New Balla Italian Soul offers upgrades to classic Italian food in Vegas

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When the Merulo Group purchased the SLS Las Vegas in 2018, it began a series of resort-wide renovations and changed the name to the Sahara Las Vegas, a nod to the glory of the historic hotel. The renovations brought a new gaming interior, the swanky lounge Casbar and a whole host of new restaurants, including the recently open Balla Italian Soul.

A collaboration between James Beard award-winner chef Shawn McClain and MC Hospitality, the restaurant stands across from the theater, and stretches out to Las Vegas Boulevard South. You enter up a ramp, turning left for the bar scene and continuing on for the restaurant. It might be a good idea to make a detour to the bar before dinner to snag a cocktail or wine while waiting for your table. Some to consider are classics like the Manhattan, with High West rye, Carpano sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters, and the Venetian spritz, with Aperol, prosecco, club soda and dried orange slice; and house cocktails like Nonna’s Dirty Sauce, with Moletto gin, dry vermouth and Filthy olive juice. Wine is available both by the glass and bottle (and the bottle selection is quite extensive, so you’re sure to find something you like).

The menu offers plenty of choices without being overwhelming, starting with the antipasti. Order a classic salumi and cheese plate, with artisanal tidbits, olives and pickles; soft burrata with roasted peppers and tomato conserva; lamb tartare with preserved lemon, pickled eggplant and ricotta; or shellfish toast, with mussels, clams, calamari and ’nduja sausage.

The pasta selection features a variety of selections, from cappelletti with mortadella in brown butter to agnolotti with cheese, oyster mushroom and guanciale. There are a few pizzas here, too, like the Gotham, with a variety of cured meats, pomodoro sauce and fennel pollen. The decadent tartufo comes with confit potato, truffle salami and black truffles.

Other options include a 22-ounce Prime bone-in ribeye; pork Delmonico, which delivers a steak-like cut; Mary’s half-chicken with crispy skin; and sea bream, served with lemon, capers and wild greens. Side dishes are enjoyed by many as a necessary component of a meal, and here the contorni includes roasted potatoes with sausage, broccoli di Cicco (an heirloom Italian variety of the veggie) with garlic and lemon zest; upgrade on traditional mac and cheese with Gorgonzola and fontina baked lumache; baked eggplant with San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella; and stuffed mushrooms. Oh, what riches!

And dessert isn’t neglected, either, as traditional goodies like tiramisu, panna cotta, bombolini, gelato and a chocolate tart will all make your mouth water. In the end, you may want to go with the Italian cookies and a nice espresso cocktail or limoncello, grappa or amaro. And lingering over those is never a bad thing.

Sahara Las Vegas, 702.761.7619

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