Photo credit: Elaine and Scott Harris

When it comes to great food, James Beard award-winning chef Luciano Pellegrini appears to possess celestial inspiration and divine culinary skills while preparing, innovating and creating impeccable Italian food for more than three decades. Pellegrini’s relentless drive for culinary mastery continued while working alongside the best Italian chefs at acclaimed kitchens in Los Angeles and then to his present home of Las Vegas, Nevada. His most recent project is in partnership with fellow chef and cousin, David Ryan Brister, with the opening of Heavenly Pies, a small Italian restaurant in Southern Highlands. 

Pellegrini spent 17 years as the executive chef and partner of restaurateur Piero Selvaggio’s Valentino Las Vegas–formerly located within The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino. While at Valentino he earned the prestigious award for Best Chef Southwest by the James Beard Foundation in 2004. After the restaurant closed its doors, Pellegrino has focused on Dolcevita Gelato, a manufacturing company producing his artisanal gelato for wholesale distribution, as well as consulting for various restaurants in Las Vegas, California and Minnesota. 

Upon graduation from Le Cordon Bleu in Las Vegas, Brister spent time in his home state of Texas honing his culinary skills in Austin and Dallas. Brister returned to Vegas to work with Pellegrini at Dolcevita Gelato. Even in the time of COVID, this was an opportunity that made sense. Business partner and cousin Chef David Ryan Brister together with Pellegrini combine a dedicated love of skills and expertise in opening Heavenly Pies.

“I have known David since he was a boy, and I influenced his career,” said Pellegrini. “The opportunity was presented to him and we agreed it was too good to pass on it. We have to adapt during this time of COVID and look, there will be opportunities even in a crisis,” added Pellegrini.

The concept of Heavenly Pies is focused on Roman-style pizzas and a trattoria-style menu along with family meal packages offering pastas, salads, appetizers, entrees and desserts. Looking over the menu and after tasting many of the offerings we have to say that every item we sampled was authentic and made with the finest ingredients (many of them imported) which certainly pays homage to Pellegrini’s years of award-wining expertise with every bite. 

Start with items from the TRATTORIA MENU such as the rich, decadent Meatballs made with beef, veal and pork cooked in tomato sauce, served with fried polenta; or indulge in the Heavenly Wings. These tasty wings are oven roasted, fried and served with carrot, celery sticks and even homemade ranch. On the lighter side, the Heavenly Salad is a refreshing blend of mixed greens, salami, ham, provolone, olives, cucumbers and banana peppers all topped with mustard dressing.

For an excellent PRIMI selection you can’t go wrong with Pellegrini’s old school Nonna’s Lasagna and the Penne Granchio e Bottarga. This exceptional penne is sautéed with crab meat with a slight hint of citrus for the perfect bite. For a gluten free option, The Eggplant Parmigiana sauced and layered with oven roasted eggplant and house-made marinara then topped with mozzarella and parmesan is an ideal choice.

The SECONDI course suggests many dishes that can squelch any hunger guests may have. Traditional Marsala with fresh mushrooms is a nice way to start. Follow it up with a cast iron “Iberico Pork” solomillo and sausage nestled in oven-dried tomato and capers. These two dishes will bring a smile to your face and satisfy your cravings.  

Pizza is always a favorite and Heavenly Pies has many options to choose from or build your own. But if you have to choose one, the signature Heavenly Pizza with black truffle tomato, brie cheese, porcini mushrooms, roasted garlic, speck and escarole is distinctly out-of-this-world in taste and texture. Have a family and want to spoil them for the evening? Bring authentic Italian cuisine home to them. Call ahead and order the Veal Scaloppini dinner package with your choice of scaloppini, a large Heavenly Salad, side of asparagus, side of garlic knots and for the FINI four house-made desserts. 

Off-Strip dining is blossoming even in the age of COVID, currently bringing exceptional chefs, their staff and cuisine beyond the neon into the local neighborhood. Pellegrini and Brister are doing just that with their exceptional skills and perhaps a little help from above. Plan to arrive early as you may have to compete with an angel to get a seat at Heavenly Pies.