Taste and tradition: Cipriani brings a historic Italian brand to the Wynn

Cipriani’s osso buco
Photo: Wade Vandervort

When Harry’s Bar opened its doors in Venice, Italy, in 1931, Giuseppe Cipriani Sr., the Cipriani family patriarch, probably never imagined his quaint bar turning into a global restaurant and hospitality brand. Giuseppe Sr. was still alive and present for the family business’ early expansion—Hotel Cipriani opened in Venice in 1958—but he wouldn’t see the fruits of his labor turn into the acclaimed Cipriani Italian restaurant in New York City, then grow limbs in 12 different cities including London, Hong Kong and now, Las Vegas.

To dine at the new Cipriani inside the Wynn Plaza Shops is to soak up all that history, to transcend the time and space continuum for just a moment and to imagine oneself sitting next to the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles and Truman Capote.

Giuseppe Sr.’s son (and Cipriani majority owner) Arrigo Cipriani writes in Harry’s Bar: The Life and Times of the Legendary Venice Landmark that Harry’s Bar was birthed from a loan between friends. According to the book, Harry Pickering, a regular where Giuseppe Sr. bartended, had been cut off by his family financially due to his drinking. Giuseppe Sr. loaned the Bostonian 10,000 lire—then-equivalent of $500 U.S. dollars (currently equal to about $8,000), and two years later Pickering returned with four times as much. The pair used the money to open Harry’s Bar.

Pickering sold his share of the company but remained a frequent customer. Meanwhile, the namesake bar became a favorite of the creative elite—Hemingway among them. To be a regular at Harry’s meant to rub elbows with society’s best, and perhaps some of the worst (broke aristocrats would often run up tabs they couldn’t pay). But dining with the Ciprianis was primarily about service and hospitality.

Beef Carpaccio was invented at Harry’s, a dish Giuseppe Sr. concocted in a pinch for Countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo after her doctor told her she couldn’t eat cooked meat (and which was named on the spot after Italian painter Vittore Carpaccio). The restaurateur is also noted for inventing the Bellini, inspired by the glowing color palette of painter Giovanni Bellini.

And so, you must sip a Bellini and order the beef Carpaccio ($26) when visiting Cipriani. Take notice of the tables, too, which are round for a reason. “It would seem therefore that the perfect table is the one with the most natural shape: round, like the form of the universe,” Arrigo writes. His father insisted on round tables from day one.

The Las Vegas Cipriani is bold and sexy, with nautical touches that pay homage to the original Harry’s Bar, which sat along the canals of Venice. Glossy walnut and chrome accents are reminiscent of luxurious, mid-modern yachts, while black-and-white portraits of supermodels Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell evoke the kind of nostalgic, illustrious man cave Arrigo and his son, Giuseppe Jr., would want for themselves.

When it comes to the cuisine, Cipriani has a simple, old-school feel reminiscent of turn-of-the-century watering holes, but with refined vision. (The menu also features a Japanese section, an extension of its Abu Dhabi restaurant). Baby artichokes “alla Romana” ($26) come swimming in fresh olive oil, and the homemade potato gnocchi with Gorgonzola ($27) is pillowy-soft and decadent. Baked tagliolini ($27) is another Cipriani signature, made with Praga beech wood-smoked ham and a milky Béchamel sauce. The Chilean Seabass Alla Carlina ($42), prepared in a tomato sauce with capers, olive oil, butter and Worcestershire, is another labor of love.

Considering its origins, it’s no surprise Cipriani is a no-frills restaurant that focuses on service, quality and an engaging atmosphere. Las Vegas’ version might at first seem to be a distant cousin from Harry’s Bar in Venice, but there’s no doubt, Cipriani at the Wynn features Giuseppe Sr.’s touch, through and through.

Cipriani Wynn, 702-770-7390. Sunday-Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-midnight.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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