Making sense of Mezzo
The Italian menu is tough to tackle—because everything tastes so good
Thu, Jun 25, 2009 (midnight)
Photo: Beverly Poppe
It’s difficult to order at Mezzo Bistro Italiano, a too-nice-for-its-neighborhood restaurant on North Rancho Drive at Craig Road. There’s a Kmart across the street, a car wash around the way, a liquor store and a Fatburger nearby. But the working-class shopping-center surroundings are not the cause for this indecision.
It’s the chalkboard. Posted high on the wall next to the kitchen in a quaint and comfortable dining room, all Tuscan’d out with wooden chairs, smooth brown tones and a long wine bar, is the specials board, and everything on it is pretty damn good. There’s probably a steak option, a fresh fish, a pasta and an appetizer that breaks away from the mostly Southern Italian menu at Mezzo. From the board, we’ve sampled a delicate seared tuna, a rich salmon in a bright vodka sauce, a petite filet with a rich gorgonzola sauce and a soulful veal Saltimbocca. One menu mainstay now unfortunately absent is the pasta Pappardelle, a delicate layered creation with wild-boar ragu. If you’re lucky, it’ll reappear on the chalkboard.
- 4275 N. Rancho Drive, Suite 130, 944-8880.
- Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 4-10 p.m.
- Suggested dishes: wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, $12; eggplant parmesan, $14; pasta Pappardelle, $18; Tuscan pork tenderloin, $18.
Complicating things further is the consistency of the regular menu. You can go light with a basil-heavy Caprese salad or organic beet salad with sherry vinaigrette, and sew it up with some of the best Neapolitan-style pizza in town. (Mezzo serves the best thin-crust north of Sahara Avenue.) All these little pizzas are wonderful, baked in a super-hot wood-burning oven just long enough to caramelize the paper-thin, homemade crust. The Calabrese has salami and hot peppers, but check out the Parma: prosciutto and sliced figs.
Chef/owner Marc Sgrizzi has some longtime family recipes on the menu, like his dad’s double-thick bone-in pork chop spiced up with hot and sweet peppers and wild mushrooms, and a unique eggplant parmesan that crisps up perfectly even though it’s not breaded. Tradition and authenticity is important to the chef; when he opened Mezzo in March 2008, he had recently changed his last name from Ritz to the original family name after a trip to Calabria to strengthen his roots. Before that, the former boxer made his Vegas debut in 2000 with Marc’s World Cuisine on West Lake Mead Boulevard. After shape-shifting that restaurant into a steady Italian steakhouse, he sold it in 2006. Under different ownership, Marc’s survived until earlier this year. But Sgrizzi seems more comfortable at Mezzo, and his menu is more focused.
Mezzo also boasts one of the strongest wine lists in the area; perhaps only Pip’s at Aliante Station is competitive. Happy hour specials, wine flights and couples’ night—30 percent off select bottles on Saturdays—only reinforce the family- or date-friendly mood at Mezzo.
Oh yeah, dessert … if you’re looking for a new guilty pleasure, it’s called Pizza Fritte here: butter-drenched homemade dough bits, fried crispy on the outside and cloud-puffy inside, dusted in powdered sugar. A big dish of these is highly unnecessary but highly addictive.