Bobby Flay‘s wildly popular Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace played a major role in dining developments on the Las Vegas Strip. But times change, and the casino and restaurant partners decided to close Mesa Grill to make way for the celebrity chef’s very first Italian concept, Amalfi. We caught up with Flay to discuss his inspirations and influences.
How significant is it to open this restaurant now and play a significant role in the post-pandemic comeback of Las Vegas dining?
Timing is everything. We designed the restaurant virtually during the quarantine days and started construction about five months ago and just brought it to life. The week we started serving was very exciting.
Did you bring the Amalfi concept to Caesars Palace or did the resort ask for an Italian restaurant?
It was the perfect storm in the best way. Our partners at Caesars asked me what I wanted to do next and I explained how I had become obsessed and passionate about Italy in the last few decades and spent a ton of time there, and they told me they were looking to do more fish at Caesars. I told them it sounds like we have a good deal here because I’m a huge fan of the Amalfi Coast and I just spent time there last summer, and they said, let’s do it.
Were there specific dishes you discovered during your travels that inspired the concept and cuisine at this new restaurant?
The fish market in general is the centerpiece of the cuisine there, and that is a big influence. On the Amalfi Coast, the fruits of the sea get paired with local vegetables and handcrafted pastas, and that’s what the restaurant in Las Vegas is really about. But specifically, I would say the bufala mozzarella grilled in the lemon leaves is a definitely a direct influence, and also the scialatielli pasta with scampi sauce; that noodle is a classic Amalfi Coast technique. The zucchini pasta with shishito pesto is a play off of something called spaghetti Nerano, and I was taught the basis of that dish by a chef of a restaurant called Lo Scoglio in Nerano.
It must have been difficult to say goodbye to Mesa Grill, one of the most popular restaurants ever on the Las Vegas Strip.
Yeah, it’s one of those things. We opened the original Mesa Grill in New York in 1991 and we had Mesa Grill in Las Vegas for 16 years. It was an amazing chapter but I don’t think the chapter is closed. I think Mesa 2.0 is probably in the future at some point because it’s just been such a big part of my career and it’s an important cuisine to me. I look forward to possibly taking a new approach to Mesa in the future in Las Vegas.
You also opened a quick-serve location of Bobby’s Burgers at the Forum Food Hall at Caesars Palace recently, which seems like a great fit.
It’s been great. Obviously it’s a more casual, value-oriented concept, just burgers and fries and shakes and a fried chicken sandwich. But we’ve had a line through the food court since the day we opened.
Amalfi, Caesars Palace, 866.733.5827
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