by jessica zivkovitch | October 28, 2014 | Food & Drink
Cake Boss Buddy Valastro draws crowds of thousands in Vegas. For one night, he and Venetian F&B director Sebastien Silvestri get away from the cameras (except ours).
Buddy Valastro and Sebastien Silvestri toast “to a great night in Vegas.”
When Buddy Valastro opened his first restaurant, Buddy V’s, one year ago, even Sebastien Silvestri, Venetian and Palazzo’s food and beverage director, was surprised at the line snaking through the resort to get a glimpse of the “Cake Boss.” When he opened Carlo’s Bakery, the Vegas iteration of his family’s 100-year-old Hoboken, New Jersey, business, across the corridor from Buddy V’s earlier this year, the resort had to double up on security. “The guy is a rock star,” Silvestri says of his friend. Of course, as the man in charge of food and drink in a 7,000-room resort stocked with more celebrity chefs than anywhere else on the Strip (or the world), Silvestri is hardly anonymous himself. When the two were craving some comfort food, we sent them to Joe Vicari’s Andiamo Steakhouse in the D—an old-school-style Italian restaurant by way of Detroit. Among the high-backed booths, white-jacketed waiters bring back VIP service for all, with classic steakhouse rituals like the tableside Caesar salad, plus meats sourced from Pat LaFrieda and Strauss Brands. Over a four-course meal washed down with a 2009 Angelo Gaja Barbaresco and the 2009 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia, the two open up about fame, food, and how to nail the restaurant experience.
Andiamo’s Caesar salad earns raves for more than just its tableside preparation.
How has it been to get such a tremendous reception in Las Vegas?
BUDDY VALASTRO: It’s been so surreal. I’ll never forget when I came out the first time. I was filming Bakery Boss and I took a flight that arrived at one o’clock in the morning. I go inside and I’m seeing the lights and I cried. That was one of the greatest feelings: I made it. I’m here. I’m in Las Vegas. I love the fans and I appreciate that they come to the bakery, to the restaurant, and everything that they do.
SEBASTIEN SILVESTRI: Everybody around the world knows that Buddy is the Cake Boss. I follow him on Instagram: 25,000 people showed up to see him at a mall in Brazil!
BV: And there were about 15,000 outside. They had to close the mall down!
SS: I have never seen anybody who can drive those types of numbers.
BV: Chefs always treat me so nicely, and they’re always like, “You’ve got to try every dessert on the menu!” That part is really cool! And it’s very humbling. But the show has become a lot more than that. The original goal was to make my bakery a household name. That was the promise I made to my father when I was 16. A lot of times my show helps people through hard times. You don’t know how many Make-A-Wish kids I see or people who have been in the hospital who were excited about the show because it reminded them of home.
The waiter brings a roasted beet salad with orange tarragon vinaigrette and prepares the caesar salad.
Beet salad with orange tarragon vinaigrette.
So, the original Caesar is attributed to an Italian immigrant who ran restaurants in Tijuana during Prohibition. Cultural appropriation is what Vegas does so well. How do you think they’re doing it here at Andiamo?
BV: Honestly, the Caesar salad is phenomenal. It’s very well balanced, and you cannot beat watching it made tableside. There’s this misconception with the anchovies in Caesar salad that you can taste it, but it’s a unique type of flavor profile....
SS: I love it.
BV: And they have omega-3s. I need more salad. It’s so good. The beet salad is really good, too. It isn’t trying to be froufrou Italian. This is something we’re trying to do: Spaghetti and meatballs are what people think of when they think of Italian, so why not make it?
SS: And make it great!
Handmade pastas arrive: agnolotti and tortellaci.
Andiamo’s famous osso buco.
BV: When I was 16, me and my dad were looking in a bridal magazine, and he said to me, “Can you imagine one day if our wedding cakes were in a bridal magazine?” About two years after he died, a writer featured one of our cakes in Modern Bride. I was in that same magazine every single issue for years straight…. Food Network called one day and said they did this cake competition show and asked if I would compete in it. And then I did a bunch of them. And then one day they said they wanted to do a cake show....
SS: Before the show, you were already in the bakery business for a hundred years. Was it all local bakeries in New Jersey?
BV: Mostly New York and New Jersey, and now I’ve been all over. California, Mexico, Canada, Dubai! Discovery [Channel] is all over the world, and the one show they have everywhere is Cake Boss because it does so well.
Do you think it’s because everyone loves dessert, or is it you?
BV: I think it’s the family, and people can relate no matter where you go. I mean, the cakes are amazing, but people know that I’m real. If you see me on television, I’m the same guy. My parents raised me that way.
Valastro has a 24-ounce long bone Tomahawk rib eye with handmade gnocchi, and Silvestri has a 16-ounce bone-in filet with lobster risotto.
SS: We should take that bone with us.
Ryan Lochte is a friend of yours, Sebastien, and he comes to Andiamo to have a place where he’ll be taken care of and can dine in peace.
SS: Vegas is so small, and I love it because you have all your friends all around town, but I don’t think that I have any privacy anymore. But it’s okay. I’ve been here for 10 years, and of all of the places I’ve lived, it is my favorite because the energy is unbelievable. People are driven. They work. It’s a young town. People can succeed and do well.
BV: This is a great pick. I would never have known to come here unless you invited me. It’s all about creating experiences for people, no matter who they are. If you deliver a good experience, that’s what’s important.
photography by sabin orr