The newest restaurant by chef Shawn McClain, the James Beard Foundation winner for Best Chef Midwest in 2006, is officially slated to open on September 30 at the Sahara Las Vegas. Balla Italian Soul, previously Ballo, will offer a regional, seasonal menu of Italian cuisine inside a light and airy restaurant facing the Las Vegas Strip.
“We’re doing Italian a little differently, focusing on aperitivo culture and well-prepared, wood-grilled flavors, while keeping pastas and pizzas close to our hearts,” says McClain, who is opening the restaurant with his business partners, Richard and Sarah Camarota.
The dinner menu will feature small plates like marinated octopus with Calabrian pepper, lamb tartare with pickled eggplant, and shellfish toast with spreadable ’nduja sausage. Pasta selections will include linguine with crab, chilis, and summer squash, a bowl of squid ink shells with puttanesca sauce, and agnolotti with cured pork lardo. Among the menu of Roman-style pizzas is the wood-fired ‘nduja pizza with confit potatoes and smoked cheese, and a classic margherita. Other menu items include a sea bream with lemon, a 22-ounce, bone-in ribeye, and pork Delmonico with black garlic.
The beverage menu will highlight negronis and spritzes, while desserts will include panna cotta with limoncello, baked crostata tarts with pluots and goat cheese gelato, and an assortment of Italian Cookies.
The Strip-facing Balla, located off the casino floor, opens to a glass charcuterie station and a bar area with a bricked ceiling and brass light fixtures. An open kitchen lets diners see their food as it’s made, while a pasta window offers a glimpse inside the process. The main dining room is decorated with lighted olive trees, Italian photography, and bold murals, with seating for 120.
McClain has previously opened eight restaurants in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Detroit. The San Diego-born chef first came to Las Vegas 13 years ago when he opened Sage, his beloved restaurant at Aria that closed permanently during the pandemic. He also opened Five50 Pizza Bar, which also closed at Aria, and Libertine Social, his gastropub at Mandalay Bay.
Balla joins Philadelphia’s Chickie’s & Pete’s and chef Guoming “Sam” Xin’s the Noodle Den as part of the resort’s $150 million resort remodel that brings big changes to the Strip-facing exterior and a newly dubbed “restaurant row.” Balla Italian Soul will offer dinner Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.