Scott Conant (who is equally comfortable wearing the hats of ‘chef,’ ‘author,’ and ‘restaurateur’) is known for a number of things; but as far as I’m concerned it really comes down to delicious stick-to-your-bones pastas, terrific preparations of fresh seafood, and restaurants where every guest who enters is treated as a friend, worthy of one of Conant’s celebrated hugs.
The charming culinarian who now splits his time between kitchens in sunny climbs and resort destinations, originally captivated savvy New York palates in the ‘90s and early '00s – by reviving the old-school haunts, Barolo in SoHo, and Chianti on the Upper East Side (1996), and serving as executive chef at City Eatery on the Bowery (2000) – then endeared himself to an even greater audience in the mid-aughts, by opening L’Imperio in Tudor City (2004), and Alto in Midtown (2005), before debuting Scarpetta in Chelsea (2008).
Now, a survey of Conant’s kingdom begins in Phoenix, Arizona, home to Conant’s Mora Italian, (and to Chef Conant, himself). A quick hop to LA brings you to West Hollywood, California – where foodies flock to The Pointe Ristorante, Conant’s chic collab with restaurateur Stephane Bombet. Back East, in Monticello, New York (in the Catskill Mountains) is Cellaio – Conant’s take on the Italian steakhouse. And in Las Vegas, Nevada (where Conant is more ‘local’ than not), is Masso Osteria, at Summerlin’s tony Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa.
It’s at Masso Osteria that Conant really lets loose with the seeming nonchalance known as sprezzatura* that he so adores. Whether it’s the pastas, the pizzas, or the seafood; there’s some form of Italian deliciousness for whatever you’re craving.
As far as I’m concerned, no meal at Masso should begin without the Recco Style Garlic Bread. Crispy, garlicky, and filled with ooey-gooey Stracchino (a young, rindless, Italian cows-milk cheese); this is no mere garlic bread, and seeing two orders at one table is not uncommon.
There are actual books dedicated to the ways in which Conant has modernized pasta; so far be it for me to reinvent the written wheel, as it were. But I will say this – when I have a hankering for pasta, just a great noodle, and a delicious sauce; I go straight to Masso and order a plate of the Pasta al Pomodoro in the Chef’s Signature Sauce. What’s in said sauce, you might ask? Well, tomatoes, to start; and butter: Lots, and lots of butter. But damned if it isn’t just the carb-loaded cure for whatever ails you.
Now, I’m gonna do something I don’t normally do; start kvelling over a fish dish. As I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions over these past decades, maintaining a pear-shaped physique such as mine does not come from eating healthy things like fish. Frankly, if not for the occasional foray into Fish & Chips or Fried Clams, I might never eat seafood.** Then, a weirdly wonderful thing happened, when – on a recent visit to Masso Osteria – my dinner companion ordered the Sea Bream.
As I’m in no way a pescatarian, I wasn’t quite sure what Sea Bream was; though, once my friend explained that it was the same Dorade I’ve been enjoying in bouillabaisse for years, I was willing to sample hers. Well, you could’ve knocked me over with a feather, because when I took a bite of Chef Conant’s Sea Bream – a whole fish, serve butterflied, in a light summery sauce of Lemon, Capers, and Olive Oil, served over a Roasted Kale Salad – it turned-out to be a succulent and juicy white fish that was teeming with freshness.
I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that the following week, when my dad and I were looking for something light, I suggested Masso Osteria, based on the Sea Bream; and ordered it (with the Recco Style Garlic Bread) as my dinner.
And lest I’ve led you to believe that it wasn’t a terrifically healthy dish (which knowing me would be absolutely fair, on your part), I did a deep-dive on the Gilt-Headed Bream, and found that in addition to being a fantastic source of high-quality protein, it’s filled with all sorts of vital nutrients, including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, Vitamins B9 and B12, potassium, and folic acid (though my hair hasn’t been any fuller, of late). Further, I learned that the meat stays so moist because of a layer of fat located between the skin and the flesh (which is also why the skin tastes so good). So, yay me for eating healthily (insomuch as I’m able); and thanks to Scott Conant for making it so tasty that I actually look forward to doing so, again!
Masso Osteria by Scott Conant
Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa
Click HERE for info
Get into it!
[Editor’s Notes: * ‘Seeming’ is the operative word, as the actions of courtiers and noblemen were never supposed to appear rehearsed or affected. The famed dandy, Beau Brummell, took the concept to its extreme, spending hours in front of his mirror, famously tying and retying his cravat, to make it look as though he’d tied it once, effortlessly, almost like an afterthought // ** There are exceptions, of course... Alan Wong’s Ginger-crusted Onaga, for instance; and, being Jewish, I’m certainly no stranger to a great Bagel with Lox and Cream Cheese (nor, sadly, to far too many not-so-great ones).]