When Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar announced it was reopening after a two-month shutdown, the phones rang off the hook with people who wanted a reservation. The restaurant’s popular Taste and Learn series, where diners get a four-course dinner paired with five wines sold out. Gino Ferraro, the patriarch of the family and owner of the restaurant, can’t wait to get back to business.
“I’ve been bored and I want to try to make some money somehow,” he says days before the February 3 reopening. “It’s been a long year, a tough year. I want to bring back my staff of 20 years.”
Ferraro’s closed after the state reduced capacity at restaurants to 25 percent in November to quell the spread of COVID-19. Right before Gov. Steve Sisolak announced the new restrictions on November 22, he urged people to stay home. “That hurt our business,” Ferraro says. “He killed our industry. Nobody wanted to go out.”
At the time, he says that the restaurant drew 10 to 14 people a night. “How are you going to do that with those numbers? The chef makes more than that.” So on November 29, the restaurant closed temporarily.
Since moving to the corner of Paradise and Harmon roads in 2009, the restaurant relied more on tourists and conventions than local business. About 80 percent of business came from vacationers and business travelers. “Now we really need locals more than ever,” he says. “We been here 35 years, and we love local people. We really need their help. Without them, we cannot survive.”
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Gino and Rosalba Ferraro moved to Las Vegas from Syracuse, New York, in January 1976 and opened Italfoods, a wholesale business with Italian specialty products in 1983. Two years later, Ferraro’s opened as a deli and pizzeria with six tables and Gino in the kitchen as chef. Then in 1992, the family opened its fine-dining restaurant on West Flamingo Road with a wine collection spanning 1,000 bottles. When the family opened Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar across from the then Hard Rock Hotel and soon to be Virgin Hotels, Gino and Rosalba’s son Mimmo took over as executive chef of the 9,000-square-foot restaurant that seats 312 diners with a wine cellar filled with 6,000 bottles and 1,200 labels.
Ferraro’s brings back about half of its staff of 75, and about 80 percent of its menu of lasagna alla Gino, gnocchi with house pomodoro sauce, and a seasonal Branzino dish with parsnips, lacinato baby kale, and fig-guanciale juice. The menu changes with the season every three or four months.
Ferraro says that a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan from the Small Business Adminstration should help with rent and payroll.
Lunch won’t return until neighboring UNLV brings back in-person classes. Ferraro says most of his lunch crowd includes UNLV professors and faculty, even members of the athletic department.
Even while Ferraro’s temporarily closed, the family’s Pizza Forte remained open on Maryland Parkway, incorporating some dishes from Ferraro’s menu that joined two types of pizza and Italian street food. Ferraro says he sells 500 of his Hofmann hot dogs out of Syracuse, New York, a night when Pizza Forte at T-Mobile Arena is open. When neighboring Virgin Hotels opens, Pizza Forte returns there. Ferraro says he plans to open more locations and awaits the return of live events at Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin and Allegiant Stadium.
Ferraro’s reopens for dinner on Wednesday, February 3, at 5 p.m. Dinner hours will be 5 to 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. For reservations call 702-364-5300.