photos by Steve Legato

After years of working in the best kitchens in the United States and Italy, Chef Marc Vetri and business partner, Jeff Benjamin, opened Vetri Cucina in their hometown of Philadelphia in 1998. Vetri Cucina prides itself on offering rustic Italian cuisine, handcrafted pastas, innovative flavor combinations and unparalleled hospitality. This fall, Vetri and Benjamin are launching their second location at the Palms Casino Resort with its grand opening slated for November 19. The restaurant’s brand-new wine program is being curated by Rafael Garcia, Director of Wine, who recently took some time to chat with us about the process. 

What most excites you about this new restaurant?

Chef Marc Vetri’s cuisine, his commitment to exceptional service, “The Vetri Culture” and the dining room’s panoramic view of the Las Vegas Strip.

Vetri’s Company Culture Book states that “since opening Vetri Cucina’s doors in 1998, Chef Marc Vetri has created a unique culture and outlook for our co-workers so that they can be proud of their team and love coming to work every day. We care deeply about everyone on our team and want to give you every tool that you need to succeed. This is a nurturing environment where you can make mistakes and not be put down for them. We like to think that mistakes and missteps are an opportunity to learn and grow. You will notice an exciting energy where we work hard and invest a significant amount of time in you to ensure your happiness at Vetri Cucina. We understand that there will be challenges and obstacles that you will face daily, but we want to approach these daily events together.” 

What was the path that led you to this opportunity?

The journey to this incredible opportunity began in 2012 when I started working at B&B Ristorante. There I worked with a very authentic Italian menu and a wine list that was almost exclusively Italian.  After almost two years at B&B and a brief stint at BLT Steak, I joined the team at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon where I refined my wine and food pairing skills. The experience at both restaurants makes for a perfect transition into an international wine list that is driven by Italian wines.

Do you have any favorite pairings you can share from the menu?

The Borgogno Dolcetto d’Alba with the onion crepe. The kitchen team reduces 50 pounds of onions to 4 pounds and then a two-day cooking process caramelizes and concentrates the flavors of the onion. The freshness of the fruit in the Dolcetto brightens and amplifies the rich earthy flavors of the onion crepe. 

Did you inherit inventory for your wine program or are you having to start from scratch? 

We are starting from scratch.

What is the most difficult thing about building a wine list from the ground up?

Ensuring a balance of regions, vintages, styles, flavor profiles and price points. 

How many selections are you aiming to have at opening?

We will begin with approximately 380 selections.

What will be your process in maintaining such a substantial list?

I plan to continuously meet with vendors and visit winemakers in order to find wines from unique regions, innovative winemakers and library selections. 

Are you approaching buying for this program differently than you would for a restaurant on the Strip?

Honestly, no. My approach is always to feature the best and most interesting wines available at varying price points.

We noticed that the original location only has a tasting menu. Will you continue this same concept? 

We will open with an a la carte menu but will offer a tasting menu in the future.

Although we have not been allowed a sneak peek at the actual space, we have been assured that it will be well worth the wait. For more information about this exciting new restaurant, visit https://vetricucina.com/vegas