completely unrecognizable from Valentino, the award-winning eatery that operated there for 14 years, the anchor of Venetian’s many Italian restaurants.

Valentino may be gone, but its chef remains. James Beard Award winner Luciano Pellegrini—a longtime partner in Valentino with Southern California restaurateur Piero Selvaggio—already had a small side business that’s been keeping him busy in the last year: DolceVita Gelato.

“It started as a pet project of my pastry chef at Valentino four years ago,” Pellegrini says. “And then when Espressamente Illy [coffee] came to Venetian, the owner was looking for gelato, so we did a few tastings and landed them.”

At first the gelato was manufactured at Valentino. When Pellegrini began supplying other restaurants around town, he moved the operation off-Strip. Today you can taste DolceVita’s gelato at Venetian-Palazzo venues like Illy, Zio Gelato, Lavo and Tao, as well as Sugar Factory at Town Square and Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace. “We just sent some green tea gelato to Sweets Raku,” Pellegrini says.

Nove Italiano chef Kieran Toivonen, left, teams up with Luciano Pellegrini for the first of the restaurant's guest chef dinner events on June 5.

The veteran chef and native Italian considered leaving Las Vegas if the right gig came up, but he’s enjoyed building a new business in a city where he’s established roots over the past 14 years. He’s also been consulting recently on projects in San Diego and on the Strip.

“I guess I’m still kind of decompressing,” he says. “I’d been working with Piero for 28 years and working in restaurants for 35 years. I needed a little bit of time, although it hasn’t been off time at all. I’m putting in just as many hours if not more, just in a different environment. It’s kind of a reboot for me, if that makes sense.”

Pellegrini returns to a local Italian kitchen next week for the first dinner event in the Nove Italiano Guest Series. He’ll be teaming up with chef de cucina Kieran Toivonen for a four-course meal, plus dessert from DolceVita, of course. Pellegrini’s dishes will include grilled sardines with stewed cannellini beans and veal saltimbocca with polenta and pea shoots.

Expect to see more from Pellegrini, including an eventual DolceVita retail shop and other restaurant projects.

Nove Italiano Guest Series with Luciano Pellegrini June 5, 7 p.m., $105. Palms, 702-942-6800.

Tags: Dining
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