Hospitality students hold a food sampling day at UNLV’s Hospitality Hall Wednesday, March 7, 2018. The sampling is part of the preparation for UNLVino, a wine, food, and spirits festival, scheduled for Saturday, April 14.
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Veteran Strip chef Gina Marinelli to open Summerlin restaurant
By Al Mancini
April 17, 2018
A downtown pop-up dinner this month was both a collaboration between two local chefs and a return to the spotlight for one of them — Gina Marinelli.
About 50 people attended the recent dinner, “One Night, Two Chefs, Three Courses, Fo(u)r a Good Cause,” which paired Marinelli with Justin Kingsley Hall, executive chef at The Kitchen at Atomic and was a fundraiser for the nonprofit Urban Seed Foundation.
Pop-up dinners such as this, where guest chefs cook in someone else’s kitchen, have become common in Las Vegas’ close-knit culinary community. An appearance by Marinelli, however, has been anything but commonplace for the better part of a year, since the closure of D.O.C.G. at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas last summer.
“I miss Gina’s food, because it’s just good,” says Grace Shark Park, as she prepares to enjoy her meal at the restaurant’s bar. “It doesn’t have that Vegas flash, it just tastes good. (And) it doesn’t matter whether you know about food or not.”
Park and the rest of Marinelli’s fans will soon be able to enjoy her cooking more regularly. The Atomic event and her appearance at UNLVino over the weekend were warm-ups for her next restaurant, which is expected to open in Summerlin this summer.
Marinelli, 36, moved to Las Vegas in 2006 after graduating from culinary school in Florida. She logged time in the kitchens of Michael Mina’s former restaurants Nobhill Tavern and American Fish as well as Shawn McClain’s Sage before joining Scott Conant’s team at D.O.C.G. There, she worked her way from sous chef to executive chef, making her one of the few women to run a kitchen in a Strip casino restaurant.
After that restaurant closed, Marinelli made her third trip to Italy, for relaxation and inspiration. Returning to Las Vegas, she briefly took the reins at Summerlin’s popular Due Forni Pizza & Wine, which closed in October following a flood.
This summer, Marinelli expects to open La Strega in the space that housed Due Forni. It’s a collaboration with Lev Restaurant Group, but it will be 100 percent Marinelli’s vision.
“I don’t have to go through anybody anymore,” she says of the freedom the move off-Strip affords her. “I get to do my menu, with my food, and how I’m feeling: my story! That’s exciting.”
In an industry where women in leadership roles are uncommon, she’s using the project to address that shortcoming.
“This is a very female-driven, restaurant,” she says. “My GM is female. The woman leading the construction is female. My kitchen designer is female.”
“The design of the restaurant is feminine. The place just curves, and has this softness and that feel, (with) nice colors.”
That feminine energy inspired the restaurant’s name: La Strega, which means “the witch” in Italian. An outdoor patio, with a planned herb wall, has been dubbed a “witch’s garden.”
“We always feel like all women have a little bit of witch in them,” she laughs. “So we love that.”
Inspired by Italy
The food will be Italian, although Marinelli stresses her interpretation of that nation’s cuisine means “a lot of authentic dishes from Italy, no Italian-American.”
Despite her surname, Marinelli didn’t develop a true passion for Italian food until she traveled to Europe after quitting her job at American Fish and questioning her career path. She says the two weeks she spent in Italy changed her life.
“When I saw nuns, like full-on nuns, eating pizza on the street, it was just this beautiful thing that really pulled me in. The way they dined there was beautiful, there was not a care in the world.”
Although her time working for Conant allowed her to further explore Italian cuisine, she says two additional trips to Italy will have an even greater influence on her menu.
“Everything on that menu is inspired by my time in Italy (and) my family, my fiancee — all that kind of stuff. It’ll be educational, but not pretentious.”
When asked about menu items, she rattles off dishes such as steak tartare bruschetta, hamachi crudo, truffle gnocchi and various salads, all of which are based, at least in part, on something she discovered during her journeys. She also plans to feature an old family polenta recipe, along with pizzas she describes as “neo-Neapolitan, where it does have that Neapolitan feel, but the crust will have a little more structure.”
Back at the bar at Atomic, Park can’t wait to try La Strega. Asked if she’ll visit the new place, she smiles and answers slowly, for emphasis, “Every, single, day!” With enthusiasm like that, Marinelli seems to be off to a good start.
