Las Vegas Restaurant by Chef Shawn McClain Sets Sahara Opening Date

Chef Shawn McClain has set Friday, September 30, as the opening date for his anticipated Balla Italian Soul restaurant at Sahara Las Vegas.

McClain, winner of the 2006 Best Chef Midwest award from the James Beard Foundation, announced the eatery last year under a slightly different name, Ballo, which is the masculine form of the same Italian word, loosely translating as dance. 

Balla Italian Soul Chef Shawn McClain Sahara Las Vegas
Balla Italian Soul Chef Shawn McClain Sahara Las Vegas
Balla Italian Soul, from Chef Shawn McClain, opens at Sahara Las Vegas as part of a $150M conversion of the casino hotel’s Strip-facing exterior into a restaurant row. (Image: saharalasvegas.com)

“We really love that word, and the connotation of energy and creative spirit,” McClain told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last year. “We often use that behind the scenes for how we interact with our guests. It is a dance, that symbiotic energy.”

What’s for Dinner?

McClain’s eatery, open only for dinner, will offer a regional, seasonal take on light Italian surf and turf. Dishes will include sea bream with lemon, a 22-ounce bone-in ribeye, and pork Delmonico with black garlic. Hand-crafted pasta will include linguine with crab, chilis, and summer squash, squid ink shells with puttanesca sauce, and agnolotti with cured pork lardo.

The Roman-style pizzas will include a wood-fired ‘nduja sausage selection with confit potatoes and smoked cheese.

“We’re doing Italian a little differently, focusing on aperitivo culture and well-prepared, wood-grilled flavors, while keeping pastas and pizzas close to our hearts,” McClain told Eater Vegas.

Desserts will include Italian cookies, panna cotta with limoncello, and baked crostata tarts with pluots (a plum with a bit of apricot hybridized in) and goat cheese gelato. The beverage menu will be a cocktail party of Italian Negronis and spritzes.

A Las Vegas Strip-facing location off the Sahara’s casino floor will invite guests into the restaurant’s open kitchen. Featured will be a pasta-making window and takeaway glass-faced deli where customers can watch their food being prepared.

Olive trees and Italian-inspired murals and photographs will adorn the main dining room, which seats 120.

No Longer Dancing with MGM

Balla Italian Soul, which McClain is opening with business partners Richard and Sarah Camarota, will be the celebrity chef’s first Vegas venture outside the orbit of MGM Resorts International. McClain, originally from San Diego, arrived in town a baker’s dozen years ago to open Sage at Aria. Both Sage and McClain’s more casual Five50 Pizza Bar at Aria closed during the COVID-19 shutdown. (Sage converted to MGM’s in-house Moneyline Pizza & Bar brand.) Libertine Social, McClain’s gastropub at Mandalay Bay, is still reportedly thriving.

Balla Italian Soul joins Chef Guoming “Sam” Xin’s Noodle Den and Philadelphia’s Chickie’s & Pete’s as part of a nearly complete $150M conversion of the Sahara’s Strip-facing exterior into a restaurant row.

Balla Italian Soul will be open for dinner from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

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