A tour for the tastebuds: Dining in the Grand Canal Shoppes

To gorge or not to gorge, wait – is that really even a question? It isn’t for us. Especially when it comes to dining at the Grand Canal Shoppes inside The Venetian Resort Las Vegas. Home to more than 160 restaurants, shops and a whole slew of entertainment, there’s no place on the Strip quite like it. With so many appetite-inducing options to choose from, you don’t even have to leave the property to find flavorsome fare for every meal, snack and “oh that looks delicious” moment during your stay.

From breakfast and brunch to lunch and dinner, restaurants like Mercato della Pescheria, Canaletto and The Cake Boss’s own, Buddy V’s Ristorante tempt guests with authentic Italian ingredients and supremely decadent dishes. Let’s face it, Italians do a lot of things better than most, but food may be at the top of that list. With chefs hailing from as far as Sardinia and specializing in regional Italian and Italian-American dishes, there’s no shortage of worldly inspiration and techniques straight from the motherland. 

So what can you expect from an Italian-themed resort in the middle of Vegas? We’re glad you asked. Only the freshest seafood, crusty rustic breads to sop up all-day-simmered sauces, imported pastas and rich formaggio. So, sit back, relax and go ahead and loosen your belt a notch, because we’re about to take your taste buds on a culinary tour through the world’s favorite boot, without ever leaving the U.S. – or the Grand Canal Shoppes for that matter.

Primo

Photo courtesy of Mercato della Pescheria.

Mercato della Pescheria: Linguini Frutti di Mare

Tucked in the corner of St. Mark’s Square, Mercato della Pescheria is pretty much the embodiment of Italian reverie. It’s everything you’d hope Italy to be; warm with rustic touches like rounded archways and weathered beams, glowing candles and a terrazza sprawled beneath a hand-painted sky. As if that weren’t swoon-worthy enough, there’s even a salumeria stand for artisan cheese and hand-shaved charcuterie to-go, or as they say in Italy, “for take-away.” But one of the dishes they’re best known for is all oceanic. 

If this quintessential coastal dish doesn’t make you feel the warm sun and salty breeze on your face, nothing will. Frutti di mare or “fruit of the sea” is a fisherman’s haul of different textures and flavors. The linguini-based pasta dish has been tossed in a rich lobster broth with saltwater manila clams, mussels, calamari tubes and spindly tentacles with large, tender shrimp. “This dish is Italian Seafood at its finest,” says Executive Chef Nelson Berrios. 

Boy, is that the truth. With a flavor profile that’s both delicate because of the seafood and robust thanks to the tomatoes and chili flakes, it’s hard not to pair this bad boy with a crisp sauvignon blanc and pretend you’re sailing around the Amalfi Coast. Arrivederci.  

So, what’s in it? 

Manila clams
Mussels
Shrimp (peeled, deveined and tail-on)
Calamari tubes and tentacles
Chopped garlic
Chopped Shallots
Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes
White Wine
Lobster Broth
Salt and Pepper 
Chopped Parsley
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Basil Leaves to Garnish

Secondi  

Photo courtesy of Canaletto.

Canaletto: Polipo con Patate 

Picture this: “O Sole Mio” echoing off the crumbling facades of floating buildings with loveable crooners in striped shirts, skimming gondolas through cerulean waters. This is Venice, folks. And with Juliet balconies, side-swept drapes and white linen tablecloths, Canaletto is Venetian elegance at its finest. 

A two-story restaurant connected by a polished brass staircase, it’s packed with winding hallways leading to intimate dining spaces that overlook St. Mark’s Square and the lapping Grand Canal below. Che romantico huh? Specializing in regional Italian recipes, you can expect housemade pastas, freshly-baked breads and their own extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar imported straight from Italy. How’s that for authentic? But let’s talk seafood.

Pour yourself a glass of vino bianco, because we’re about to talk octopus. Sardinia native, Chef Gianpaolo Putzu draws his inspiration for the celebrated polipo con patate from the coastal waterways of the Adriatic. A summertime staple, because -hello- it’s all fresh, crunchy vegetables, olive oil and citrus, this dish is about creating harmony with contrasting textures. “This traditional Venetian dish is light, healthy, and bursting with flavor,” says the chef. “Grilled tender octopus, perfectly balanced with red onions, celery, and diced potatoes. Definitely a favorite dish all along the Italian coast!” If you’ve ever had a rubbery experience with octopus, you know, that one where you felt like you were chewing on a deflated balloon, you know how hard it can be to find a version like this that’s grilled to a delicate perfection. The ashen tips of a lightly-charred tentacle that has been licked by a flame are second to none. 

So, what’s in it?   

Octopus
Celery
Diced Potato
Red Onion
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Lemon Juice

Dolce 

Photo courtesy of Buddy V’s Ristorante.

Buddy V’s Ristorante: Italian Birthday Cake

Overlooking the Strip, Buddy V’s Ristorante is lined with soaring windows and red leather booths. The restaurant is decorated with colorful kitchen utensils and cookware like vintage rolling pins and bundt pans. Black and white family photos hang from the walls, their smiling faces looking down on diners and preserving a slice of time that is undoubtedly associated with good food and infectious laughter. Warm and jovial, this is exactly what you would expect from the Cake Boss’s first family-style restaurant.

If anybody gets those values, it’s Chef Bryan Forgione, who grew up in a thoroughbred culinary family of his own as the son and brother of two Iron Chefs. The cuisine is stick-to-your-ribs good, like Sunday dinner at Nonna’s. And while the meatballs are to-die-for, we’re here to talk about – what else – cake. 

Moist and spongy, Buddy V’s Italian birthday cake is pure childhood nostalgia. With three rum-soaked layers and alternating chocolate pastry cream and ricotta cannoli filling, it’s wipe-your-mouth-on-your-sleeve, sticky fingers indulgent – and just as memorable. “This traditional Italian cake is loved by Buddy and his family because it reminds him of the days he would bake with his father,” says the chef. Topped with the fluffiest whipped cream and crisp, toasted almonds, “this cake provides traditional flavors that will truly bring back memories.” It’s a picture-perfect creation you won’t know if you should revere or ravage. Our suggestion is to do both. 

So, what’s in it? 

Vanilla cake
Rum Simple Syrup
Cannoli Cream
Chocolate Pastry Cream
Toasted Almonds
Whipped Cream 

Three restaurants, three superb courses. Now, waddle over to St Mark’s Square in time for the live music at the Streetmosphere. The Venetian Trio plays the most beautiful, traditional Italian music with a Spanish guitar, violin and a vocalist. You won’t want to miss this incredibly-talented group of entertainers.

Other signature restaurants at Grand Canal Shoppes include CUT by Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonico Steakhouse, Ricardo Zarate’s Once, as well as Smith & Wollensky, SUGARCANE raw bar grill, SUSHISAMBA, TAO Asian Bistro & Nightclub, and Trustworthy Brewing Co. & BBQ, to name a few.

Want more Venetian Uncovered?

Born a Buckeye - raised a Hoosier. I grew up in a one-horse town that straddles the Indiana/Ohio state line and until 2006, was in two different time zones. There were three stoplights and a whopping 48 students in my graduating class. Fast forward a few years later, I was bitten by the travel bug and decided to head west. It seems like no matter how long I live here, there’s always something that still makes my jaw drop. That’s what I love about Vegas; you never know what you’re going to see next and that’s what makes living here so much fun. Basically, if you’re bored in this town, there’s something wrong with you…not the city. I’m an avid traveler with an incurable case of wanderlust so stay tuned for all the tours, attractions and shopping adventures that Sin City has to offer.