Thanks to one Las Vegas chef, you can now dine at a sustainable Italian seafood restaurant in the middle of a desert.

Costa di Mare at the Wynn Hotel boasts a seafood program in which hard-to-find breeds, seasonal specialties and wild fish not often found on American menus are flown in every other day. With sustainability in mind, Chef Mark LoRusso says that his fish roster’s availability changes throughout the year.

“We started this program a few months ago,” says LoRusso. “Our guy will send us stuff that’s ‘not branzino’ or mainstream fish, but not in crazy amounts. He’ll send us things that are unique and seasonal.”

The program brings in 30 to 40 different breeds found only in the Mediterranean and off the coasts of Italy. LoRusso says that the list can get so regional that even guests traveling from Italy will say “Wow, we can’t even get these fish [at home].” He also says that some of the Italian-born servers at the restaurants get excited to see fish familiar to them. A common and familiar crowdpleaser, however, is the grilled octopus that is tenderized before it even reaches Las Vegas.

Sustainable octopus is flown into Costa di Mare already tenderized. (Photo: Tiffany Do.)
Sustainable octopus is flown into Costa di Mare already tenderized. (Photo: Tiffany Do.)

Sustainable fishing is important to LoRusso, but what’s more important is the quality and taste of the fish.

“It always tastes better,” he says. “It’s hard to beat a piece of wild fish, when you taste wild and farm-raised fish next to each other. So, we do it for the taste and also to do the right thing.”

What does LoRusso do with all that fresh seafood at the restaurant?

“We treat the fish relatively simply,” he says. “Like any product, the fish speaks for itself. You can be the best chef in the world and you’re not going to be able to mask bad fish.”

Crudo has been a recent addition to the menu, inspired by a recent trip to Rome. LoRusso serves up cuttlefish crudo, sliced into very thin ribbons like capellini pasta, and when not serving it raw, sticks to simple preparations like poaching or grilling fish and serving atop risotto.

With the changing seasons, it’s hard to keep some fish in stock, which LoRusso sees as a good thing.

“I don’t apologize when we’re out of a certain fish,” he says. “I’d worry if a place always has everything because fish are seasonal. As far as the American market goes, if you get soft shell crabs out of season — not between May and August— there’s a 99 percent chance they were frozen. I’d be more concerned if a place is selling wild fish and has everything all the time.”

Cuttlefish “Capellini” Salad

Courtesy of Chef Mark LoRusso of Costa di Mare at Wynn Las Vegas

Serves 4 as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of cleaned seppia (cuttlefish), cut into thin, 1/8-inch strips
  • 3 ounces pure olive oil
  • 2 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • Salt and pepper-to taste

Directions

  1. Combine olive oil and lemon juice, add salt and pepper and whisk until emulsified.
  2. Toss seppia with vinaigrette and parsley. Season with salt and pepper, let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Divide into 4 chilled bowls and enjoy.