Executive Chef Miguel Rivera. photos courtesy Il Mulino

The huge influx of Italian immigrants who landed in bustling New York City in the late 1800s and early 1900s established, over time, an abundance of restaurants there that continued the many great food and wine traditions from the “old country.”

By contrast, Las Vegas was a sleepy little town in the middle of the Mojave Desert until 1931, when work began on what was then called the Boulder Dam. As the dam’s workforce increased, a market was created for large scale entertainment for the men.

In the late 1940s, many mobsters saw the potential offered by gaming in Las Vegas, and that ushered in what would become a large Mafia-related presence here. Though the Mob influence has long since vanished, it’s still somewhat surprising that today we don’t have more restaurants embracing that ethnic heritage.

But I can assure you that outstanding Italian cuisine is, indeed, alive and well here, and can be experienced merely by visiting the third floor of the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. That’s where Il Mulino (flour mill, or grinding mill in Italian) has been providing discerning diners with food that’s as delicious and authentic as any I’ve found in Italy.

Il Mulino’s flagship restaurant was founded over 30 years ago in New York City’s Greenwich Village and featured the finest cooking from Italy’s Abruzzo region. The restaurant flourished, and now boasts multiple locations throughout the Big Apple, Florida, Atlantic City, Las Vegas and even Puerto Rico.

As more and more acclaimed chefs from around the country and the world have decided that they need to become part of our unparalleled fine dining scene, we have welcomed the arrival of many notable restaurants from other cities. 

In 2004, General Manager Patrick Littlejohn and Executive Chef Miguel Rivera were sent from Il Mulino’s New York City’s restaurants to open its beautiful, new 120-seat Las Vegas location. They’re both still here, fifteen years later, and 65 percent of the staff has been with them over 10 years.

Though the restaurant’s main dining room seats 120, which is small compared to many others, it seems even more intimate due to the ambiance created by its dimmed lighting and classic, club-like atmosphere. There also is private room seating for smaller groups, and dining on their outdoor balcony offers attractive views up and down the Strip. GM Littlejohn confided that the restaurant shortly is going to expand to an available room next door, which will then allow them to increase substantially their ability to accommodate private parties.

But the attractive surroundings are only a prelude to your enjoyment of an outstanding meal. If wine will contribute to your enjoyment, you will want to peruse Il Mulino’s very extensive offerings, which thoroughly cover all the wine growing regions of Italy. 

The wine list includes White Wines Italy (divided into Piedmont, Trentino, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Le Marche, Veneto, Alto Adige, Toscana, Campania, Sicily and Sardinia and Abruzzi); a short list of White Wines of the World; Il Mulino Private Cellar Red Wines (including Tuscany and Super Tuscans); Red Wines of Italy (Piedmont, Umbria and Tuscany); and Il Mulino Private Cellar Red Wines (Abruzzi, Sardegna, Sicily, Veneto, Piedmont, Super Piedmontese, Alto Adige, Lombardia, Le Marche, Basilicata, Puglia, Molise and Fruili-Venezia-Giulia).

If you prefer to stay “a little closer to home,” the list of Red Wines of America includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Zinfandel and Meritage. For larger parties, you may consider the selection on the Il Mulino Large Bottle Reserve List, which covers Piedmont, Alto Adige, Tuscany and Napa Valley.

The wine list concludes with Dessert and Port Wines, Grappa, Sparkling Wine and a large number of Wines by the Glass.

Choosing what to eat also presents many difficult choices, with appetizers ranging from a beautiful carpaccio to clams or scampi oreganata, fresh baby octopus salad, escargot mushroom caps and baby eggplant rolatini. 

Pasta dishes are numerous, and include cappellini with a fresh selection of seafood, and homemade ravioli stuffed with porcini mushrooms. Also, you won’t want to ignore the baked branzino, Dover sole mueniere or the huge Italian langoustines.

Beef selections include their top specialty, classic veal osso bucco, a beautifully presented bone-in “tomahawk-style” veal chop, veal Milanese and rack of lamb cooked in Barolo wine.

And if you still have room and need something to satisfy your “sweet tooth,” the many delicious selections on the dessert menu won’t disappoint. A few of the standout choices are the classic tiramisu, flourless chocolate cake, zabaglione with marsala wine and fresh berries and a delicious trio of cheesecake, tiramisu and flourless chocolate cake.

Your visit to Il Mulino will reinforce your appreciation for delicious Italian cuisine. Mangia!