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Chef Shawn McClain Brings Balla Italian Soul to SAHARA Las Vegas September 30

James Beard Award Winner Shawn McClain, with partners Richard and Sarah Camarota, will open their newest Las Vegas restaurant, Balla Italian Soul, at SAHARA Las Vegas on Friday, September 30. The regional, seasonal menu offers fresh and vibrant plates to locals and tourists alike. 

“There is no greater honor as a chef than to open a restaurant in Las Vegas, and Balla Italian Soul is a dream come true. We are so proud to be part of the iconic and reimagined property that Mr. Alex Meruelo has created with SAHARA Las Vegas,” says Chef-Owner McClain, Balla Italian Soul. “We’re doing Italian a little differently, focusing on aperitivo culture and well-prepared, wood-grilled flavors, while keeping pastas and pizzas close to our hearts.”

“We are gratified and elated to welcome Balla Italian Soul to SAHARA’s roster of extraordinary restaurants,” Derek Morishita, executive director of restaurants, SAHARA Las Vegas. “Adding Chef McClain’s culinary vision to our dining portfolio represents another milestone for this historic resort with a completely reimagined and enhanced roster of must-visit experiences and amenities.”

The Food

After opening its doors to the public on Friday, September 30, Balla Italian Soul will offer dinner Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m. Balla Italian Soul’s menu embraces the lighter, brighter and more seasonally driven aspects of Italian cuisine. It focuses on a parade of best-in-season vegetable dishes, preparations honoring the purity of great seafood and handmade pastas and pizzas designed to make guests swoon. Carnivores need not worry as extraordinary meats will be curated and prepared the in the wood-fired oven. 

At Balla, aperitivo is a sacred ritual.

Balla invites all to find their Italian Soul with signature Negronis and Spritzes at the forefront of the beverage menu. Cocktails include classics such as the NegroniAmericanowithCampari, Carpano Sweet Vermouth, club soda and orange wheel; and the Negroni BiancowithFords Gin, Luxardo Bitter Bianco, Cocchi Americano, St. Germain and mini flower; and distinctive, bubbly twists such as the Venetian Spritzwith Aperol, prosecco, club soda, olive and orange slice; and the Remetto Fresca with Tito’s Vodka, Marsala, Grapefruit Shrub, rosemary syrup and lemon juice, topped with prosecco. 

Shareable, small-plate antipasti selections include Marinated Octopus withCalabrian pepper, rosemary, heirloom beansLamb Tartare withpickled eggplant, preserved lemon, ricotta salata; and Shellfish Toast withclams, mussels, calamari and ‘’Nduja sausage

Pasta & Pizza make everything better. 

Indeed! The handmade lineup includes Linguiniwithcrab, chilis, summer squash and garlic; Squid Ink Shells withputtanesca, mint and squid; and Agnolotti withformaggio, oyster mushrooms and Lardo. Roman-Style Pizzas from the wood-burning oven include the savory ‘Nduja withconfit potatoes, smoked cheese and oregano;and classic Margherita withpomodoro, mozzarella and basil.

Guests should always take their pleasure seriously. 

Wood-fired secondi dishes include Sea Bream withlemon, capers and fresh herbs22 oz Prime Bone-In Ribeye withroasted garlic; and Pork Delmonico withblack garlic, pickled radicchio and cippolini onions; paired with contorni including Crispy Potatoes withrosemary and parmesan; Grilled Romano Beans withanchovy and herb vinaigrette; and Broccoli di Cicco withlemon zest and garlic.

Desserts are whimsical love notes to the most iconic dolces, such as Panna Cotta withlimoncello, seasonal fruits and brown sugar pizzelle; Crostata with pluots and goat cheese gelatoand a chef’s assortment of Italian Cookies. 

An Italian-forward, wines-by-the-glass list and selection of domestic and Italian beers is designed to please a range of palates. 

The Space
Designed by Las Vegas’ Innovativo Design, Balla Italian Soul is SAHARA Las Vegas’ newest culinary offering. Open and inviting to the casino floor, Balla is light, bright and ready to celebrate. A glass charcuterie station welcomes diners into the classically styled bar area – perfect for enjoying a Negroni and a snack. The bricked ceiling, reminiscent of Roman wine cellars, frames showpiece brass light fixtures. Wood and brass fixtures guide diners back to the main dining area, anchored by lit olive trees and Italian photography. Balla Italian Soul faces the Las Vegas Strip, with seating for 120 diners. Balla’s private dining room seats 12.

The Team
James Beard Award winner and nationally recognized restaurateur, Chef Shawn McClain, has opened eight renowned restaurants in Chicago, Las Vegas and Detroit. Together with Richard and Sarah Camarota of the  McClain Camarota Hospitality Group, McClain has developed a collection of award-winning restaurants, earning multiple accolades including James Beard Award nominations for “Outstanding New Restaurant,” Esquire Magazine’s “Chef of the Year” and Desert Companion’s “Restaurant of the Year.” In addition, McClain’s culinary portfolio has been lauded by The New York TimesBon AppétitFOOD & WINE, among others.

A Midwestern native and 1990 graduate of the School of Culinary Arts at Kendall College in Evanston, Illinois, McClain’s rose quickly as a star in the culinary world. He broke onto the national scene at Trio Restaurant in Evanston, earning four stars from both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times

His acumen for redefining established genres to win both media praise and establish smart, sustainable businesses is the hallmark of his career. While McClain brings world-recognized acclaim to any project he takes on, he takes personal pride in his hands-on approach and deep commitment to developing all aspects of the operation and guest experience.

McClain Camarota Hospitality Group Managing Partner Richard Camarota leads development, operations and finance. Launching his career in Italy at the Michelin starred restaurant Beccofino, Camarota joined with Chef McClain in Chicago as chef de cuisine before making the leap to Las Vegas to open the group’s Las Vegas outlets and head operations.

Sarah Camarota, creative director for McClain Camarota Hospitality Group, leads design and branding for the group. She obsesses over everything the guest sees, hears, feels and touches when they come in contact with the restaurant, online and in-person. She collaborates closely with all involved to bring design, hospitality, programming and storytelling together to create iconic and unforgettable experiences. She is extremely grateful to be able to do such work in Las Vegas, the “experiential Olympics,” as she calls it.

Hospitality professional David Grates joins the Balla Italian Soul team as general manager, overseeing operations and events. Chef Michael Vargas serves as executive chef under Chef McClain, and Pedro Becerra-Carrizales, Jr. and Jamie Gonzalez serve as sous chefs. 


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