Italians know how to enjoy the good life. Take the tradition of the aperitivo, which goes back to ancient Roman times. It’s the time in the day marking the end of work and the beginning of leisure. You spend it with friends and family, having drinks and light bites before diving into your dinner plans. That daily ritual is a treasured part of the culture, one Chef Angelo Auriana, of the newly opened Brera Osteria at the Grand Canal Shoppes, wants to bring to America.
“I came into the United States when I was 23 years old, and the first thing that I realized was that there was no aperitivo. It’s been missing for me ever since I lived here,” he says. “And now with the Venetian, with the beautiful St. Mark’s Square, we are able to implement something that we really love that is part of our culture.”
An offshoot of Brera Ristorante in LA’s Arts District—recently selected as one of the world’s top Italian restaurants not in Italy by online guide 50 Top Italy—Las Vegas’ Brera Osteria marks another collaboration between Auriana and Matteo Ferdinandi (the two also partner on Matteo’s Ristorante Italiano at the Venetian). It’s also important to know that Brera is a fashionable neighborhood in Milan, the unofficial capital of the aperitivo.
When visiting Brera, start with the Aperitivo Hour menu, perhaps with a refreshing Campari Spritz ($16), made with Campari, Prosecco Borgoluce and lemon soda, or a classic Negroni ($18), with Citadelle gin, Campari and Carpano Antica. Light bites like bruschetta ($9)—with tomatoes, shallots, basil and white bean puree on ciabatta—or the beef tartare ($20)—diced American Wagyu beef, anchovies, capers, shallots and egg—are perfect for tiding you over till your actual meal.
The beauty of the dinner menu is its length, easily handled in one read and offering a few selections in each category: starters; pizza; pasta and risotto; seafood, meat and poultry; and daily special. Tried-and-true classics like amatriciana ($23)—with fresh extruded bucatini pasta, shaved grana and sage—and the Margherita pizza ($20), made with San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte and oregano, are here, done in a way authentic to their provenance.
That’s by design, Auriana says, and speaks to the way Italians approach their food. “An Italian will come in because of memories. He will find a dish that will remind him of his mother or his favorite restaurant. They come in with a clear idea of what they want. They will say, ‘I’m here to have the cacio e pepe, because that’s the pasta that I like the most. And then they will say, ‘Yes, this is good, as good as home,’ which is the ultimate compliment for us.”
In contrast, Auriana says, an American will say, “So chef, what should I eat? Give me a recommendation. What is it that I will try?’ Restaurants are a white canvas to me. You just have to pick the colors that you like, and then we have to exceed your expectations.”
The menu at Brera Osteria is also anchored in seasonality, an ethos the chef says is baked into the culture. “As an Italian, I eat Italian food every day, and versatility is what dictates what I like,” he says. “So today, I see the mozzarella, which came in super fresh with the burrata, and I want a salad. … White asparagus are coming next week from France and Italy, so we will have pizza with white asparagus. As a chef, I look at ingredients and get inspired.”
BRERA OSTERIA Grand Canal Shoppes at Venetian, 702-414-1227. Monday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday-Sunday, noon-9:30 p.m.