Mamma Mia!

A fresh menu of Italian specialties, new theme and décor, topped off with classic rock filling the room makes River Rock Pizza & Pasta the hottest new restaurant in town.
River Rock opened the end of June and guests have been lining up to get a taste of the new eats inside the Aquarius Casino Resort. The restaurant replaces the former Vineyard Ristoranté, which was ready for a new concept Vice President of Food & Beverage Tim Abrams said.
“I think the Vineyard kind of ran its course after 30 years,” Abrams said. “We were in need of a change, something unique for this area that everyone can identify with. Everybody loves pizza and pasta — you can’t go wrong with it. And we adjusted the price point so it’s more affordable to the average guest.”
The restaurant is completely unique to the Aquarius and was designed to complement the Laughlin area. The “Rock” part comes through in the design and music to give guests a fun spot to continue the party before and after concerts.
“It’s more casual, more rock and roll,” Golden Entertainment Corporate Food & Beverage Director Jason Shullo said. “You know since we have the Laughlin Event Center as well in our portfolio, we wanted to tie in that experience of just fun, loose, good food and good view. So that’s kind of how we came up with River Rock.”
The real star of the show is definitely the food — every ingredient in every dish was hand selected to create amazing flavor profiles. Golden Entertainment Corporate Chef Bradley Manchester designed the menu with guests in mind, making it alluring and unique at the same time.
“The thinking process behind it when I started to conceptualize the menu was looking at our guests, looking at what the offerings are at some of the surrounding properties and coming up with something that was recognizeable, yet focusing on really good quality products, focusing on being made from scratch and overall flavor that you just may not be able to get somewhere else,” Manchester said.
Each step in every recipe includes fresh ingredients cooked at the time of order and guests can taste the difference.
“You can get tomato sauce anywhere, but for our sauce we are bringing in San Marzano tomatoes, we are using all fresh ingredients, there is nothing that is canned or premade,” Manchester said. “There are no pre-grated cheeses, we’re using whole milk mozzarellas that we grate in house, which is going to produce a better melt on the pizzas. We’re using fresh herbs in a lot of the pastas. And when it comes to the pasta dishes, a lot of the sauces are á la minute, so you’re getting that real freshness, because they are not just sitting in a steam well reducing away, they are all made as soon as you order.”
The entire staff at River Rock received substantial training to learn the techniques and construct an identical high-quality dish every time it leaves the kitchen.
“Before we opened we would make the recipes and everyone would taste it and once that recipe was dialed in, the cooks who were going to be producing it every day would make it and we would go through the same process of tasting it and making sure it was just right,” Manchester said. “Even though I am the corporate chef for the entire company, we do come down here very often and taste-check every little thing to make sure we are following consistency guidelines.”
Everything on the menu is delicious but there are a few standouts that have quickly become favorites among patrons.
“One is our capellini pomodoro, which has sautéed shrimp with a garlicky scampi sauce over the top of it and our pomodoro sauce is made with fresh tomatoes that we are peeling, then cooking them down with fresh garlic and olive oil, so it’s a true pomodoro sauce,” Manchestor said. “Another one is our chicken alfredo. A lot of places do alfredo sauce, but we do whole roasted chicken, we pull the meat, we make the fresh chicken stock, then we reduce the sauce with the chicken stock and the chicken with a touch of cream and finish it with a really high-end parmesan, and it’s made fresh every order. We also have a short rib and wild mushroom pasta that seems to be very popular.
“Then you have our pizzas. Our most requested pizza is the Brooklyn pizza, so it’s got cup-and-char pepperoni, it’s got salami, homemade meatballs, some nice red onions and it’s finished with whipped ricotta,” he continued. “The pizza dough we are going to be using is made off of a sourdough starter, so it’s a live active pizza dough that we just dialed in and focused it for our exact pizza ovens. Again, we look at every little ingredient, every little step, every little technique, and just make sure that it is the best that we can possibly do.”
There is also salads, sandwiches and classic Italian desserts on the menu, as well as wine, beer and cocktails.
Manchester said that he will be continuing to expand the menu with guest feedback and is planning to add some seasonal specials.
“We’re looking at adding a few entrees and a steak option, some kind of an Italian version of a steak dish in there, because it seems like we do have a demand for that here,” he said. “It goes back to listening to our guest, making sure we evolve the menu to appease everybody.
“October will be our first menu revamp and we are also looking at going a bit seasonal so maybe adding some cheese raviolis with butternut squash and sage, getting into some of the fall flavors but also responding to what some of our guest feedback has been as well.”
Overall guest response has been very favorable toward the new restaurant, as River Rock provides a casual, fun spot, with top-quality food at an affordable price.
“I think it complements our overall offerings nicely,” Shullo said. “Between Edgewater and Aquarius, we have the steakhouse in Hickory Pit, you’ve got a great casual pizza pasta place here, you’ve got your coffee shop with Duet — it’s a good balance.”
Stop in for a meal Monday and Thursday (4 p.m.-10 p.m.) and Friday-Sunday (3 p.m.-11 p.m.). To-go orders are also available for pick-up; call 800-662-5825 ext. 420.