Pietro serves taste of old Las Vegas

May 3, 2005 5:03 AM

Since coming to Las Vegas in 1964, Pietro Musetto has cooked for a VIP list second to none. The invitees and return guests over five decades have included Frank Sinatra, Princess Grace (Kelly) and Prince Rainier of Monaco, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and multi billionaire Adnan Kashogi.

And cooking has become a labor of love. Every meal Pietro cooks is like a chapter in his life. And, everyone who dines at his restaurant is left wanting more.

"It would take so long to talk about my life," said the award-winning cook, who took his five-star restaurant from the Dunes to its current home on the second floor of the Tropicana. "Cooking provides inspiration and creativity. It is beautiful."

"There are so many stories I know about this wonderful man," said Bo Copening, longtime friend and assistant waiter for Pietro. "I really enjoy listening to him talk about his days in the French Foreign Legion."

French is one of five languages Pietro speaks fluently. His ability to communicate helped him emerge as a world-class chef, far from the days when he was one of the few survivors in a unit of over 6,000 men during his Legion service in Africa and the Far East.

"I’d rather talk about cooking," said Pietro, whose gentle, reserved demeanor acts as a side dish to his elaborate main course selections.

"Food is like an art," said Pietro, whose other true passion is opera and classical music. "I have done well as a cook, but that’s because I enjoy it so much. I love cooking for the people. That’s what I live for."

Las Vegas entrepreneur Gene Kilroy, recently hired as an executive host at the Trop, said that celebrities would come to town inquiring about Pietro.

"They sought him out and made his restaurant a must stop whenever they were in Las Vegas," Kilroy said. "He’s a wonderful man and there isn’t a better place to eat anywhere."

Pietro’s bistro features tableside service and a classic menu that includes among its specialties Pasta a la Pietro, lobster tails, filet mignon, Steak Diane, roast duckling and cherries jubilee. Bananas Foster is often featured for dessert.

Pietro’s is a multiple winner of the prestigious Distinguished Restaurants of North America award, which is given as a result of an independent and anonymous inspection program.

To qualify for the award, restaurants must be in business under the same ownership for at least three years and pass a 75-point evaluation conducted by a panel of experts. Restaurants are evaluated on everything from reservations to departures, with an emphasis on quality of food and its presentation.

And yet, for a place so revered among its customers, recognition has come through word of mouth.

"We really do need to get the word out more about Pietro’s," Kilroy said. "Maybe, that’s part of the charm. The fact that it is very upscale, quiet and comfortable. So many people enjoy Pietro and see how much he cares that they are having the best meal. That’s why they come back."