Italian food is supplanting French cuisine as the most popular high-end dining choice in the States, thanks to its emphasis on fresh ingredients and uncluttered presentation. Adding his unique vision to the Italian fine dining experience is world-famous chef to the stars, Wolfgang Puck. Trattoria del Lupo at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, in collaboration with executive chef and partner Mark Ferguson, marks Wolfgang Puck’s first Italian restaurant.
Italian cuisine may seem like an unusual choice for Wolfgang Puck, who comes from Austria and was trained in classical French techniques. But this master chef has shown himself to be nothing if not versatile; consider Spago, his flagship restaurant, which helped popularize California cuisine. Additionally, residents of Austria are in the enviable position of sharing borders with France, Italy, and Germany, to name just a few of the neighboring cultural powerhouses and culinary influences.
Compared to Spago, Trattoria del Lupo offers a more traditional view of Italian cuisine. Executive chef Mark Ferguson presents old stand-bys from all regions of Italy, such as pizza margherita, minestrone, and ossobuco, alongside contemporary pasta preparations incorporating Hawaiian tuna or Peruvian purple potatoes. Master Sommelier Luis DeSantos helps you round out the meal with selections from the trattoria’s commendable collection of Italian wines, including domestic vintages. Locals have taken notice of Trattoria del Lupo as well – “Las Vegas Life” magazine named it the Best Italian Restaurant in Las Vegas in 2002.
Trattoria del Lupo is the latest achievement in Mark Ferguson’s impressive and still developing culinary career. His culinary roots go back all the way to his mother’s kitchen in Denver, but his formal training kicked off in San Francisco, where he worked at Stars, the world-class restaurant helmed by Jeremiah Tower. After graduating from the California Culinary Academy, Ferguson relocated to Las Vegas, where he opened Spago’s desert outpost.
In addition to its innovative and delicious cuisine, Spago has made its world-famous reputation by catering star-studded events, such as the Governors Ball at the Oscars. No stranger to cooking for big names, Mark Ferguson has manned the kitchen for charity dinners to benefit Meals on Wheels and the Andre Agassi Foundation, as well as private meals for President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In developing the menu for Trattoria del Lupo, Ferguson went to Italy, where he ate and cooked his way through the country, finding inspiration in the vibrant ingredients and unadulterated flavors. You can taste the fruits of his research in the restaurant’s signature dishes, such as Grilled Swordfish with Braised Pancetta and Gnocchi alla Guarda Porta. The daily changing menu includes such staples as Veal Parmigiana Smothered in Aged Provolone, Fresh Mozzarella, Fontina and Reggiano; Grilled Swordfish with Braised Pancetta and Green Beans; and Pizza with Purple Puruvian Potato, Shallots and Thyme.
Julia Child and French cuisine may have kick-started the gourmet food revolution in the United States, but the simple pleasures of Italian cooking are on everyone’s lips – and filling their bellies – these days. Wolfgang Puck and Mark Ferguson’s Trattoria del Lupo in Las Vegas offers the comfort foods that we’ve come to love, but with a contemporary twist. The bottom line: surprising and delightful eating in a sumptuous environment.
Trattoria del Lupo at the Mandalay Hotel and Casino
3950 Las Vegas Blvd., South, ?Las Vegas, NV 89109
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Written by Staff Writer