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Las Vegas: Sage restaurant chef to open pizzeria in Aria hotel

January 09, 2013|By Jay Jones
  • An artist's rendering of the FIVE50 pizzeria that's to open in Aria in Las Vegas.
An artist's rendering of the FIVE50 pizzeria that's to open… (MGM Resorts International )

Chef Shawn McClain will soon open his first pizzeria inside Las Vegas' Aria resort, a property at which he has run the popular, upscale Sage restaurant since CityCenter’s opening three years ago.

The eatery, called FIVE50, is to open this spring. The name comes from what’s considered to be the ideal temperature for baking pizzas, 550 degrees.

“I would say it’s 50% pizza and 50% bar,” McClain told me. “We wanted to capture the soul of an East Coast, New York pizzeria and combine it with a fresh, edgy, soulful bar.”

McClain said he has spent the last several months researching what makes a great pizza.

“I have a few extra pounds to show for it,” he said before sharing what he’s learned about the craft.

“To me, a good pizza … is a perfect balance of crust that’s got chew [and] some real character to it, other than just bread. It’s a sauce that’s not too overwhelming.”

To those, the chef will add fine cheeses and the freshest-possible toppings.

“We still retain a forager [at Sage] who travels California from top to bottom weekly, bringing us the various best seasonal produce from small farms. We’d like to carry that through [to FIVE50].”

Describing beer as a “natural marriage” with pizza, McClain said the new restaurant also would emphasize fine beers. Many of the brews, he said, will be little-known drafts.

The space, once home to the Skybox sports bar, is under construction. The restaurant’s design, the creation of architect David Rockwell, is a mix of traditional New York pizza parlor and modern style.

McClain opened his first restaurant 19 years ago in Chicago. Since then, he has received numerous accolades, including Esquire magazine’s “Chef of the Year” in 2001. Last summer, he defeated Iron Chef Marc Forgione on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.”

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