Forget Man vs. Food, if you want a real challenge, it’s mom vs. food.
As anyone who has taken their parents out for a dinner knows, our folks can be demanding judges of the restaurant experience.
So when I really want to test out a new restaurant I invite my mom. Besides being a great cook and willing to try all seafood options (my kryptonite), my mom possesses a couple of parent superpowers that can really test a new restaurant:
- Mom memory: The ability to remember any good or bad experience for years, literally.
- Mom voice: The willingness to speak up, ask questions and offer an opinion without any feeling of embarrassment.
- Mom patience: Sometimes you have to be understanding and no one does it better than a mom.
So last night, my mom and I checked out the D Las Vegas’ newest restaurant – Joe Vicari’s Andiamo Italian Steakhouse. Disclaimer: Our meal was comp’d as part of a media preview.
The restaurant is a Michigan import, the first Las Vegas appearance of a family chain that has nine Andiamo Steakhouse restaurants in the metro Detroit area.
Located on the second floor of The D, Andiamo Steakhouse is tucked in right behind the top of the escalator. The bricked entrance manages to evoke a speakeasy-esque feel without being campy. Next to the hostess stand is a display of four fedoras on the wall. A sly homage to the Rat Pack? We’ll never know. My mom asked the hostess if the hats belonged to anyone famous and they said they didn’t know. “You should have a story about them,” she suggested.
Inside, Andiamo is vintage steakhouse style with booths and tables, crisp white tablecloths and leather chairs. It manages to evoke the perfect atmosphere for both an intimate dinner with your significant other or an upscale meal prior to a bachelors’ night out on the town.
A word about the service at Andiamo Steakhouse – it’s great. Ioan, a native of Romania but a Vegas resident for more than a decade, was our waiter. He had great recommendations and extensive knowledge of the menu, a devilish sense of humor and instantly made you feel like a longtime favored guest of the restaurant. While everyone was helpful (to be expected on a media night), Ioan made the night a success and did it with such ease, I had expected to find out he was a lifetime Vegas fixture.
We began our meal with a chef’s sample of Oysters Rockfeller, a surprisingly successful dish for me given my aforementioned bad relationship with seafood. At Andiamo, suddenly I’m an oyster fan.
Diving into the salad course, my mom ordered the roasted beet salad. I swear the only people who eat beets are my mother and grandmother. When I declared it an old school Italian dish (my mom’s family are all Italians), I was put in my place.
“Beets are in,” my mom declared. I apparently have not been watching enough Food Network.
A winning dish, my mom extolled, adding it was one of the better presentations in town. I played it safe with Martha’s Vineyard salad – greens, sun-dried cherries, candied walnuts, red onions and Roquefort.
Another win – the house olive bread. Paired with their great eggplant, olive and tomato presented as a tapenade – yummmm. Mom was trying to figure out how to convince the chef to sell her a container of the stuff to take home.
The superstars of the night came next. Homemade capellini pasta topped with a simple sauce of tomatoes, cream and butter. Italians are pasta snobs. My uncle still makes his own. Andiamo’s pasta is divine. And it was perfectly cooked – hard to do with the thin strands of capellini. Folks often overcook it. I would have gone to Andiamo’s just for that delectable bowl of pasta and left content.
But what followed was the single greatest moment of the night. My mom finally enjoyed salmon at a restaurant.
For the past year, my mom has eaten under the salmon curse. At a 5-star hotel on the Las Vegas Strip and a 5-star resort in Phoenix, my mom has ordered the salmon – hoping for a great presentation of one of her favorite fish. The results have been resounding failures. I convinced her to order it at Andiamo, which she did under duress, reminding me of the horrible (and expensive) salmon she had “at that restaurant you took me to for my birthday.”
So with trepidation, she ordered the salmon and I played it safe, ordering the filet mignon. “If it (the salmon) is bad I can have some of your steak,” she declared.
The salmon arrived served over caramelized fennel with an accent of cooked tomato. “Exquisite” was mom’s verdict as she cleared her plate. Hallelujah! The salmon curse has been broken. And I have been redeemed.
The filet mignon was also a success and cooked with care so that I had an evenly pink piece of meat with a nicely-charred edge. Finished with Andiamo’s signature zip sauce on the side, it melted like butter in the mouth.
The only failure – the Tuscan roasted potatoes with onions. When will I learn to not order rosemary seasoned potatoes? The herb just overwhelmed the tastebuds – would that I had gone with the white truffle whipped potatoes instead.
We finished off the evening with a slice of New York-style cheesecake. It’s my mom’s litmus test for any Italian restaurant. Why? Because my mom bakes the best cheesecake in town – of course. Forget those runny, pudding-esque imitations. A great cheesecake is firm. It should let you taste the cream cheese without feeling overwhelmed with sweetness. Andiamo Steakhouse comes extremely close. “It has the right taste,” my mom said. But no one will ever beat my mom’s cheesecake.
Finally the surprise of the night that should have you making a reservation at Andiamo Steakhouse right now – our amazing meal didn’t break the bank. It’s been a while since a Las Vegas restaurant has managed to be both a delightful dining experience and an affordable one. Andiamo Steakhouse provided an evening of great food at reasonable prices.
Now, this is not a $1.99 shrimp cocktail joint, but Andiamo provides an upscale steakhouse experience without the sky-high Las Vegas Strip prices. Our meal (minus the chef’s specials), which included a bottle of sparkling water, two salads, salmon and filet mignon entrees, potatoes, cheesecake and espresso totaled $119.00 (without tip).
I knew the restaurant was a success when I drove away and my mom said, “We need to go back so I can try the swordfish.”
Daughter tested, mother approved.