The undisputed "MASTER OF BRUNCH' invites us to the new Ahern, and our notion of a boutique hotel experience flies out the window.

Stare long enough at the rosy exterior of Ahern Hotel and Events Center, and you might be able to spot the faded outlines of "Lucky Dragon". Once heralded as the first significant addition to the Strip in years, the Asian-themed Lucky Dragon hotel-casino (read about my creepy stay right here) quickly fell apart like a house made from chopsticks. But as we know, Vegas thrives on re-invention, and the once-shuttered failure is confidently coming back to life. So why do so few people know about it? 

Our goal at Vegas 411 is to keep you well informed on the happenings in and around the city, but a quick search through our archives reveals that we've had nothing to say about Ahern Hotel. Nothing! Well, that's about to change, thanks to an invitation from respected Chef Bruno Morabito. And what began as a brunch menu sampling turned into a full-fledged tour of the event center, along with peeks at future offerings and an insider scoop on intriguing plans. But that'll have to wait, as you're probably eager to learn about the food.

Vegas Unfiltered readers might recall my 2017 profile, in which I called Chef Morabito a "culinary superstar". Still, he's much better known as the Master of Brunch. It's a title that the Rochester NY native earned many years ago while at Venetian's world-famous Bouchon Bistro. A simple decision to excite the morning crowd with dishes like his signature "Chicken and Waffles" put Chef Bruno on the map, and he's been creating sizzling brunch fare ever since.

After building and promoting his menu at Westgate's Sid's Cafe, the colorful Italian was ready to add another adventure to a resume that includes Mandalay Bay's AUREOLE and GIADA at The Cromwell. A year ago he landed at the fledgling Trattoria by Chef Marc, and from what I've gathered, Chef Bruno has never been happier. 

Chef Bruno (right) enjoys creating in the massive centerpiece kitchen at Trattoria by Chef Marc

Photo courtesy of Ahern Hotel

"I felt like I was in prison," the outspoken, witty gentleman said of being limited and confined by a past professional environment. Clearly, those feelings have left the building as his latest employer has allowed Chef Bruno to unleash new creativity from within sparkling, massive kitchens. Designed at great expense, these cooking spaces have been carefully assembled by Chef Marc Sgrizzi's culinary team in anticipation of great things to come.

That's not to say that Trattoria by Chef Marc isn't already splendid. It is, in fact, fantastic. Mere seconds after entering, I could sense the vibrant energy surrounding and filling the room. Then I drank in the entrancing decor, which boasts unusual personal touches that make one feel excited just to sit down and peruse the menu. That's if you can steer your gaze away from a wine display that caused an audible gasp from my companion. 

Chef Marc Sgrizzi has been opening and operating restaurants around the Las Vegas Valley for over two decades. The fact that he decided to settle into Ahern Hotel says a lot about his faith in the property...and the possibilities it offers. Known for his passion and desire to elevate Italian dining, he's currently planning to re-open an Italian-influenced steakhouse (currently being renovated) directly above Trattoria. If it's even half as satisfying as our brunch, expect two dedicated followers from Day One. 

As my enthusiastic guest scanned the wine list, he commented on the wide variety of selections...and the extremely reasonable cost. I had been thinking the same thing about the dining options, as the prices for such delicious-sounding fare just two blocks from the Strip could be understandably lofty. Figure in free parking and a sumptuous atmosphere complimented by stellar service, and we came to the quick realization that Trattoria by Chef Marc is an absolute treasure waiting to be discovered. Then we took a few bites from a plate of fresh-baked pastries and the deal was sealed. 

Robotic "Eva" assists the server in delivering food hot from the kitchen.

The Master of Brunch came to our table and suggested that we each select a main dish, and informed us that he would be sending over a few additional plates to sample. Having participated in one of his previous tastings, I knew to expect an absolute cornucopia of morning favorites, all peppered and sweetened with Chef Bruno's unique touches. Take a look for yourself:

Breakfast pastries ($4 each) and The Fruit Plate ($12)

Daily special Chicken Fried Steak ($17) with eggs, breakfast potatoes, and country gravy

Crab Bennie ($18) with premium lump crab

Three Egg Omelets ($14) with choice of two items, potatoes and toast

Chicken and Waffles ($14) made with spicy boneless chicken, jalapeno bacon/chive waffle, topped with Mike's Hot Honey

Chicken Parmesan ($18)

The Orchard ($18) includes juice or coffee

Charcuterie Board ($21) with imported cheeses, cold cuts, and Mediterranean olives

Other exciting choices from the "Rise and Shine" section of brunch include Two Rivers Chophouse Steak and Eggs ($22), Strawberry Cheesecake Pancakes ($14), and Cornflake Crusted French Toast ($12). "Trattoria Specialties" like Baked Eggplant Parmesan ($18), Rigatoni Bolognese ($18) and a Half Pound Burger made from brisket beef blend ($15) offer more stick-to-your-ribs fare. 

For even more excitement, hop on board the Italian Brunch Adventure, a four-course meal served with a glass of mimosa or bellini. It includes a choice of Italian Cannoli or a trio of flavors from Trattoria's astounding gelato table. The price is only $40 per person, and it received rave reviews from fellow diners we spoke to on the way out. View the full brunch menu here

Weekday lunch is from 11 am to 2 pm. Dinner hours begin daily from 5 pm until 9 pm on weekdays and 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Brunch is served every Saturday and Sunday from 7 am through 2 pm. Weekday breakfast hours are from 7 am until 10:30 am and feature an astounding special of two eggs, bacon, and toast for only $2.99 from opening through 9 am. If that doesn't wake you up to the fact that Trattoria by Chef Marc is "Sin City's Biggest Secret", then nothing will.

Trattoria by Chef Marc is located on the main level of Ahern Hotel, 300 W. Sahara Avenue. Call 702-214-4950 for reservations or online by clicking here

Photo courtesy of Ahern Hotel

After our meal. Executive Sous Chef Joel Ott took us on the tour that I mentioned above and offered to have us back to experience the dinner menu. I'll also be reporting on an eventual stay at the newly-renovated Ahern Hotel, which not only offers free parking but no resort fee. There are 189 guest rooms, 14 suites, and a penthouse to choose from. 

AHERN HOTEL is located at 300 W. Sahara Avenue. Call 702-214-4800 for room reservations or visit their official website

All photos by Vegas 411 unless otherwise noted. 

Photo courtesy of Ahern Hotel

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