January 25, 2011

A Pahrump Find

Pahrump isn't known for much outside of being the gateway to Death Valley and having legal brothels. It's home to Art Bell, Heidi Fleiss, my mom and 40,000+ other residents. It's a small town with good 'ole boy -- wild west -- appeal. Most residents escaped Vegas during the peak of its growth and headed for the hills over the hump for cheaper land, acreage and horse-property. The master-planned communities and concrete jungle developments chased them away. Pahrump offered these folks refuge. The town has grown in its own right, it now has a Home Depot and three street lights. It's fast-food offerings are growing, the casino restaurants and cafes are holding their own, but the mom & pop places struggle more than ever before during these challenging times. It's no hot bed of culinary delights, in fact, despite trying a number of places it's only the Mexican restaurant, Su Mesa, that I enjoy. However, its doors are hardly "always open" they've had a string of fires that closed them down for business. Fortunately, they're up and running once again. With Su Mesa consistently being inconsistent with its hours, it was time to seek out something different.

This weekend while visiting mom we had dinner at Villa Locale (670 Basin Ave, Pahrump, NV). It's been open six months or so. Mom doesn't like Italian food. Heresy, right? I told her to see if they serve steak. Most do, and I knew that would satisfy her. She ran into the owner a couple months back (small town and all) and she chatted him up and learned steak is indeed on the menu. So, when hunger struck, it was fairly easy deciding on Villa Locale. It has been praised for freshly made pastas and home-grown produce.

We dined in on Saturday night. There were a couple other tables with diners. Not terribly busy, especially for a Saturday night. I had to remind myself I wasn't in Summerlin anymore (for those unfamiliar, every restaurant is packed to the gills on weekends and during peak times in Summerlin - there is always a wait). One quick glance at the menu, and I knew my mom would not be happy. There was nothing on the menu she would eat. There was no steak. The best chance at pleasing her was a pork medallion dish with mushrooms and Gorgonzola cheese sauce. The waitress pleasantly came over to get us started. "No steak?", my mom questioned. "No, we've changed the menu", the waitress responded. "I don't like Italian", my mom uttered. I jump in, "can the kitchen make an alternative sauce with the pork?" "Hmmm, I don't think so, but let me check" She returns, "We can do a Marsala sauce with mushrooms." "Hold the mushrooms, and we have a winner." Once that's settled, Frank and I have to make our selections. However, our quandary was entirely different, how do we pick just one? Plus, we were working hard to make choices that fit into our new found healthier eating habits (this was our first meal out since Circo. Yes, two weeks seems like eternity). I ordered Penne Arrabbiata (spice level 8) and Frank had sausage and peppers.

We snacked on some sort of focaccia with Parmesan and sun-dried tomatoes. It was a bit dry on it's own, it would have been better served with vinegar and oil. We didn't ask for it, since we shouldn't be filling up on bread anyhow.

Our entrees arrived. My mom's Marsala pork served over roasted potatoes came out well considering it was made off the cuff. The sausage and peppers were very good, it's likely the best Italian sausage I've had out since leaving Chicago. My penne was very good, as well. The dishes are kept simple to keep the main ingredients from being muddled. In true locavore spirit, farm to table provides a freshness you just don't experience otherwise.

Villa Locale supposedly take the farm to table notion a bit further, they boast seed to table. Sustainable produce is grown organically on the owner's homestead. Anything they don't produce on their own, they buy from other local producers -- as close to home as possible.

It's a concept that would better serve Las Vegas crowds, but maybe if word spreads they'll be willing to make the 50 mile drive. It's a neat find, and prices by Las Vegas standards are very reasonable. Pahrump residents, however, will likely reserve Villa Locale for special occasions. Our dinner for three was $50.

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