Familiar and fine, Bacio kicks average Italian in the teeth

Bacio by Carla Pellegrino has a menu full of familiar favorites made with a lighter touch than your average Sunday gravy joint.
Photo: Sam Morris

Even though its Nikki Beach experiment didn’t work out, there’s no denying the Tropicana’s $180-million renovation has yielded some sweet fruit. Things are sparkly there again. But it wasn’t until I dined at Bacio by Carla Pellegrino that I found a real reason to come back to this refreshed resort.

This is the only new restaurant in the Trop that doesn’t carry on the South Beach vibe, but it’s also the home of the best food in the house. Pellegrino, who came to Vegas with the opening of Rao’s at Caesars Palace before moving along to open Bratalian in Anthem, gets the credit for all this deliciousness.

The Details

At Tropicana, 800-462-8767
Tuesday-Saturday, 5-10:30 p.m.

Bacio is straight-ahead Italian, with a menu full of familiar favorites and a little lighter touch than your average Sunday gravy joint. The chef seems to have adapted some Rao’s classics with great success, particularly the perfect seafood salad (insalatina di mare) of lobster, shrimp, crab, calamari, diced olives, celery and bell peppers in a bright citronette. I’ve had it here and at Rao’s, and they’re equally wonderful.

Of course, there are plenty of pastas and meats. The house marinara is decent. Better are the orecchiette, tender baby shells served with savory sausage and broccoli rabe, and the pillowy potato gnocchi in a hearty tomato meat sauce with a blend of beef, veal and pork. There’s quite a bit of veal on the menu, from slightly sweet marsala with a mountain of cremini mushrooms to a double-cut chop pan-seared with sweet and hot peppers. And if that lovely salad didn’t satisfy your seafood needs, there’s a meaty branzino (sea bass) filet with earthy grilled vegetables and light accents of olive oil, lemon and garlic.

Italian restaurants on the Strip tend to wash each other out, and rarely does this cuisine get top billing in a casino dining lineup. But Bacio deserves the spotlight at the Trop, blending a friendly, unique experience with this beloved food.

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Brock is an award-winning writer and reporter who has been documenting life in Las Vegas for 20 years. He currently ...

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