Il Mulino is one of the Las Vegas restaurants least likely to be visited by locals. Not only is it on the Strip, it’s nestled into a corner on the third level of the Forum Shops. This classic New York Italian restaurant—there are nine all over the world, and the original landmark is notorious for being tightly packed and tough to book—has been perched up here for nine years now, serving lunch and dinner to shopping tourists looking for a little white-tablecloth refuge.
It’s not new, it’s not buzzed-about, and there’s no celebrity chef’s name attached, so perhaps Il Mulino seems like just another easy-to-admonish big Vegas restaurant. But there are small touches that make this experience worthwhile and, in fact, rather pleasant.
It’s easily accessed via Strip-side valet, just north of the main Caesars Palace entrance. The space is cozy but comfortable, surprisingly spacious. The service is stellar, starting with little dishes of garlic bread, salami, bruschetta, and slabs of cheese carved from a roving wheel of parmigiano-reggiano that hit the table as soon as you do, even before the menu arrives. A complimentary shot of house grappa will conclude your meal, which makes sense considering this is a place where sauces are poured and salads are prepped table-side, old school-style. Little things make a big difference.
While things can get pricey here, the food is mostly great and the portions are huge. We bypassed the classic caprese salad ($26) for a similarly priced special of silken burrata with golden tomatoes and red beets, a massive plate of fresh flavors. Another special really wowed, escargot-stuffed mushroom caps in a rich, buttery garlic sauce spiced with paprika. Other standout openers include beef carpaccio ($26) and a simple salad of baby arugula with olive oil, lemon, fresh pepper and shaved parmesan ($13).
Pastas are as steady as the service. Even sharing, you’ll never get through mountainous plates of rigatoni Bolognese ($26) or capellini with mushrooms and pancetta in vodka cream sauce ($26). There are plenty of risotto, chicken and seafood options, and lots of veal dishes, lead by the always decadent osso bucco ($52). Il Mulino executes shrimp dishes particularly well, such as spicy scampi fra diavalo ($39) and alla Romano ($38), giant, sweet shrimp topped with melted cheese over sautéed spinach. This is special occasion food, and this is a great place to enjoy it.
Il Mulino New York Forum Shops, 492-6000. Monday-Saturday, noon-2 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.; Sunday, 5-10 p.m.