April 13, 2018
UNLVino is an annual food and wine event that features live music and entertainment. Offered as a course for 40 UNLV Hospitality and Management students, the annual affair raises scholarship funds for future generations of students enrolled in the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality.
This year’s UNLVino will be held April 14 at the Keep Memory Alive Events Center at Symphony Park in Downtown Las Vegas.
Here are seven reasons why you should attend:
Make history with UNLVino
With more than 150 wines and 50 chefs to choose from, the 44th UNLVino is the largest in the festival’s history.
Try food from some of the most popular restaurants in Las Vegas
Local staples such as Lotus of Siam and new hot spots Masso Osteria and Sparrow + Wolf are just a few of the restaurants that will be present at this year’s fundraiser.
Broaden your culinary horizons
Along with some of the city’s favorites, guests can also sample dishes from famous out-of-state restaurants—The Slanted Door from San Francisco or Milwaukee’s Ristorante Bartolotta, for starters. But if you’re a 702 purist, be sure to check out Scotch 80 and get a preview of the what’s to come at Palms Casino Resort, when the restaurant opens in May.
Triple the excitement
UNLVino, which usually spans the course of three days, is condensing all of its gastronomy, entertainment and wine into one day.
Celebrate national achievement
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality. The hospitality program at UNLV ranks third in the world, according to thebestschools.org.
Cuisine for a cause
Proceeds benefit current and future students who are enrolled in the program.
Pay tribute to a titan of industry
The Dom Pérignon Award of Excellence is presented to exceptional philanthropists and community leaders. This year, the 2018 Dom Pérignon Award of Excellence will be posthumously granted to Donald Louis Carano, a Nevada native whose accomplishments include founding the Eldorado resorts and the Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery.
April 14, 7 p.m., $150-$175, Keep Memory Alive Events Center, 888 W. Bonneville Ave., unlvino.com
Best Bets: ACM Party for a Cause, UNLVino, Highland Games and more for your Las Vegas weekend
By Brock Radke
April 13, 2018
It’s hard to describe how huge this weekend is going to be: Game 2 of the Vegas Golden Knights-Los Angeles Kings first round playoff series is Friday night; there are two sold-out Justin Timberlake concerts taking over T-Mobile Arena for the rest of the weekend; and the 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards show wraps it up on Sunday night from MGM Grand Garden Arena (broadcast live on CBS). This is some serious big Vegas action. But wait … there’s more. Find your way to these other concerts, comedy shows and events all over the Valley in the next few days.
OLD DOMINION There were 17 different Party for a Cause events planned for the weekend surrounding the Academy of Country Music Awards’ 15th year in Las Vegas, which is why country music truly takes over the town this time of year (while raising money for charitable foundation ACM Lifting Lives). You won’t want to miss the poolside concert from Nashville favorites Old Dominion Friday night at the Red Rock Resort’s Sandbar Stage, featuring guest star Michael Ray. April 13, info at stationcasinoslive.com.
STEVEN WRIGHT The unmistakably deadpan comedian returns to the stage the Treasure Island Theatre Friday night and his philosophical, absurdist approach is even more refreshing juxtaposed against the current political climate. If you need a laugh-filled night of escapism, this is the show for you. April 13, info at treasureisland.com.
LAS VEGAS HIGHLAND GAMES The annual Celtic gathering and cultural festival returns Saturday and Sunday at Floyd Lamb Park. This year’s entertainment lineup includes Seven Nations, the Ploughboys, Neil O’Neill and Killian’s Angels as well as plenty of food and drink vendors and nine different athletic events. Put on your kilt and head out to the park. April 14-15, info at lasvegascelticsociety.org.
UNLVINO It was founded in 1974 as a small gathering in a distribution warehouse and today it’s one of the community’s most beloved charitable events. UNLVino is a single night of wine tasting and fundraising for scholarships this year at the Keep Memory Alive Center at downtown’s Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, boasting beverages and cuisine from more than 50 wineries and restaurants. Be prepared to bump into a few celebrity chefs, too. April 14, info at unlvino.com.
AARON LEWIS The brooding frontman of alt-metal band Staind has moved on to a country and roots-rock influenced solo career. His evolving style will be on display for two shows at the Orleans Showroom this weekend. April 14-15, info at orleanscasino.com.
Some great ideas for your upcoming weekend! Las Vegas is now a town for sports, and this weekend our city of lights hosts its first ever Polo game. Plus, whether you like red or white, UNLVino is sure to have something to fill your glass.
For a full list of information make sure to visit KTNV.com