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Frederico Would Be Proud

By R. H. Duke

It had the makings of a wonderful Sunday evening. I felt good. My father had come to town and I had finally found a new office after several weeks of search and frustration. I felt internal pressure to pick a winner - a great restaurant to celebrate and conclude the weekend. I chose Fellini's on West Charleston. I made the right choice.

The exterior of the Fellini's still reminds you of what it once housed - a pizza parlor. But once inside, you'll forget the past and begin a journey into the hills of Tuscany -  a region in West Central Italy. For well over a year now, Chef/Co-owner Chas. LaForte and his brother Frank have been turning out perfect interpretations of some of the most underrepresented Italian food in town. We're all familiar with Southern Italian cuisine: red tomato sauces, olive oil, oregano and plenty of garlic. Northern Italian cooking is lighter and makes use of wine sauces, light cream, and butter sauces. Fellini's nicely blends the 2 styles, but also throws in plenty of Tuscan influenced items such as polenta, and dishes flavored with spinach and olive oil.

My Dad and I are professionally greeted at the door by co-owner Bob Harry. He and partner Jim Girard also own the popular Tap House bar and restaurant located next door. Harry looks distinguished and walks and talks with confidence as we're seated at a large booth near the front of the restaurant. The walls at Fellini's are covered with artificial Ivy plants. Large wood beams give the ceiling and room a look of power. A brick fireplace centers a wall. In the middle of the dining room sits a table with a huge bouquet of fresh flowers. A female piano player sings softly. The lights are low. The stage is nicely set.

Drink orders are quickly taken. Several sticks of focaccia bread are brought out with olive oil and a plate for dipping. The bread is delicious with just the right amount of salt and fresh rosemary. My Dad's glass of "house" Chianti Riserva ($6.50) is sturdy and dry, and makes for a nice companion to the bold tomato-basil salsa that accompanies his Petti di Pollo alla Griglia ($13.95). It's flawlessly prepared and replete with those lovely black marks that evidence its crispy mesquite grilling. His polenta cakes are also grilled and are quite tasty. Polenta is a corn meal based dish from the Veneto region of Italy. It's growing in popularity with local restaurants, but much like risotto, it's not easy to make well. Fellini's does it well.

My Caesar Salad ($6.75) is much better than the "rip-offs" you find on most menus in town. The romaine lettuce is sufficiently young and crisp; the dressing is thick and has a delectable and strong Parmesan bite. The croutons are standard, but nonetheless fine. My entree is the Costoletti D' Agnello ($24.95). Several baby lamb chops are cooked in their own pan juices and served with an excellent grilled eggplant. Our service is flawless. My coke and our water glasses are constantly replaced and our waiter is gracious and attentive.

On my 2 other visits to Fellini's I enjoyed the Gnocchi di Ricotta ($11.95); the Scalloppine Picatta ($18.50); and the spicy, traditional Italian wedding soup - Zuppa Nuziale ($4.95). And both times, the service was as sharp and polished as you'd find at our better hotel restaurants.

Fellini's is a gem in an unlikely West Charleston neighborhood. It's ownership team of Harry, Girard and the La Forte brothers have created an eatery that places quality ahead of flash. They also parlayed their success into the recent acquisition of the Italian restaurant at the Stratosphere. Different market and location, but I'm sure the same great food and service. La Dolce Vita!

Fellini's Italian Dining
5555 W. Charleston Blvd.

HOURS: Dinner nightly from 5:00 PM

CUISINE: Neat blend of pastas, chicken and meat dishes, with an emphasis on the flavors of Tuscany. Several nightly specials and fresh fish selections.

ATMOSPHERE: The soft lighting makes it perfect for a romantic evening; but families will not feel out of place for special occasions.

SERVICE: Professional and courteous.

PRICES: Moderately expensive ($10.95 - $25.95), but well worth it.

WINE LIST: Not a gouge, with some incredibly low prices

R.H. Duke is a former restaurateur and a Las Vegas restaurant critic who says “Fine Dining is one of Life’s Greatest Pleasures!”


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