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Award-winning chef opens new Italian hot spot on Las Vegas Strip

Balla Las Vegas
Balla Las Vegas
Balla Las Vegas

Chef Shawn McClain is a James Beard award-winning chef with a stellar reputation in Las Vegas.

His restaurant Sage was a “see and be seen” space for a decade at Aria. It was also very popular with locals until it closed along with many other restaurants in 2020.

But, the chef just opened a new concept, Balla Italian Soul.

State of Nevada producer Lorraine Blanco Moss talked with McClain in KNPR’s Five Minute Food Find.

Balla serves coastal Italian, which means the dishes incorporate lighter, brighter citrus and spice, he said. "Kind of moving away from heavier red sauce."

The restaurant is part of a bigger change at Sahara in recent years.

"I can't say enough great things about what's going on in Sahara right now. … Within the last couple years has really brought new life of being on the north end and seeing great new energy on the north end of the Strip is really inspiring. As well from the days of Sage, we really always tried to be a part of the community here and really attract and really kind of create relationships with locals and that will continue to evolve, for sure," he said.

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One of his favorite dishes on the menu is the marinated octopus, which includes Calabrian pepper, celery and heirloom beans.

"You know, I'm always shocked at how many people love octopus and it's such an awesome ingredient to me."

What I really, really appreciate about Las Vegas is how close-knit the food community is out here and you think of just such an international city, but if you get down to it, it's really a really core group of people out here.

Guests: Shawn McClain, chef, Balla Italian Soul

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Lorraine Blanco Moss is the host of KNPR's award-winning Asian American Pacific Islander podcast, Exit Spring Mountain. She's also a former producer for State of Nevada, specializing in food and hospitality, women's issues, and sports.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the audience engagement specialist for Nevada Public Radio. She curates and creates content for, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.