If you frequented the Macayo’s restaurant on West Sahara and have grown curious about the Italian eatery that has taken its place, get ready for a wildly different experience. The 8,000-square-foot space is completely unrecognizable from its former life as a popular Mexican restaurant—still open and airy but much more refined. Done up in bright but subdued colors and anchored by a milk chocolate-colored floor and a vibrant display of fresh fish flown in from the Mediterranean, Limoncello maintains a casual energy with hints of fine dining.
“I just don’t use tablecloths. That would be completely fine dining,” owner Giuseppe Bavarese says. “I want people to feel comfortable. If you come in wearing shorts and you feel comfortable, I’m OK with that. It’s up to you. It’s how you feel.”
Bavarese and his wife, Jenny, opened Limoncello in late November after a nine-month build-out in the familiar west Valley space and experienced an unexpected rush of customers right away. Bavarese, who previously developed and opened Prosecco Fresh Italian Kitchen in the southeast Valley, says the new spot had several nights of 300 dinner guests in the opening weeks.
When the pandemic arrived, Limoncello closed for two months until he could make plans to operate the big, new, dinner-only restaurant in a way that made sense. It reopened with a slightly pared-down menu on May 18 and has been steadily building business back up since.
“We cut the menu down a little, but the motive is still to do everything fresh, to be just as good or even better than the restaurants on the Strip,” Bavarese says. “All the pasta is made fresh. People love the pappardelle Bolognese and the amatriciana with guanciale, and we’re doing carbonara the original way, real Italian. Our chef Eric [Gaitan], who I brought from New York and I’ve known for 15 years, cooks on the healthier side. So the Bolognese is not a sauce that’s dripping when you get it, drowning the pasta. It’s a lot of meat and just enough sauce.”
Those three pasta dishes ($20 each) are among the most popular items on the menu, and high-quality ingredients like that guanciale (cured pork jowl) in the amatriciana and carbonara, and Prime American Wagyu beef elevate the flavors. Limoncello bakes its own focaccia daily and serves it as complementary table bread. All desserts are made in-house with the exception of creamy gelato imported from Italy.
The seafood selection has been slightly scaled down but remains a focal point; there’s a rotating fish-of-the-day special created by the kitchen on the fly. Grilled salmon with a puttanesca-style sauce of olives, capers and heirloom tomatoes ($31), and oven-roasted branzino in white wine and citrus ($38) round out the oceanic offerings.
Favorites like chicken Parmigiana ($27) or Milanese ($26), as well as a tomahawk veal chop Milanese and a whole roasted chicken with herbs and potatoes ($29) are perfect for sharing. Limoncello also serves pizza from a state-of-the-art oven that turns the stone cooking surface inside while baking.
This neighborhood near Summerlin and the Lakes is stacked with long-popular Italian restaurants, but Bavarese seems unfazed by the competition. “I’ve been doing this for 34 years and had quite a few restaurants in LA, and I’m a chef as well. I know this business quite well,” he says. “When I opened Prosecco, we never advertised. It’s all word-of-mouth. If you have quality instead of quantity, people notice.”
LIMONCELLO 8245 W. Sahara Ave., 702-888-1144. Sunday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5-10 p.m.