There’s a history of Vegas food obsessives freaking out when big restaurant changes go down at Wynn. Some declared doomsday when fine-dining mecca Alex closed in 2011. Others threw up their hands when chef Paul Bartolotta left his namesake Italian seafood palace last year. But remember that any fear (or loathing) is predicated on the fact that Wynn (and Encore) restaurants have been so great. Worry not, for this casino’s F&B machine is loaded with talent and commitment.
Mark LoRusso is one of the Strip’s all-time great chefs, and probably one of the most overlooked. Taking over at renamed Costa di Mare provides him a well-deserved spotlight. The format remains the same—exotic Italian cuisine including seafood pulled from the Mediterranean and Adriatic within the past 48 hours. Those luscious, live langoustines ($30-$45 each) are still char-grilled to perfection, and peerless pastas remain a favorite complement. LoRusso has added dishes to make the restaurant even more appealing, including rack of lamb in roasted garlic sauce ($58) and a seared filet of beef draped in porcinis and Sangiovese wine sauce ($56).
Costa’s new Giro d’Italia (Taste of Italy) menu is the best way to revisit this restaurant, and though this might sound crazy, it’s a deal at $180. Seppia nero alla Veneziana, tender cuttlefish over fragrant, smooth polenta with squid ink, pine nuts, raisins and sweet and sour onions, is the best thing I’ve eaten in 2016. Grilled octopus with rapini and crispy potatoes in a Romesco-esque sauce is another revelation, as are the wonderful mussels that fill out a dish of risotto topped with red mullet and funky bottarga. The tasting’s finishers are striped sea bream simply baked in parchment with garlic, tomatoes, white wine and lemon, and an utterly beautiful pistachio trio of warm cake, panna cotta and gelato.
For more than a decade, this restaurant has been one of the best places to let the chef take you through an inspired experience. That hasn’t changed.
Costa di Mare Wynn, 702-770-3305. Daily, 5:30-10 p.m.