When chef Julian Serrano opened Picasso in 1998, he was one of a handful of stewards ushering in a new era of fine dining on the Las Vegas Strip. Now, 25 years later, Serrano has announced his upcoming retirement, stepping away from Lago and closing the storied Picasso restaurant this summer.

Picasso — with its valanced windows, French food, and paintings and ceramic pieces by the namesake artist — opened during a new shift in Vegas’s approach to dining. The ’90s were replete with openings of what would become legendary restaurants by celebrated chefs, among them Andre Rochat’s Andre’s Restaurant & Lounge at the Monte Carlo, Jean-Louis Palladin’s Napa at the Rio, Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, and Charlie Palmer’s Aureole.

Picasso was the first Las Vegas restaurant to receive a James Beard Award nomination for Best New Restaurant and one of only two restaurants in the city to receive two Michelin stars. The restaurant inside the Bellagio became one of the first landmark restaurants on the Strip, often credited with raising the city’s dining profile to what it is today.

The al fresco dining area of Picasso, overlooking the Fountains at Bellagio.

Anthony Mair

Born in Madrid, Serrano got his start working in restaurants on Caribbean cruise liners, in Nashville, and in San Francisco. In 1998, he relocated to Las Vegas to open Picasso and went on to earn two regional “Best Chef” awards from the James Beard Foundation. Serrano is also stepping away from his other lakeside restaurant at the Bellagio, Lago. The restaurant will remain open and the chef will remain at the helm of Julian Serrano Tapas at Aria Resort & Casino. “As chef Serrano embarks on this well-deserved retirement, we reflect on the remarkable 25-year journey of Picasso,” Bellagio’s president & COO Ann Hoff said in a statement provided to Eater Vegas. “His artistry has left an indelible mark on our guests and the Las Vegas dining scene.”

Those looking to visit Piscasso before its shutter can expect a tasting menu with courses like warm quail salad with pine nuts, sauteed medallion of fallow deer in a compote of blood orange, steak with foie gras and caramelized apple, and crispy gnocchi with morels. Its dining room stands out for its plush red and yellow carpet, arched ceilings and patterned walls, dressed windows that look out over the fountains and, up until recently, the works of Pablo Picasso. (In 2021, on the artist’s 140th birthday, Sotheby’s auctioned off 11 pieces that rested on the restaurant’s walls and shelves — the largest fine art auction to ever take place in Las Vegas. It fetched around $110 million.)

Picasso will close in August, though MGM Resorts International has not yet shared its last day of service or what can be expected to replace the lakeside restaurant space.

Chef Julian Serrano cooks at Picasso.

Chef Julian Serrano.
Robert John Kley

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