The late chef David Alenik created some of the finest Italian gourmet food on the Las Vegas Strip for more than 20 years, beginning with his first job at the iconic Piero’s and continuing on his culinary journey as personal chef for Steve Wynn, in which capacity he served dozens of A-listers who came through Vegas craving a good dish of pasta and “gravy.” In 1989, he opened his own Pasta Shop Ristorante with his lovely wife, Ann, that stood as an Italian restaurant institution for several decades. Though he passed away in 2016, his widow and their children continue to honor his legacy at their Henderson, Nevada, restaurant, the Pasta Shop. We were invited in to visit with this special family as they continue to carry on the wholesale pasta business, restaurant, and art gallery to offer inspirational and imaginative cuisine and art.
Son Trent now manages the business aspects of the Pasta Shop with loving dedication and concern for the family legacy. “This is truly a family-style business,” said Trent. “I remember having to help my dad cut the pasta when I wasn’t even tall enough to reach the counter, so he made me stand on a milk crate. Later he taught me how to run the machine feeds to make the angel hair pasta, fettuccine, and pomodoro.” The family still sells their house-made pasta to area restaurant and businesses. “This is a true family business, and when my dad passed we wanted to come together to keep the legacy alive since he put his heart and soul into this. He built a community here. What other restaurants can you go to where they know you by name? To create such a community within a larger town despite the transient nature is so special, and that is what my dad wanted to happen here,” added Trent.
Ann Alenik has taken her talents as a visual artist and continues to combine them with the culinary history of her late husband, bringing color and vibrancy to the wall space within the small dining venue. While she engages customers in the front of the house with her lovely art pieces, her warm smile and management skills make everyone feel like part of the family when they enter the doors of the Pasta Shop.
The dedication to family and stellar food could be clearly seen in the dishes presented to our table, beginning with the thinly sliced artichoke platter, drizzled in balsamic vinegar and EVOO and then moving onto the linguini and clams, comprised of fresh littleneck clams sautéed with EVOO, garlic, and clam juice bathed in a lovely red sauce with the perfectly cooked pasta heartily nestled in between three juicy prawns. The passion and dedication to quality was tasted in each bite, and with our palates beaming with delight we knew that the next dish — chicken Parmesan with a side of rigatoni pasta pomodoro — would be as lovely as our previous menu item. We were more than correct with that assumption: The chicken Parmesan was extremely well executed, juicy and sumptuous with a generous portion of the famous house-made rigatoni pomodore adjoining in perfect union with our taste buds. Not only were we pleasantly and delightfully pleased to meet the family, but the food brought our utmost appreciation and gratitude for the Aleniks’ mission in creating a lasting culinary heritage.
Finishing our meal with, of course, a homemade tiramisu and cappuccino, we felt that we had crossed over from being restaurant-goers to warmly welcomed family members. As George Bernard Shaw stated, “There is no love sincerer, than the love of food,” and this is made evident through the Aleniks’ tribute to the husband and father who instilled and modeled that love of food to carry on for generations to come. For more information visit their website.