When chef Michael LaPlaca took over the helm of Onda at the Mirage, he revitalized and reinvented the standard red-sauce restaurant as Portofino with his unique takes on Italian classics. Ultimately, though, his Alfredo with foie gras and chicken cracklings; gnocchi with frog legs; and jagged ripatelli—a pasta of his own creation—weren’t enough to overcome the restaurant’s seldom-visited corner of the casino.
But with the opening of Osteria Costa in the former Samba Steakhouse space, LaPlaca has been gifted an airy, open venue fronting a main-casino thoroughfare from which to showcase his wares. Rather than a collection of his riffs, Osteria features a menu with lighter fare paying homage to the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy.
The stracchino-laden focaccia di Recco is what LaPlaca considers “the ultimate cocktail snack.” Salty and savory, the charred, paper-thin flatbread is worth a visit alone. But while you’re there, partake of the briny linguine and clams, LaPlaca’s favorite plate on the menu. Garnished with whole-shell clams atop a garlicky, buttery clam stock-based sauce laden with chopped mollusks, the dish is an epiphany, washing over you with its ocean essence. The Salsiccia, delivered from the pizza ovens front and center in the space, is a pie with homemade Italian sausage, shaved fennel and a fennel frond finish.
When LaPlaca reflects upon his new venue, he beams like a proud father. Osteria Costa is the Italian restaurant venue he, the Mirage and Las Vegas deserve.
Osteria Costa Mirage, 866-339-4566. Daily, 5-10:30 p.m.