In Las Vegas, restaurant setting doesn’t always matter. Don’t get me wrong, I love the poolside tables at the Mandalay Bay Buffet and Simon Restaurant at Palms Place. Drinks at Top of the World Restaurant at Stratosphere are always fun, if only because you get to watch people plummet past your windows to the ground (don’t worry – I’m not that morbid. These Sky Jumpers are strapped in and paying at least $109.99 for the privilege).

Nora’s Italian Cuisine isn’t by a pool, overlooking anything, or even on the Strip. It’s actually in a strip mall. You can get a tattoo or a payday loan right across the parking lot.

And you’ll have time to do just that if you don’t make a reservation. A “hidden gem” no longer, Nora’s is well known among Las Vegas locals. It’s busy Monday thru Thursday and packed on Friday and Saturday nights when live music can be heard from the bar/lounge area from nine until midnight.

Originally opened by an Italian couple (Nora and Gino), the tiny place became so popular that they’ve had to take over the surrounding storefronts. The resulting layout is a tad odd. The bar is off to the right, with a small stage, table seating, and a private dining room in the back. The kitchen is down the middle of the restaurant and three unfortunate tables and tucked along that corridor. Off to the left is the main dining room area. One of Nora and Gino’s sons is now the general manager.

The place is cute, with the requisite paintings of wine barrels and Italian scenes, but you don’t go to Nora’s for fancy decorations, crown molding or cute tables. You go to eat. (And drink. Their bar is apparently fabulous, although all I even get is cheap white wine and Amaretto Sours.)

No matter what you do, start with the Antipasto Salad. In a strange but wonderful way, the ham/provolone/salami spirals atop the Italian salad remind me of a New Orleans muffaletta. Comparison to a muffaletta is my version of very high praise. Enjoy that with a basket of very garlic-y bread and you won’t be hungry for your dinner. Luckily Nora’s is good left over. I capitalize on this fact by taking out-of-town guests to Nora’s before dropping them off at the airport. That way I get their leftovers also. Very sneaky, I think.

I always get Fettuccine Alfredo, although I suppose I should be recommending the Crazy Alfredo with chicken, sausage, shrimp, peppers, tomatoes, jalapenos and two types of mushrooms. I’ve also had their Shrimp Scampi, Veal Parmigiana, and Gnocchi. All are great (especially the gnocchi), but I keep returning to my old calorie-ridden standby. My favorite person to go to Nora’s with refuses to even look at the menu, sticking to his order of Fettuccine Carbonara. Oh, and the pizza is really good here too. We had it for free in the bar once when our table was taking longer than expected. To go with great food is an easy-to-swallow bill at the end of the meal. I have no idea why Nora’s hasn’t raised their prices. I think it’s cheaper to eat here than at Olive Garden. My fettuccine is $9.50. Seriously.      

Nora’s is several miles west of the Strip on Flamingo and Jones. It is right behind the Arby’s. They are open Monday through Thursday from 11am – 10pm, Friday 11am – midnight, Saturday from 4pm – midnight. Nora’s is closed Sunday’s which sucks if you are hungry and have friends flying out that night, but is great if you want to rent out the restaurant for a private Sunday party. You can also reserve the bar area for private functions any day of the week. About fifty people can fit into the space, but it will be tight.