Winning at the Tables in Las Vegas

Times Staff Writer

Dining in Las Vegas has always been, at least for me, like a game of roulette. I've always lost, except when eating deli at Caesars or the wonderful poached eggs and omelets at the Country Club coffee shop at the Desert Inn. And, oh yes, the cheesecake. Nobody has better cheesecake west of the Hudson River than that found universally in Las Vegas, and don't ask me why.

But this time around, we followed up the recommendations of Don Payne of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce News Bureau who assured us that Las Vegas dining is picking up. The wasteland, he said, has developed a few blossoms. Was he on the dime? We tossed the dice.

Bingo. Manfredi's Limelight restaurant and lounge hit the jackpot. And don't be fooled by the name. The Limelight is a continental restaurant discovering its true personality--a Sicilian restaurant with some of the best homemade, home-cooked pasta you'll find anywhere, including Los Angeles. It's also one of the most sincere places I've encountered in a long time. That alone should qualify Limelight for special enshrinement in Las Vegas.

The food is honest, too. I loved my spaghetti and meatballs Sicilian style, and the homemade ravioli and fettuccine were outstanding when I had them fresh off the press. Just wish Manfredi and Nona, his 85-year-old mom, would make them daily to serve fresh instead of fresh-freezing those to be served later. A fresh-frozen batch I tried on another day was not cooked enough. The fried calamari rings were very fresh and crisp (i.e. the oil in which they were cooked was fresh). The sauces were excellent, much lighter than expected, and the good friendly service was heartwarming. Suggest also you try to meet the family members. Nice people.

Manfredi's Limelight restaurant and lounge, 2340 E. Tropicana, Suite 35, Las Vegas; (702) 739-1410. Open for dinner 4:30 to 11 p.m. seven days. Major credit cards accepted. Reservations suggested. Adequate mall parking. Average entree: $11.

Andre's was touted as the best French restaurant in Las Vegas, and, for Las Vegas, perhaps it is. It's not inexpensive ($21.25 for dover sole, $22.50 for filet of beef au poivre vert.)

Apart from that, you can tell that host-chef Andre M. Rochat, although not on hand on the busiest weekend of the year--Memorial Day--tries hard to please. A converted Tudor home has been provincialized with lace tablecloths and a lot of country knickknacks, but the waiters wear tuxedos.

The food is of fairly good quality, and except for the shock of finding margarine mixed with butter served with the bread, the menu is without surprises: Feuillete de fruits de mer (seafood in puff pastry), vichyssoise froide, cuisses de grenouille Provencales (frog legs) and medaillons de veau aux morilles (veal with morels). The wine list is extensive.

Andre's French restaurant, 401 South 6th St., Las Vegas; (702) 385-5016 or (702) 385-5017. Open for dinner 6 to 10 p.m. seven days. Major credit cards accepted. Reservations advised. Valet parking available. Average entree: $20.

Port Tack, is a casual, limp-in-from-the-slot-machines, fish, steak and ribs place with a sailing theme, which may soothe. The steaks are not bad, the ribs, although somewhat overly vinegared, were fine, and fish was all right.

The salad bar, when we tried it, appeared as if it hadn't been attended to in 24 hours (the length of time the place is open). The help, although cordial, was s-l-o-w and the outside entry looked like the one I imagine at Alcatraz.

Although I wasn't crazy about the place or the food, I still think that for a 24-hour place, this one might offer a change of pace from the bells, yells and pell-mell.

Port Tack, 3190 W. Sahara, Las Vegas; (702) 873-3345. Open 24 hours seven days. Major credit cards accepted. Reservations for parties of five or more taken. Valet parking on premises. Average entree: $11.

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