If I wasn't looking for Piero's, I might have driven right past it.
The Italian restaurant isn't housed in a building that demands attention; it isn't big or splashy as is often the case in Las Vegas. But it is Piero's, and that alone makes it a magnet for people seeking out a time-tested Italian meal seasoned with a heavy sprinkling of history.
After leaving the car with the valet (the only option), I was led to a table in the "A" dining room where notables and locals tend to dine and slid into a booth with my husband.
I wondered who may have eaten at this table in the past. Opened in 1982 and moved to its present location on Convention Center Drive five years later, Piero's has become a go-to restaurant for VIPs who want to dine in peace.
"When it opened, it immediately became a hangout for all the good ol' boys in Vegas," said Evan Glusman, operating partner of the restaurant and son of Piero's founder Freddie Glusman. "All the casino owners, the Rat Pack, anybody who was somebody ate at Piero's."
Because it's off the Strip, average tourists don't wander in by accident. A fair number of convention attendees stop by, but the restaurant tends to be a destination for celebrities, politicians, athletes, philanthropists and locals who have grown to love the food, service and environment.
Piero's is intimate and unpretentious, with dimmed lights, a dark wood bar and a seasoned staff. It doesn't try to compete with restaurants on the Strip, nor does it have to.
"We've been in business for 32 years," Evan said. "There's still that aura of old Vegas, and we pride ourselves in being old Vegas."
Our server told us about the daily specials ("handmade noodles like your grandma used to make") and our eyes wandered over the wine list before I settled on the linguine Portofino and my husband the osso buco with fettuccine. He got tomato with Roquefort for his salad choice and I ordered the garbage Caesar salad, one of Evan's contributions to Piero's; he believes you can tell a lot about a restaurant based on its Caesar salad, and his version contains tomato, avocado, shrimp and hearts of palm.
As we made our way through our leisurely meal, a group of three congressmen and their security guards were seated. As a place where many dignitaries, mobsters and casino businessmen and investors have dined over the years, Piero's is rich with colorful stories. In fact, scenes from the movie "Casino" were filmed there, and people still seek it out for that reason.
One of the most notorious occurrences took place in 2005, when two retired New York detectives who had moonlighted as Mafia hit men were arrested in Piero's for eight murders.
Awesome food and celebrity sightings (notorious or otherwise) go together like spaghetti and meatballs in Las Vegas, and Piero's delivers both in a way that makes everyone feel comfortable and welcome.