Carla Pellegrino in the kitchen at Bacio by Carla Pellegrino
In less than a year, Carla Pellegrino has gone from running the kitchen at Rao’s to a divorce from owner Frank and the opening of her own spot, Henderson’s homey Bratalian (after her nickname). A few short months later, she premiered Bacio by Carla Pellegrino in the newly revamped Tropicana. Catching up with this busy Brazilian/Italian powerhouse wasn’t easy.
You've gone from running one restaurant to two—you must be exhausted. CARLA PELLEGRINO: It was a crazy year, one full of hard decisions and challenges. Of course I’m exhausted. But I’m also happy to go home at the end of the day and enjoy that “mission accomplished” feeling.
What's it like being part of the resurgence of a classic Las Vegas property? CP: The Tropicana invitation was one of the best things that happened to me at this point of my life. I immediately connected the project to my personal life; both are a new beginning.
How does Bacio's menu differ from what you were doing at Rao's? CP: I left behind the family’s signatures dishes.
What's with the underwear hanging from the ceiling at Bratalian? CP: No, it’s not mine! The main streets of Naples are vividly adorned with its people’s laundry hanging happily everywhere. I just wanted to bring that side of Italy into my Neapolitan cantina.
Why isn't Brazilian food more popular in the United States? CP: I wish I knew. It’s a sin. Brazilian food is amazing and unfortunately badly represented in the States.
You're Italian and Brazilian. Where do you rate on the chef-tantrum-throwing scale? CP: On a scale of zero to 10… a 10! I am passionate and feisty. But as loud as I get, I never hold on to any resentments. Once I explode, all is forgotten three minutes later.
With so many Italian restuarants, how can you tell a good one? CP: Good Italian food should be light, fresh and not garlicky—exactly the opposite of what some people believe.
What are some of your favorite wines? CP: Red only at home; I hate the dark lips that red wine prints. My favorite white is La Scolca Gavi dei Gavi Black Label, and for special occasions I love Peter Michael Chardonnay.
What's it like to cook with your sister (Bratalian's chef de cuisine Alessandra Madeira)? CP: I couldn’t have opened Bratalian if she hadn’t moved to Vegas. I just love my little sis!
Is this it for a while? CP: Right now I need to focus on my newborn babies (Bratalian and Bacio), plus I want to be able to rest and catch up with my personal life, perhaps even take a short vacation. Then we’ll see. I like the idea of a Brazilian restaurant…. I will never stop!
Finally, who does your hair? (My girlfriend insisted I ask....) CP: Stuart Matthew from Aria’s Salon. He has owned my hair for about four years. He’s very talented!