Las Vegas is packed with interesting people – from performers to chefs to dancers to writers and more – all calling this town “home.” Today continue a new series where OneTravel.com writer Diana Edelman takes you behind-the-scenes, and gives a glimpse of life in Las Vegas for these larger than life personalities. After reading, be sure to check out her personal chats with the wild cast of “Absinthe” and the star of Disney’s The Lion King.
It has only been 11 years since Chef Carla Pellegrino graduated with honors from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. In this time, Pellegrino has become a fixture in the culinary scene, first in New York City, and today, Las Vegas.
Pellegrino, who was born in Rio de Janeiro to a second-generation Italian mother and a Portuguese father, began cooking and helping her mother’s catering business at the young age of 10. At 16, she was already well-versed in traditional Brazilian, Italian and Portuguese cooking, and moved to Liguria, Italy where she opened a store and offered daily cooking demonstrations.
The young cook arrived to America in 1997, and three years later, she and Frank Pellegrino, Jr. opened the successful Baldoria Restaurant on 8th and Broadway. Late 2006 brought Pellegrino to Las Vegas as the executive chef at Rao’s Las Vegas. When the restaurant opened, she provided 10 of the original recipes from Baldoria, along with new North Italian recipes, and helped catapult Rao’s into the upper echelon of Italian cuisine on The Strip.
In the past year, she has opened additional restaurants in Las Vegas, including Henderson’s “Bratalian,” and, most recently, “Bacio by Carla Pellegrino” at the newly revamped Tropicana Las Vegas.
The renowned chef is no stranger to press. She has been featured on the Today Show, CBS Morning Show, Fox News National. Pellegrino has graced the pages of Food & Wine and Bon Appetit, too. In addition, she appeared on Throwdown with Bobby Flay and won.
You’ve lived all over the world. What makes Las Vegas unique?
Carla Pellegrino: The heat! LOL; no seriously, I love the dry weather, the cleanliness of the streets and public buildings, I love the fact that it is a “melting pot”, no one is really from Las Vegas, this is what makes people more available and friendly since we’re all trying to lay down roots in this city.
Do you go to any farmer’s markets? What’s the best one you’ve found?
Pellegrino: I haven’t had the chance to visit one in some time, but I do love farmers markets. Right now I can only squeeze in some time for a quick visit to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
If you could have dinner with five other Las Vegas chefs, who would they be? Where would you go?
Pellegrino: Guy Savoy [Restaurant Guy Savoy], Joel Robouchon [Joel Robouchon, L’Atelier], Julian Serrano [Julian Serrano], Luciano Pellegrini [Valentino], Rick Moonen [rm seafood] – to Pierre Gagnaire at the Mandarin Oriental.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Where do you go to enjoy your comfort food?
Pellegrino: A good juicy steak and fresh Italian food! I usually have at my restaurant BACIO by CARLA PELLEGRINO at Tropicana or on Sundays, when I’m off, I have it at my local Neapolitan Cantina in Henderson, BRATALIAN.
When you have time to yourself, do you cook or go out to eat?
Pellegrino: Both! If the company is good, I prefer to cook at home and have a blast! Be loud and drink wine. Otherwise I’ll go out, mostly for Japanese food! I have a “thing” for it!
What do you think about the Las Vegas culinary scene?
Pellegrino: Awesome, growing and growing…. It’s looking great, we have the best chefs in the world right now and a few serious culinary events like Uncork’d by Bon Appetit Magazine. I’m glad to be in the right place at the right time!
What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t working?
Pellegrino: It has to be one thing? I have four: running, cooking, dancing, cuddling – not necessarily in that order, it doesn’t matter really.
Have you seen any shows in Las Vegas more than once? If so, what shows?
Pellegrino: Yes, Elton John and Love (Cirque du Soleil).
When people visit from outside of Southern Nevada, where do you take them?
Pellegrino: To get tan at Nikki Beach, it’s the coolest daytime club in Vegas by far! Bacio by Carla Pellegrino, then to dance at Marquee!
I love Las Vegas because …
Pellegrino: Las Vegas loves me!!!!!!!
Want to to sample Chef Pellegrino’s latest Vegas masterpieces? First you have to get there! We can help with these cheap flights to Las Vegas.