By Debbie Hall
Chef Carla Pellegrino is the beautiful, charismatic chef who burst onto the Las Vegas culinary scene a decade ago and is thriving today in Southern Nevada. Behind her looks, charm and grace is a determined woman who has overcome obstacles with the love and support of her family and community.
She is the owner and operator of Bratalian by Carla Pellegrino in Henderson, along side her sister, Chef Alessandra Madeira, brother-in-law and niece.
“Bratalian is a statement of freedom for me,” Chef Pellegrino stated. “It is my beacon of independence that I am declaring.” The restaurant with its staff and customers and the food that is cooked and served is much like her children. She cherishes it and every moment she spends there.
Her journey to Bratalian began with a contentious divorce, no settlement and another foray into the restaurant business. She first moved to Las Vegas to open Rao with her then husband Frank. She met him three days after arriving in the United States from Italy, speaking no English at the time. “I did not really understand the dynamic of becoming a chef and cook for him. To me it was fun because I was in love and never thought about business. I was literally a cook that became a chef.”
Then there was a divorce and she had to make a choice of either, “my reputation or waiting for a possible 1 million dollars that might never come.” After working for someone else and with $100,000 in the bank (after concluding her divorce and resigning from Rao’s Caesars Palace), Chef Pellegrino decided to open Bratalian offering authentic Italian cuisine in Henderson. The name reflected her Brazilian and Italian heritage (as well as nickname) and she scouted for locations.
The perfect fit had been a rock ‘n’ roll hangout painted all in black. Along with that work, with such a limited budget, Chef Pellegrino had to find used kitchen equipment (which she hoped wouldn’t blow up) to scrub and refurbish. Thrift stores and other outlets helped to create the unique décor and she opened its doors.
The restaurant and her authentic Italian cuisine was a hit. In 2016, she added breakfast and weekend brunch and watched her business continue to grow.
Then the unthinkable happened.
A driver suffered a seizure and drove through the restaurant to the guests’ restrooms, destroying everything in its path. While the driver was not badly injured and the restaurant was closed, no one was hurt. But Chef Pellegrino realizes it is more than good luck.
“There had been a petition to open the restaurant seven days a week because it was so popular. If the accident had occurred while it was open, many people would have hurt and probably killed,” she explained.
While insurance would replace the destroyed furniture and repair the location, she worried about her staff. What was supposed to take 2 ½ weeks would take months, which meant the business would be closed. It was suggested that she open a GoFundMe account and the community donated so that she could pay her staff during the closure.
But what took her breath away was on opening day there was a long line around the strip mall for her restaurant. Even with a 1-hour wait, everyone was happy and patient and showed their love for Chef Pellegino and Bratalian.
With an amazing menu, full bar and attentive staff, Chef Pellegino serves her food and customers with love, passion and devotion as well as remaining true to herself.
Bratalian by Carla Pellegrino
10740 S. Eastern Ave.
Henderson, NV 89052