Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare

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Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare

There is nothing immediate in Paul Bartolotta's professorial demeanor to suggest his passion for cooking, but behind his black-rimmed spectacles is a true artist. His various treatments of fresh fish flown in daily from Italy, with names like branzino and dentex, pezzogna and rombo, are as spectacular as anything in this town, and the secret is out.

The chef, who speaks fluent Italian, comes to the Wynn Resort from Chicago where he was behind the stoves at Spiaggia. Born into a Milwaukee restaurant family, he's diverse in his cooking philosophy, and his menu reflects it.

Agnolotti del plin, from Italy's most northern province, Piedmont, is one of the menu stars, sharing the spotlight with the best pasta e fagioli soup in town, homemade ravioli with pecorino cheese, and pollo alla Riviera Ligure, chicken with artichokes, asparagus and porcini mushrooms.

But fish is the thing here, mostly whole-roasted ones sold by weight. Sea bass, purple snapper, big eye and turbot are the English names, and there are others. Though it's infrequent, occasionally the chef will make you one in a salt crust -- a technique to seal in the juices that doesn't make the fish salty at all -- or alla Palermitana (green olives, garlic and tomatoes).

Though the chef is selling close to 80 whole fish per evening, it's not the only dining option. The menu is set up in the classic Italian manner -- antipasto, prima, seconda, or starter, pasta course and main course. And the choices are all appealing.

Also save room for pastry chef Kriss Harvey's light yet intense desserts, such as a summer strawberry salad with cappuccino schiuma and mascarpone sorbetto, a gentle, sweet breeze on the palate.

Did I mention that this is also a beautiful restaurant? As you approach, you'll spot a pair of huge terra cotta urns framing the entrance, objets d'art reputed to be hundreds of years old that could easily have been used to store olive oil in the time of Dante.

A spiral staircase leads down to the ornately decorated lower level, where tables look out onto a bucolic lake stocked with otherworldly, reflective silver globes. Around the lake's perimeter are cabana tables, perhaps the most romantic spot in Las Vegas. It's a wondrous place to dine.vegas.com

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