Enoteca San Marco
St. Mark’s Square
The Venetian Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, NV

Blood Orange Cosmo
Fritelli di Prosciutto
Fiore di Zucca
Grilled Pork Chop
with sweet peppers and capers
Pennette alla Norma
with tomato, eggplant, and ricotta
Chocolate malt, cheesecake, and pumpkin gelati

Enoteca, pl. enoteche, is an Italian word, formed by analogy with biblioteca (“book repository, library”), which literally means ”wine repository” (from Oeno/Eno- “wine,” and –teca Θήκη, “receptacle, case, box”), but is used to describe a special type of local or regional wine shop that originated in Italy.

OK, so now we know what an enoteca is. Unfortunately, we didn’t go there for the wines, even though the wine menu boasted 100 wines for under $100, and with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich at the helm, I am not really surprised.

First of all, even the paper placemats amused me. Mine taught me basic Italian conversation (“Ciao. Mi chiamo ________.” Et cetera.) and DH’s taught him the visual appearance and defining characteristics of about 16 different types of Italian salume. The meal began with two slices of rustic bread wrapped up like a gift in Enoteca San Marco paper, with pre-packaged/store bought imported Italian grissini on the side. We stuck to the rustic bread, which was a little charcoaled for my taste and let the grissini go their merry way back wherever they came from.

We began our meal by splitting a Blood Orange Cosmo (I am in love with blood oranges, ever since a particularly heady few days on the Amalfi Coast a half-dozen years ago, and DH indulges me) and ordering two fritti, or fried items, from the menu of antipasti — prosciutto balls (not unlike meatballs, really) and squash blossoms, something I tried once in Florence years ago and hadn’t had since. The fritelli di prosciutto were, in my opinion, far too salty and dry — I feel like something should have been done to let diners tone down the intensity of the tastes, even if it was to offer a small dish of good homemade tomato & basil marinara on the side to moisten them up with. The fiore di zucca were deliciously stuffed and piping hot fresh from the fryer, and not at all greasy, although I found them rather too bitter to be called perfect.

The grilled pork chop seemed perfectly done, though DH said it had a little spice the crept up on the palette — not entirely sure, because the bite I had seemed succulent and fine. I did not try the sweet peppers and capers that accompanied the chop, as the capers looked suspiciously more like olives than capers.

The pennette alla Norma were tender and dainty, and delicious. The diced eggplant was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the ricotta (three dollops that began to melt, seductively, in to the pasta) added just that extra punch to the dish.

Let me tell you, my friends, about gelati. I love gelato. It is creamy and delicious and it never really goes wrongly. The Enoteca San Marco offers one, two, or three flavours of gelato all for the same price at dessert (I think that as long as it fits in the same bowl, they don’t care how many flavours you cram in there — you just get smaller portions of each flavour with the more flavours you order).  From the half-dozen flavours on offer, we chose chocolate malt (my pick), cheesecake (DH’s pick), and pumpkin (a joint venture). The chocolate malt was a little too dark for DH’s preference, and the cheesecake, though singularly cheesecaky, was not my favourite, but we both agreed that the pumpkin was to die for. Properly pumpkiny and not over-sweet — less like Thanksgiving pie and more like the squash itself. The way the gelati were arranged in the dish, we were presented with three flavour combinations along the “borderlines” — chocolate/cheesecake, pumpkin/cheesecake, and chocolate/pumpkin. Delicious alone or in combination — save room for dessert at the Enoteca San Marco. I’m not sure if the pumpkin was a year-round flavour or a seasonal flavour, so if you aren’t visiting in the fall, it may not be available. Pumpkin fans, cross your fingers and hope for the best.