Las Vegas’ Restroom Boom

The Las Vegas economy may be lounging in the crapper, but some of their restrooms are a flushing success.  Specifically, the heads at Zeffirino Ristorante, in the Venetian, nearly won a national contest. Now they stand as monuments to a fading era of opulence. Zeffirino

The point still remains that they were almost  voted as America’s Best Restrooms.

But Zeffirino Ristorante’s louves couldn’t apparently quite wipe out Radio City Music Hall’s in the annual publicity-stunt contest. Or the marble-columned facilities at the Tremont Plaza Hotel in Baltimore. Or the winning entry, at the Shoji Tabuchi Theatre in Branson, Mo. (The men’s room has a pool table. And a fireplace!)

But the men’s and ladies’ rooms at Zeffirino Ristorante, with marble floors, butter-pecan-colored tiles and other Italian imports, still hold significance on the Las Vegas Strip. 

For the Venetian bathrooms to even attempt to vault into the contest’s top 10 is somewhat remarkable: Casino lavatories usually evoke all the charm of their airport cousins. Add to that the scent of Captain Morgan, Marlboros and Lysol and — at least in the ladies’ room — the murmurs of women primping for men or crying over them.

More notably, Zeffirino’s (almost) award-winning restroom is a monument to Las Vegas’ bygone luxury era.

In 2006, before the recession chiseled away at profligate spending, the Italian restaurant in the Venetian poured nearly $1 million into transforming a private dining room into a pair of lavish lavatories.

It made perfect sense that, on the ever-more-ornate Strip, a women’s restroom would boast a limestone lion’s head trickling water into a basin filled with fresh roses.

Now, with the economic downturn trimming the average Zeffirino dinner bill by about a third, the bathrooms are examples of the Las Vegas Strip excess to be gawked at by bargain-hunters.
 
The America’s Best Restroom contest was sponsored by Cintas Corp., which makes restroom supplies. The public was invited to vote online, and the results were announced this summer.

The contest website notes, “In one recent survey, more than 75% of respondents said they would not return to a restaurant if the restrooms were not well kept.”

The website didn’t offer specifics on the survey, but added: “In the face of statistics like this, we felt it was worth giving credit where credit is due. At this site we are honoring companies and organizations who go above and beyond the call of duty to present a pleasant, even memorable experience in a public restroom.”

When Zeffirino Ristorante, a spinoff of a family-run eatery in Genoa, Italy, opened in 1999, owners had pumped $11 million into its look, said managing director Giuliano Berto, who grew up outside Venice and wanted Zeffirino’s to have an old-money feel. The restaurant is next to the casino’s Grand Canal Shoppes and its serenading gondoliers.

Nearly all the decor was shipped from Italy, including a wishing well from Naples with carved figures of maidens. The restaurant’s ceiling was painted to suggest centuries of water damage, though the Venetian opened only a decade ago.

The urinals are even framed with red drapery.

Inside the women’s restroom are marble tiles, cherry-wood doors and four stalls, each with its own Murano glass sink, rococo-style mirror and hand towels emblazoned with a yellow stripe and the restaurant name.

(The cloth towels only appear at certain hours. Lunch patrons must settle for paper towels: The bathroom attendant only works at night, and the pricey linens are often stolen.)

Berto is convinced that better pictures of his bathrooms would have clinched the Best Restroom prize.

Still, his landed in the top five and qualified for the “America’s Best Restroom Hall of Fame.”

And he can boast that Zeffirino’s still beat out Chicago’s Drake Hotel — it has palm tree murals and a chandelier — and six other restrooms, none of them in Las Vegas.

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