Savor a slice of the Big Apple

Apr 23, 2002 4:16 AM

In Las Vegas, eating well is as much a part of the experience as catching a headliner in the showroom or a royal flush in the casino. And, while the casinos have earned their culinary right of passage, you can find outstanding eateries away from the neon crowds. One such restaurant is Central Park West in the Sahara Pavilion at Sahara and Decatur.

On any night, Central Park West place hums with the electricity only first-rate restaurants can generate, fueled by tantalizing aromas and the musical chiming of plates, glassware and happy diners.

Even though it has been open for only a few weeks, its Brooklyn-style charm and ambiance has already generated a loyal word-of-mouth following.

Located just a few doors from several other popular west-side restaurants, Central Park West is a 24-hour, bar-and-grill style restaurant, whose extensive menu is available around the clock.

At the heart of the restaurant is a massive bar, which features slant-top gaming machines (multi-game) and overhead TV monitors. The bar area is flanked by elevated dining areas which include hardwood tables and upholstered booths decorated in green and tan.

Helping to separate the diners from bar patrons are etched glass murals depicting New York landmarks, such as the Brooklyn Bridge.

Of course, the star of the joint is its menu, a happy-go-lucky mix of pizza, pasta, deli sandwiches, juicy burgers, classic entrees such as shrimp scampi and filet mignon — and everything in between!

"We wanted to open a place where you could get a great corned beef sandwich or ”˜bada bing’ burger or anything else at 2:00 in the morning," said owner Ron Smilow, who previously owned and operated Las Vegas restaurants that included Jerome’s. "Even though this is supposed to be a 24-hour town, it’s surprising what you can’t get after hours."

In opening a New York-style "diner" with a deli influence, Smilow enlisted the help of Kenny Baker and Bill Miller. On the restaurant’s menu they are depicted as the "Three Wise Guys," though they collectively swear there’s nothing in the back room except a pantry and a pasta-making machine.

"We really wanted to create something like you find in the neighborhoods back in New York," Baker said. "The idea is to have a cool hangout where you can get great food and play your favorite video games."

So far, their idea is coming to fruition. A loyal legion of customers have rallied around the wood-fired pizzas (the grilled eggplant is superb), 100 percent angus Bada-Bing burgers (charbroiled and served on a Kaiser roll), homemade pasta (try the gnocchi with pesto cream sauce), veal Parmigiana, and center cut pork chops, to name a few.

Other great choices include a classic bruschetta, grilled Italian sausage hoagie, piled-high corned beef sandwich, and eggplant Parmigiana.

Central Park West also served a complete breakfast menu, an array of salads and soups, and desserts to die for, including the Grand Marnier rice pudding and a unique, parfait-like Tiramisu.

"The desserts are something special, since we have Vera, the pastry chef from The Rio, creating them," Smilow said. "Try to always save room, or even make room, for one of her desserts."