Larry Forgione, one of modern American cuisine's true trailblazers, has decided to leave New York to take over a restaurant at Wynn Las Vegas. An American Place is scheduled to open in September at the 2,700-room hotel tucked away off the Tower Suites lobby in what currently houses Tableau.
Forgione opened An American Place in New York in 1983. It was one of the seminal restaurants in the incipient new American cuisine movement that started in the 1970s. That restaurant closed five years ago, but he opened An American Place in St. Louis the following year with a new partner, and later one in New York at the main Lord & Taylor store. But his contract for that ends this year, along with the eight Lord & Taylor Signature Cafés he was operating. That left him open to considering a move to Las Vegas, where upscale dining continues to do well despite the grunting economy.
After several trips to Las Vegas, he came away impressed with what's happening at Wynn. "I saw the quality of ingredients they were getting, and I could see how I could get my network of farmers and suppliers in Las Vegas just as well as I could in New York," Forgione said by telephone. "I've already started setting up some of the farmers I know."
Wynn requires chefs to move to Las Vegas to run their restaurants, rather than leaving it to associates. The strategy paid off, with the hotel offering some of the freshest and best dining in a town full of great restaurants. Among the stars: Alex Stratta at Alex, Paul Bartolotta at Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare and Richard Chen at Wing Lei. (Stratta, incidentally, recently took over Corsa Cucina, the casual Italian spot at Wynn.)
A chef shuffle opened a spot for Forgione. The 2,000-room Wynn Encore, scheduled to open in December next door, needs to fill five new restaurant slots. Mark Lo Russo, the chef at Tableau, will fill one of those spots. The existing Tableau will soon close and be remodeled as Forgione's restaurant.
Marc Poidevin, Wynn's executive chef for catering and special events, will get one of the other spots at Encore. Poidevin came to Las Vegas in 1998 to oversee the kitchens of Le Cirque and Osteria Del Circo at Bellagio. That leaves a signature restaurant, an Asian restaurant and an upscale breakfast-lunch-and-dinner spot still chef-less at Encore. "We're still working on it," said my source at Wynn. The clock is ticking.
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