Photo by Erincooperphotography.com

We are happy to see a continuous trend of independent restaurant concepts emerging in the communities that surround the infamous Las Vegas Boulevard but that are by no means “on the Strip.” La Strega recently took over the former Due Forni space in Summerlin and has been delighting taste buds since its opening on February 27, 2019. We recently caught up with La Strega’s Sommelier, Stephanie Torres, to discuss the creation and maintenance of its wine program, as well as her perspective on being a woman in an industry that is still very male-dominated. 

Where did the concept for La Strega begin? 

It came from Gina Marinelli, the owner and chef. She wanted to highlight strong females in the best Italian light. La Strega means “the witch,” and she is essentially the caretaker for everyone. Gina wanted to exude that with the room, the food and our staff.  

La Strega would not be possible without Gina and her passion for cooking and wanting to preach the authenticity of Italy. What makes this restaurant extra special for me, is that I get to work with a best friend. We only hope that everyone who comes in can feel that dynamic and energy. Each night you can see us at the line chatting, yelling or laughing. It makes for a homey feeling.     

How long have you been working in the food and beverage industry? 

I have lived and worked in the food and beverage industry since I moved to Las Vegas in 1999. It is my passion and love. 

What has been your favorite part of being a woman in a male dominated career/industry?

The biggest thing for me was to break in and prove myself over the years. I truly believe this industry has evolved to become a “gender blind” environment and I have always believed that women have better palates for tasting wine than men anyway! 

What prompted you to join the La Strega team? 

Honestly, it was Gina’s passion for cooking and teaching. I love being a part of a chef/sommelier team that is focused on service and helping others in the industry grow. And.... she may have bribed me. 

How did you approach the creation of the wine list?  

I wanted to support the local community in every sense. I have worked with so many wine vendors over the years and it was important to me to give back to each one. I also listened to what the community of Summerlin wants to drink. 

The wine list is very personal to me. From the first vineyard I visited, to a place I spent time at in Italy, each and every bottle tells a story.  

What has most surprised you about the wine preferences of the Summerlin community?

I feel the community has been very open and excited about our wine list. I was a little scared it was too “cork dorky” for them but I have found that they love it. I get excited to make new additions to the list knowing that I’ll get to talk about them all night. I also keep certain regulars, and their preferences, in mind when making changes. 

How does this list differ from ones you have worked with on the Las Vegas Strip? 

I wanted to truly explain the story of myself and of Gina’s food. I love telling the stories behind the wines and their makers. Our wine list is very personal to Gina and me. A lot of love and hard work went into creating it.  

How often does your list change?

I am blessed to be able to print in-house, so the list typically changes a couple of times a week. 

Which dishes are the top standouts for you and which wines or varietals pair best with them?

Her Stracci pasta with beef cheek and wild mushroom paired with our Primitivo Concura is awesome. Our stuffed whole fish with lemon basil dill paired with Labor Wines Pinot Noir is off the charts as well.

What is your corkage policy and how did you determine what it would be? 

It is $12. I believe that it is super fair and enables people to bring in that special bottle they want to enjoy with our awesome food.  

Do you have any new promotions in the works? 

Yes! We are doing a happy hour, or aperitivo party, Tuesday through Friday from 3-5 p.m. On June 21, we are participating in the Guest Chef Takeover at the Las Vegas Ballpark. It will be great! We will do anything we can to get more involved in the community.  

If you had to choose a varietal that best exemplifies the personality of Chef Gina Marinelli, which would it be and why? 

Hands down primitivo. She is big and bold in her career as a chef but when you pull back the layers, there is a sweetness and that is what makes her awesome!  

La Strega, 3555 S. Town Center Drive

702-722-2099 

Open daily from 5 to 10 p.m.