Born on The 4th of July

4th of July Birthday Girl's Breakfast! -
4th of July Birthday Girl Anjelica’s Breakfast! –

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Twenty-two years ago today, at 6:30 a.m., my daughter burst forth upon the world on a hot and humid morning.  Having gone into labor the night of July 2nd, I assumed within a few hours she would be cuddling with me.  How wrong I was. Throughout the hours of waiting, various rounds of nurses offered me upbeat conversation, ice chips, popsicles, and later, saltines.  24 hours into this labor, I could have used a hit of protein since my last meal, pasta with pesto, had seemed in the mists of time.  Finally, the doctor who would deliver Anjelica offered me six hours of induced sleep because “I need you to push when the time comes.”

I had lost track of time.  The nurses and doctor roused me from my somnambulistic state, and informed me, “It’s show time!” 10 minutes later, Anjelica descended into the world.  She was pink and perfect, with scads of dark hair.  All of those pre-natal vitamins, breakfasts of cream of wheat, the purge of my daily glass of vino, coffee and all other caffeine-related beverages from my diet paid off, for she was perfectly formed, gorgeous, and totally worth it and more.

It was, a nurse excitedly told me, the 4th of July.

My half-Greek, half-Italian daughter was a Yankee-Doodle baby?  My family was thrilled, for Anjelica was an immigrant’s dream:  Born on the 4th of July.  That night as she lay sleeping in my arms, I watched the fireworks on the river through the large picture window in my maternity ward room.  Throughout the noise, glitter, and wonder of that fireworks show, Anjelica snoozed away.

On her first 4th of July she may have dozed, but thereafter, we celebrated her birthday big time, always concluding with the professional fireworks event on the river.  Last year we celebrated her 21st birthday at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, and with Cirque du Soleil’s ‘O’ show.  This year’s 4th of July birthday is lower-keyed, but will still include fireworks tonight.  Like the fireworks, Anjelica herself lights up my world.  Happy Birthday to my darling daughter!

Ciao for now.


Viva Las Vegas, Part IV: Dining in Style

Original Picasso painting at Picasso –


Captivating aspects of travel include partaking of the local cuisine.  Prior to our journey to the land of Las Vegas, I enlisted the help of a Bellagio Concierge.  Reservations were then made well in advance at Bellagio’s Picasso, Circo, and Todd English’s Olives. While the meals were all memorable, two out of the three proved to be our favorites.

Dinner at Picasso was not only superb, but a true gustatory experience.  Seated overlooking The Fountains, we savored delectable creations of Chef Julian Serrano such as Sauteed Ruby Red Shrimp [shrimp stacked and surrounded with zucchini, artichoke, tomato confit and piquillo pepper vinaigrette]; Roasted Tornado Loin of Colorado Lamb [with pisto, mint aioli, and tempura zucchini flower]; Sauteed Medallions of Fallow Deer [with spring truffles, white asparagus, and Zinfandel sauce; and scallops with mashed potatoes in a divine sauce.  Dessert too was pure poetry: Butterscotch Cream Cheese and Lime Tart [topped with toffee read pudding and rum ice cream].  The café au lait topped off a memorable dining experience.  Pleasing to the eye too was the eclectic floral arrangements on the dark wood sideboards enhanced the beauty of the surroundings.

In addition to the cuisine, the non-edible coup de grace of Picasso is the authentic Pablo Picasso artwork that covers the walls.  Large canvases watch diners feast on the French and Spanish-influenced cuisine of Picasso.  The china is fraught with Picasso drawings; each piece is different and makes for an artistic experience overall.  The Picasso ceramics displayed on a wall add to the aesthetic dining and art experience of the unique restaurant that bears the master’s name.

Another tremendous epicurean experience was at Circo, a Sirio Maccioni restaurant.   My parents cooked Southern Italian food, specifically Calabrese style, yet the regional Italian cooking of Tuscany is one I love.  My veneration of Tuscan cuisine was more than sated at Circo.  The imported fresh mozzarella from Italy’s Campagna province with yellow and red tomatoes topped with chopped fresh basil, made for an ambrosial Insalata Caprese. Spring truffles were in season, and the homemade Pappardelle with braised chicken was graced with liberal amounts of the delicate truffles.  The Fried Polenta Parmigiano and the piquant Insalata Misata [marinated Campari tomatoes, organic field greens, pecorino cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette] also enchanted our taste buds.

The Circo servers, Chris and Patrick, made much of Anjelia’s 21st birthday:  Since we were running short on time prior to a show, they asked that we return post-show for her special dessert.  We sprinted back into the restaurant after ten p.m., and our new friends served her up Panacotta [vanilla panna cotta with seasonal fruits of strawberries and blueberries] on a lovely Circo plate with “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate across it.  Tiramisu Tradizionale and a cup of caffe latte rounded out our desserts as we watched the enchanting Lago di Bellagio Fountains from our same table.

Circo’s charming décor brings a smile to one’s face:  It is designed as a high-end European circus motif with a breath-taking big top on the ceiling.  Along with the fine wine and food, Circo, like Picasso, proved to be a Bellagio haunt to which we will return.

Caprese salad with imported fresh mozzarella at Circo