Chef’s mantra: Never lose touch with your style

Carla Pellegrino owns Bratalian, which closed for a brief time after a car crashed into the building.

Carla Pellegrino’s restaurant Bratalian closed last year for a few months after a car crashed into it. The dining room was reconstructed and the booths were traded out for banquettes. After new walls and windows were installed and a fresh coat of paint applied, the locals favorite reopened and returned focus to the traditional Italian dishes Pellegrino loves.

Tell us about your restaurant.

Bratalian is an authentic Italian Neapolitan cantina. Our goal is to be more than a restaurant by offering a time and a place that connects everyone to their roots, so it feels like home.

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

I have been cooking since I was 10 years old. I’m not sure when or if I have ever dreamed about becoming a chef; it just happened naturally. We all start as a learner, and experience and grow; the natural path is to become a leader, then in my case, become an executive chef. It literary happened when I decided to go to the French Culinary Institute in New York City and gain the professional know-how needed to open a restaurant in the theater district in Manhattan. The restaurant, Baldoria, opened in 2000 on 49th Street and was a joint venture with my former husband, Frank Pellegrino Jr.


• Address: 10740 S. Eastern Ave., Suite 155

• Phone: 702-454-0104

• Email: [email protected]

• Website:

• Hours and days of operation: 5-10:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 5-10 p.m. Sunday

• Owned/operated by: Carla Pellegrino

• In business since: 2011 (reopened in 2016)

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Carla Pellegrino doesn't believe in "fusion" food, she says, preferring to serve traditional Italian fare, though she has some Brazilian influences, owing to her childhood.

You were born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. How does that influence your culinary creations?

I moved to Italy when 14, so I was raised and got a real passion for food in Italy. I do cook Brazilian and Portuguese food very well and I cook French from my school background, but I opt for Italian food because it is my passion. Obviously, I have eclectic influences and stronger old-school views of cuisines. I do not believe in fusion cuisines; therefore, I keep all my food as pure and traditional as possible.

You’ve been on the local culinary scene for more than a decade. How has the dining experience in Las Vegas evolved during that time?

The Las Vegas culinary scene was blooming when I moved in from New York at the end of 2006. All the great chefs such as Daniel Boulud, Paul Bartolotta and David Burke were opening their restaurants and moving into the city. I think 2007 through 2011 was the heyday of the culinary scene in Vegas. It feels like it has been calming down somewhat, as is the city. I’m not sure if it is a good thing, however we still have many wonderful restaurants around town.

Other than excellent food, what is the formula for a successful restaurant?

Consistency first. Signature dishes that won’t ever leave the menu and therefore guarantee your brand and your regular customers to come back. Most importantly, a good bookkeeper to avoid money wasting, bad employees, kickbacks and cash bleeding. Those last three items can kill any business and are very hard to put in place in a Mom-n-Pop restaurant such as Bratalian.

What is the best advice you’ve received from another chef?

I think it was from Jacque Pepin, my teacher and dean at the French Culinary institute. He said: “If you want to be a good chef, never lose touch with your food style.” Nothing came out to be more true — in a world of confusion and too many fusions, we can only shine if we stick with our style.