Vegas Style Shrimp Cocktail – Monkey Chow Las Vegas Edition!

Story of the Vegas Style Shrimp Cocktail?

Shrimp cocktail was introduced to the Las Vegas casino scene in 1959 by Italo Ghelfi, a restaurant/bar owner from the San Francisco Bay Area and a founding partner at the Golden Gate Casino. What brought Ghelfi from the Bay Area to Las Vegas’ most historic hotel and casino—and what did this have to do with the sudden departure of a notorious illegal gambling kingpin?

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This Vegas story starts with Emilio ‘Gomba’ Giorgetti who controlled illegal slot operations, liquor sales and several powerful politicians in the Bay Area. In 1948, Giorgetti came to Las Vegas to form a partnership with Benny Binion at the Westerner Casino on Fremont Street. When the two men knocked heads over management differences, those differences were resolved in classic Vegas style– with the flip of a coin.


Binion lost the coin toss, but as fate would have it, he later moved across the street to the Horseshoe where he became—as Robin Leach would say—“Rich and Famous”. As for Giorgetti, the victory was short-lived. U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver came to Las Vegas to hold a nationally televised hearing on organized crime in the old Federal Courthouse (now wonderfully restored as the Mob Museum).



At the time, television was new to the average American home and Sen. Kefauver’s live broadcasts of testimony by reputed mob bosses attracted more viewers than the World Series.


When Giorgetti was subpoenaed to appear before the Kefauver Committee, the negative publicity was so intense that he decided it was time to sell and get out of town. Like any smart, sophisticated mobster, he called his lawyer.


Giorgetti’s lawyer was Joseph Alioto, who later became mayor of San Francisco. Alioto called one of Italo Ghelfi’s partners to ask if he wanted to buy a casino in Las Vegas. When Ghelfi saw the casino’s books, his jaw dropped. He ran a successful bar in Oakland with the longest bar west of the Mississippi (a distinction that now belongs to the LONGBAR at the D), but he had never seen numbers like these. He was ready to come to Las Vegas.


Ghelfi and his partners bought the Westerner from Giorgetti, then sold it for a profit just two years later. Ghelfi’s next stop was One Fremont Street, where he opened the Golden Gate Casino on the main floor of what was then the Sal Sagev (Las Vegas spelled backward).


There are volumes of original Las Vegas stories at this special address, ranging from the first telephone in 1907 (the # was “1″) to the drinking and gambling antics of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. during the Rat Pack era. The Golden Gate, quite simply, is the embodiment of Las Vegas history.


In this story, Italo Ghelfi established a colorful reputation as a gaming pioneer and a beloved member of the Las Vegas community. In so doing, Ghelfi displaced a mobster and started a shrimp cocktail tradition that still thrives today. And that’s the connection!

Join Editor Shawn J. Shoulders and Contributor Scotty J. