Emeril’s Italian Table at the Sands

by theelvee_w2oe3m

Today The El Vee got a chance to take a peek at Emeril Lagasse’s new restaurant, Emeril’s Italian Table, at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem before it opens to the public on Saturday, June 4th.  The casino already hosts two of Emeril’s other restaurants, Burgers and More and Emeril’s Chophouse, making this his third at the resort.  It is his first Italian concept, something he claims to have been interested in implementing for over 20 years.  Chef Lagasse commented, “Simplicity is what speaks for Italian for me.  It’s all about ingredients and about simplicity.”

Playing on that theme, the simple and smart interior of the restaurant evokes a warm, upscale bistro feel with a brick and Tuscan style.  The restaurant contains several different areas, all with their own unique qualities.  Upon entering the restaurant you are greeted with the bar area, outlined by outward-facing seats looking into the casino.  Further down you pass the pizza station where chefs prepare pies cooked in the open wood oven.  Moving on down you meet the charcuterie station where various cuts of salumi and cheese are sliced on a giant slicer.  The cool thing about these stations is there’s only large glass panes separating you from the chefs so you can feel free to stand and watch the prep.  Moving on down is a narrow Italian bistro-feeling area with a few tables along the wall and booths opposite and then you enter the main dining room which proved to be surprisingly large.

The one thing that all of these areas has in common are that they are all done by interior design firm Floss Barber out of Philadelphia who have worked on such projects as the Sugarhouse Casino and the other Emeril’s restaurants at the Sands.  With the help of a firm named Artisan an old barn in the Lehigh Valley was purchased, deconstructed, and the wood was remilled and used to construct and accent the new restaurant.  Enough about the atmosphere, let’s get down to the food.

The day started out with samplers of the charcuterie and after watching it all being sliced up it sure did satisfy.  Beautiful platters of speck, spicy nduja, prosciutto, and other cuts lined the outside of the slicing station.  All were phenomenal and I think will be a big hit in the restaurant.  As a snack or even a before-dinner app the meat and cheese plates will surely satisfy.  At this point pizzas were also being passed around.  These are small, personal-sized pizzas that run $11-$13 each and are cooked in the gorgeous wood-burning oven.  After sampling the Funghi (roasted local mushrooms, potato, truffle oil, herbs), Marghertia (tomato, basil, mozzarella), and clam (clams, garlic, rapini, ricotta), I do have to say the margherita was the best.  Rich cheese, slight char from the fire, great crust that seemed to have a sea salt flavor, and soft, cooked tomatoes made it stand out.

Now it was time for the meal, a three course affair for all of the media personnel present.  It started off with a Italian Chopped Salad, consisting of iceberg, chopped salami, chickpeas, olives and peppers.  As Lagasse had mentioned, simplicity was really key here.  The ingredients were obviously very fresh and really shone through, complimented by olive oil and ground pepper.  And the salami calabrese – oy.  Such a strong, savory flavor in this it was hard not to wish for a whole lot of this, but the salad was balanced well.

Coming in for the entree was homemade meatballs surrounded by ricotta and polenta.  Three of them were centered on the plate, large and dense.  Digging in they had a bit of spice to them, which chef de cuisine Tony Page attributed to chili flakes.  I also observed some pleasant fennel added into the meatballs.  Chef Lagasse noted that they toyed with the recipe for the meatballs alone for three months until they perfected the dish.  And to finish off was a dark chocolate hazelnut torte with espresso anglaise which ended up being the highlight of the day.  A beautiful, soft chocolate cake with a crushed hazelnut bottom was paired with a light but flavorful espresso cream sauce that brought thoughts of Ferrero Rocher candy, only many times richer and more decadent.  Towards the end it got extremely rich and overwhelming, however this was definitely a winner.

Just flipping over the menu and based on what was served it’s obvious this is going to be a winner of a restaurant, quite possibly more-so than the others in the casino.  I have been to five different Emeril’s restaurants now and this is a close second behind Tchoup Chop in Orlando and may eventually take over the top spot.  I’m glad to see a lot of meat cuts coming to the valley, with Italian Table’s charcuterie station, Chef Jason Hook using items like jowl when he was at Glasbern, and Tapas on Main with their Spanish-inspired meat and cheese plates.  The bar looked well stocked with lots of Italian bitter components and lots of vermouth.  Many a Negroni will be imbibed here while washing down some great Parma for sure.  The wine list, if anything like Chophouse, will no doubt be spectacular and host a wide variety of everything from nebbiolo, sangiovese, and bombastic super tuscans.  Their house wine is created by Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat in California and will feature some Italian-clone grapes to round out their menu.

This restaurant seems well-done.  Some of the servers seemed very green, however the veteran staff that transfered over from their other restaurants were refined and had great attention to detail.  Any missteps will be worked out within a few months I would wager.  Even though connected to the new Sands Hotel this venture doesn’t scream “hotel food”.  The food is authentic, the ingredients fresh and high-end, and the decor isn’t kitschy but rather upscale and welcoming.  Emeril’s Italian Table, on it’s media day, seems to be a wonderful addition to the culinary landscape in the Lehigh Valley and a welcome one here at The El Vee.  Someone asked Emeril if he planned on expanding out of the casino and into the rest of the valley.  He digressed, obviously putting any sort of that chatter to rest, however he noted, “I’m perfectly happy right here in the Lehigh Valley.  We’re agriculturally rich in this area.  The people are pretty damn nice.”  Amen, brother.

The bar area

Prep at the pizza station

Chef Emeril Lagasse slides in a fresh pizza for cooking in the wood oven

Slicing meats

A look at the booths in the narrow section

The main dining room

Margherita pizza: tomato, basil, mozzarella

Clam pizza: clams, garlic, rapini, ricotta

Italian Chop Salad

Homemade Meatballs

Dark chocolate hazelnut torte

PA Sands President Robert Desalvio comments on the new restaurant and Emeril's partnership with the casino

Chef Emeril Lagasse thanks the media for coming and takes questions from the crowd

Emeril’s Italian Table – opens Saturday, June 4th
77 Sands Boulevard
Bethlehem, PA 18015

Disclosure:  This meal was provided free of charge by Emeril’s and the Sands for members of the media.

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Lenora Dannelke June 3, 2011 - 2:56 pm

Nice coverage! I think the fact that people felt relaxed and lingered long after the last crumbs of the uber-luscious hazelnut torte were licked from forks is an indicator of a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere.

Emeril’s Italian Table Gift Certificate Giveaway | The El Vee April 17, 2012 - 9:42 am

[…] While you’re at it give the Sands a follow on Twitter and Facebook.  You can also check out our coverage from the opening of Emeril’s Italian Table here.  […]

Sofia west August 19, 2012 - 8:08 pm

I am always leary of a free meal with a critique at the end of it. It basically says we are paying you for a nice review.
This restraunt does not serve the general public in the same manner. The food is not up to the promise in any of the restraunts in this establishment. I suggest taking a 40 minute ride to Bistro Romano in Phladelphia for true Italian food, Disappointed beyond belief. Bethlehem is not a foodie town. It has settled for much less then it deserves.

The El Vee August 20, 2012 - 1:30 pm

Please note that this isn’t a review, it is simply press coverage of a media event for the opening of the restaurant. True reviews on this site have never, and will never be on meals that were complimentary. As for your judgement and writing off of all food in Bethlehem: to each their own. If you don’t enjoy the cuisine here feel free to dine only in Philly and leave the tables open for the rest of us who appreciate what we have.

Sofia west August 21, 2012 - 7:42 pm

Apologies but your review began in the fourth paragraph. I also have a writing degree.
The menu has had to change due to no one wishing true Italian food. Parm isn’t even Italian. It is American. They couldn’t fill the tables without it.
Press coverage would have been of the opening event, not the meal served. By writing what was served and how it tasted, that is a review. And it was done after a free meal. I am sorry you disagree, but we are all allowed to disagree. Our meal was paid for so we honestly reviewed our experience. Which was not a good one. Every plate, for every diner should be as if it was made for someone you know. The name of the restraunt elicits sitting at a family table surrounded by those you love. Putting a beautiful meal in front of them. That was not our experience.I am also sorry for that.
No one was disrespectful to you. A different opinion for sure, but not disrespectful.

The El Vee August 21, 2012 - 10:34 pm

You may have a writing degree (which, honestly, I couldn’t care less about either), but you surely do not have one in reading comprehension. This article is a write-up of a press/media event. It is obviously in no way indicative or a typical night at the restaurant and should not be taken as such. Anyone with a brain should be able to figure that out, and it’s precisely why comped meals are disclosed on this site. If you can’t distinguish between writing about food served at a press event and food served during a typical night, then I am sorry you can’t discern what’s what. Until you see “Review: Emeril’s Italian Table” on this website you haven’t seen a review us. It’s that simple.

The El Vee August 21, 2012 - 10:43 pm

Also, I don’t discredit your experiences, which may have been just as horrible as you claim. I know many people whose opinions I value greatly that have dined there and have had terrible service. I wouldn’t know, as I haven’t been there enough to review it or have a proper opinion to write a proper review. I personally don’t care if the place sucks or not as I have no horse in the race. I just take issue with the fact that you’re considering something a review that clearly is not.

Sofia west August 22, 2012 - 8:18 pm

Horrible experience was never said, mentioned, nor written by me. I don’t have any horse in this or any race. I’ve been here before the menu change and after. People mentioned why they would not go back. I wouldn’t have mentioned it except in response to your impolite remarks.
This has become snide remarks and not worth any more time.
I am glad to see that freedom of speech is alive and well on your website. It warms the heart to know a different view point is welcomed with open arms. A lot of that is going on right now in the political arena. You may wish to hop on in.

martha soto December 27, 2012 - 3:36 am

I was at Emeril’s Italian Rest. on Christmas Day with my husband and son. We arrived one hr. early and were told that the rest was full and we had to return at our reservation time. We did as were told and we returned at our reservation time. As we waited we heard other people coming in before their reservation time and people who did not have a reservation. These other individuals only had to wait about 1/2 hr before being sitted. We know this because we had been sitted and saw them come in to the rest.

We had a reservation and were sitted in the front of the restaurant, which is for the casual sitting. The back of the restaurant is nicer. We noticed that the rest was not full. We were told that we could not change our table, however, we overhead another party of six who asked to be moved to the rear of the restaurant and the staff complied with their request. At this point we were disgusted with the staff.

Our waitress was very gracious and did a great job. The maitreed was arrogant and very unfriendly. For the amount you pay at this restaurant it was not worth it.

I would not return to this restaurant again.


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