Sin City is home to a lot of restaurants and bars, but there are tons of hidden gems that the majority of Las Vegans aren’t unearthing. To help guide readers to these potential discoveries, Eater Vegas enlisted some of the city’s food players to share their recommendations for a feature dubbed Dining Confidential.
It seems like Joseph Zanelli has heard up some of the biggest restaurants in Las Vegas over the years. Most recently, Zanelli joined Andy Masi’s Clique Hospitality in December 2018 as the executive chef of Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms. After attending the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont in 1995, his first stop was the World Trade Center in Boston under chef Tom Barton. Zanelli then moved to San Francisco and worked for Annie and David Gingrass at Hawthorne Lane. After working his way through the kitchen, he took his knowledge to Las Vegas, where he had a stint working for Wolfgang Puck at Spago while waiting for the Bellagio to open. He opened Aqua at the Bellagio as a sous chef under chef Michael Mina and chef de cuisine Mark LoRusso. He moved to New York City in 2000 to work with Laurent Tourondel at Cello, Asian Seafood Restaurant AZ under Patricia Yeo, Café Boulud with chef Andrew Carmellini, and Pazo with Patricia Yeo. He returned to Las Vegas In January 2003 to work at the Mansion at MGM Grand, then Lutece at the Venetian, followed by New American Steakhouse at Wynn Las Vegas, and then as chef of the garde manger kitchen at the resort. He moved on to in room dining at Encore Las Vegas, and then Lakeside at Wynn Las Vegas. By September of 2012, he joined Elizabeth Blau’s restaurant group as head chef/partner of Honey Salt. He returned to Wynn in 2015 to open Jardin. Here he shares some of his favorite restaurants on and off the Strip in Las Vegas.
Eater Vegas: Do you remember your first trip to Vegas? What happened that was memorable?
Joseph Zanelli: Yes, I was passing through and won $1,500 playing blackjack at the casino that my father Joe Sr. ran. It was 1997, and the food scene was still up and coming.
What made you decide to move to Las Vegas?
I moved to Las Vegas from San Francisco to work for chef Laurent Tourondel originally, but ended up opening Aqua at the Bellagio with the hardest working chef I know, Mark LoRusso.
Where do you like to eat breakfast in Las Vegas?
The green avocado smoothie from Greens & Proteins is the extent of my breakfast.
What about lunch?
If you’re going out for dinner, which restaurants do you like to frequent? What makes them special? Any dishes you can recommend?
I’ve never been disappointed with Kabuto. The sushi is always super fresh. It’s very small with only 12 seats. I usually select the mid-range tasting menu.
Where do you like to dine for a special occasion?
Where do you like to dine that includes good wine, maybe off the Strip?
Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar always has great deals on wine!
Are there any brunches in town you like to frequent?
Any off-Strip favorite restaurants that are neighborhood gems?
Yes, several of them now. For Italian, La Strega. For pizza, Settebello in Henderson. For seafood, Shark. For modern American, Sparrow & Wolf, gastropub, The Kitchen at Atomic. They all do a standout job from service to food.
What about classic restaurants? Do you have any you like to visit?
My absolute favorite is L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon at MGM. For classic French, I usually go for any of the seafood entrees, the squab and real pistachio or chocolate souffle.
Let’s say you want to hang out with your friends after work. Where do you like to go?
Mr. Coco is the best hidden gem in town and the level of service and refinement of the cocktail program is unparalleled in the city. Francesco the great!
• All Dining Confidentials [ELV]