By { Beth Weitzman

For several years now, Las Vegas has been steadily raising its culinary game. Recently, an exciting new wave of chef-driven restaurants have come to town (and more on the near horizon), with the most excitement at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas. If you’re a foodie and you haven’t visited in a while, it’s time to roll back into Sin City. 

Gone are the days when Vegas dining meant only Rat Pack-style restaurants that specialized in steaks and martinis, and flashy celebrity chef restaurants where the celebrity chefs were rarely there. These days, noteworthy chefs are very much present at new restaurants inside iconic hotels. We recently saw the opening of Best Friend, from Roy Choi, at Park MGM; and Vetri Cucina, by Marc Vetri, at Palms Casino Resort. But leading the charge is The Venetian Resort Las Vegas, with its central location on the Strip, remodeled casino floor, multiple pools, spacious suites, personalized service and more than 40 restaurants—the most offered under one hotel roof anywhere in the world.

The impressive array includes Bouchon (Thomas Keller’s modern French restaurant), Chica (the restaurant by Latina celebrity chef Lorena Garcia, known for its Venezuelan, Peruvian, Brazilian, Mexican and Argentinian-influenced menu), Sugarcane (showcasing globally inspired small plates from the raw bar, grill and traditional kittchen, where faves include mini Maine lobster rolls, hamachi crudo and king crab legs), Black Tap (crazy-good craft burgers, salads, super-sized creative milkshakes, craft beer and cocktails, imagined by Vegas veterans Chris Barish and chef Joe Isidori), Yardbird Southern Table & Bar (southern comfort food with a modern twist), and Once (from L.A. chef Ricardo Zarate, a one-of-a-kind Peruvian Nikkei dining experience). 

New to The Venetian is Matteo’s Ristorante Italiano by Angelo Auriana, who worked with Pierro Selvaggio at Valentina when he came to the U.S. many years ago. With an already huge L.A. following, the restaurant is the brainchild of restaurateur Matteo Ferdinandi and Chef Auriana. Their goal: to create a memorable dining experience that’s as indulgent as it is approachable. Mission accomplished. Chef Auriana has developed a mouthwatering Northern Italian menu filled with memorable recipes passed down through generations of Italian kitchens and inspired by the original The Factory Kitchen in L.A.’s Arts District. Locally sourced ingredients pair with fresh seafood, like Mediterranean sea bass and top-quality slow roasted pork belly, sending taste buds soaring. Within an industrial-chic environment, diners feel as though they’ve been transported to an authentic Italian trattoria in Italy. When it comes to pasta, this is the place; watch in awe as it’s made to order right in front of you. Don’t miss the mandilli di seta, a delicate pasta with basil and almond pesto.

Another recently opened hot spot by restaurateur Matteo Ferdinandi and Chef Auriana is sixth+mill ristorante—a not-to-be-missed pizzeria and bar located in the outdoor-inspired St. Mark’s Square in the Grand Canal Shoppes.Grab a patio table or seat at the bar, and experience the most fabulous aromas and prepare your taste buds for craveable flavors. Hand-crafted Neapolitan-style pizzas feature spectacular sauce made with three varieties of tomatoes imported from southern Italy. Part sweet, part tangy and 100-percent perfection. Baked in special Italian pizza ovens, the crust is a delightful combination of airy and chewy. Pasta specialties such as Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe and entree favorites including chicken parm with San Marzano tomato sauce, mozzarella and parsley oil are also seriously, delish. Dining here is worth the trip to Vegas (or its original L.A. Arts District location) alone!

From the other side of the globe, Chef Alan Ji’s Mott 32, the famed Hong Kong restaurant, offers both Cantonese and Szechuan fine-dining delights. Designed by Hong Kong-based Joyce Wang Studio, this is the third Mott 32 restaurant in the world (and the first in the United States). Pairing classic Chinese elements and New York industrialism with a nod to Las Vegas style, the stage is beautifully suited for the modern take on traditional Chinese cuisine. The restaurant opened less than a year ago, but is already legendary for its 48-hour Peking duck, with its golden, crackly sweet skin and moist meat, served with paper thin pancakes and all the garnishes. The impressive menu brims with tea and specialty cocktail selections, as well as a vast array of wines. Starters, such as handmade dim sum, Peking-style spicy crispy duck rack, crispy roasted pork belly, crispy Szechuan chicken and Buddha Jumps Over the Wall soup set the meal in the right direction. The entree selection is incredible; it’s hard to pick. In addition to the Peking duck, highlights are wok-fried Maine lobster, whole Dungeness crab, signature smoked black cod and baked Alaskan king crab legs. Not-to-be-missed is the new Dim sum brunch, a new spin on the classic, offering innovations like egg siu mai, a dumpling filled with a whole soft quail egg.

Later this month, Momofuku founder and chef David Chang will open his L.A. phenom, Majordōmo Meat & Fish, also at The Venetian. Diners will enjoy California cuisine inspired by the varied food cultures for which L.A. is known. Chang will also open Moon Palace across from Majordōmo with a menu of Tastys, sliders made with beef or Impossible burgers served on King’s Hawaiian rolls—sure to be delish! Grand Canal Shoppes, 3325 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas,  NV, venetian.com