When Hearthstone opened around this time last year, its arrival was quite dramatic, for several reasons: It was the first off-Strip restaurant by the Light Group; the renovation of its space at Red Rock Resort was a major project; and the “rustic American dining” theme seemed to encompass everything, from oysters and charcuterie to pizza and steaks.
Now we have Salute, a casual Italian destination also at Red Rock from essentially the same people (the new company is called Clique Hospitality). Like Hearthstone, this restaurant space has been opened up and re-styled with comfortable, if less dramatic, results. The intimate patio, surrounded by winding water fountains, is gorgeous and likely to be packed during these optimal fall months.
But the menu at Salute couldn’t be more different from Hearthstone’s. Focused on Southern Italian fare crafted by executive chef Luciano Sautto and augmented by a tight, well-priced wine list, Salute’s food is familiar and simple, far from overwhelming with options. This is no doubt designed to accommodate neighborhood folks hungry for convenient pasta and chicken parm, and Salute effortlessly finds a way to please that crowd while staying true to its own sense of taste and sophistication.
Two must-eat starters (both $13) epitomize that balance. Crispy zucchini flowers will be fried cheese to some, and heavenly ricotta crunch-clouds to others, nestled with pesto. Order the albacore crudo every time, paper-thin slices of rich fish made luxurious with avocado and orange, further dressed with Calabrian chili and fried red onion. Great ways to set the tone.
Groups will want to start with a large assortment of antipasto ($24), meats, cheeses and marinated veggies, or perhaps Federal Hill, Rhode Island-style calamari ($15) with cherry peppers and lemon. Salads go Caesar, caprese or chopped, but give me the Insalata Mista ($10) with shaved fennel and marinated tomatoes among the greens.
The big, showy dish is fettucine in vodka sauce ($22) tossed tableside in a half-wheel of parmesan cheese. A little flair never hurt nobody. You’ll want to add meatballs, too ($8). The less flashy pastas are well-cared-for, especially the indulgent spinach pasta lasagna ($19), presented in beautiful layers with even more beautiful sauces of bechamel and Bolognese. It’s perfect. Go lighter with capellini in tomato sauce with vegetables ($17) or find the middle with classic linguine and clams ($23) or noodles topped with roasted eggplant and caciocavallo cheese curds.
Entrées offer your greatest hits, from veal parm or marsala to chicken piccata or with crispy skin and preserved lemon ($24). Seafood fans can celebrate with risotto stocked with shrimp, clams and seabass ($35) or get their branzino whole, simply grilled or salt roasted ($35). For dessert, there’s really only one thing to do, and that’s all of the above, an assortment of tiramisu, bomboloni, toasted coconut cake and more ($9).
With its approachable food and prices and impressive feel and presentation, Salute should quickly find its way into neighborhood favorite status ... even in a Summerlin where dining is a lot better than it used to be.
Salute Red Rock Resort, 702-797-7311. Sunday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5-11 p.m.