Celebrity Chef Carla Pellegrino Elevates Limoncello’s Cuisine

Since Chef Carla took over the kitchen, the menu has been gradually changing, with 80 percent of the menu now her creations

Chef Carla Pellegrino has made a name for herself as a culinary artist by excelling at every turn in her career, leading kitchens in Las Vegas, Miami and Los Angeles. Today, the “Top Chef” contestant has returned to our city as the partner/chef at Limoncello Fresh Italian Kitchen.

Chef Carla’s Background and Return to Las Vegas

One of Las Vegas’ most renowned chefs, Chef Carla, as she’s known to her friends and fans, was born in Brazil and raised in Italy. After graduating with honors from the French Culinary Institute in New York City, she went on to open and lead several top restaurants, including Baldoria in NYC’s Theater District; Rao’s (at Caesars Palace); Bacio (at Tropicana); Meatball Spot and Bratalian in Las Vegas; Touché Rooftop Restaurant in Miami; and Majestic Yosemite Hotel in Yosemite Valley, California.

Chef Carla Pellegrino, Executive Chef and Partner / Courtesy of Limoncello Fresh Italian Kitchen

Chef Carla was prompted to return to Vegas by her longtime friend Giuseppe Bavarese, who opened Limoncello with his wife Jenny in 2019. Regarding luring Chef Carla to the restaurant, Giuseppe says, “We have been friends for 12 years and I was always sending her somewhere else, so I decided why not have her here.” Chef Carla added, “There is nothing better than being a part of a family restaurant, and Giuseppe and Jenny Bavarese have created something truly special with Limoncello. I couldn’t be happier to join Limoncello in what has become my home, Las Vegas.” 

Giuseppe and Jenny Bavarese and Restaurant’s Name Origin

Jenny Bavarese is an optometrist by day and oversees various facets of the restaurant business, such as marketing. Giuseppe, who was born in Southern Italy and grew up in Germany, has logged more than 30 years as a restaurateur and serves as General Manager. This is the ninth restaurant he’s opened, following on the heels of Prosecco, which he sold his shares in before opening this venture.

The origin of the restaurant’s name is a bit comical. Giuseppe, when he first tried the Italian spirit of the same name, asked what it meant and was jokingly told it was a lemon playing a cello. Fittingly, this is exactly what you see when you view the Limoncello logo and sign. Giuseppe is working on extending the wine list, which currently boasts 150 labels and more than 3,000 bottles. More steaks are also being added to the repertoire, and the carnivore pleasures are being taken so seriously that the word steakhouse will soon be added to the sign out front.

Limoncello’s Dining Room Décor and Design

The 8,000-square-foot space was a Macayo’s (a Mexican restaurant) before the Bavareses purchased the building. When walking into the restaurant, the first thing you will see is Chef Carla’s chef’s jacket, for which in 2009 she was bestowed as the honoree of the “Women in Food” and “Best Pasta Recipe” honoree by the James Beard Foundation. It is just one of numerous accolades she has collected throughout her career.

Under the high ceilings of the main dining room is a spectacular black-and-white photographic collage of the Amalfi Coast. This alludes to the fresh fish displayed on ice underneath the artwork, which is brought in every two to three days. The fine dining restaurant’s design exudes a homespun warmth, with round brown pillars, a wine room with bottles on display, rich dark wood tables and chairs, an epoxy floor, and a faux olive tree strung with lights. 

How Chef Carla Refreshed the menu

Since Chef Carla took over the kitchen, the menu has been gradually changing, with 80 percent of the menu now her creations.

There are always several nightly specials, such as Chilean sea bass; Pappardelle Pasta with porcini mushrooms; Osso Buco; Charcuterie Board; and Arugula Salad with pear, candied walnuts and lemon dressing.

Pappardelle Pasta with porcini mushrooms

All-the-time menu stars include the Limoncello Salad made with heirloom tomato, sweet cucumber, avocado and mango drizzled with citron vinaigrette; Branzino Croccante—filet of Mediterranean sea bass roasted in a white wine butter citrus sauce; risotto of the day, which during our visit was loaded with shellfish; Whole Red Snapper with asparagus, roasted carrot and mashed potatoes; Gnocchi Norma—home-made potato dumplings sauteed with eggplant, grape tomatoes and marinara topped with fresh mozzarella; and carne options of Chicken Parm served with spaghetti, 8 oz. Center-cut Beef Filet Mignon with roasted wild mushroom in a Barolo reduction sauce and Pollo Milanese—chicken breast pounded and lightly breaded topped with heirloom tomato and arugula salad. 

Desserts worth saving room for include Tiramisu topped with Maraschino cherries, and Lava Cake with pears and raspberry paired with pistachio ice cream.

Tell me About the Wine and Cocktails

The aforementioned wine collection includes vintages mainly from Italy and California such as Bonanza by Caymus Cabernet and the Italian 2017 Tenuto di Nozzole Chianti Reserva (both available by glass or bottle). Specialty cocktails have their own creative flare with the likes of Limonata with Limoncello, Ramazotti Rosato, house lemonade mint and hibiscus-lime tincture.

Bar area at Limoncello

In regards to her future here, she says, “Las Vegas has always felt like home and I belong here. Giuseppe always asked me to do something with him and our goal now is to grow and become a restaurant group and open more places.”

Restaurant Deets

What: Limoncello Fresh Italian Kitchen

Where: 8245 W. Sahara Ave.

When: Open Sunday-Thursday 4:30-9:00 p.m. and Friday & Saturday 4:30-10:00 p.m.

Website: Limoncellolv.com

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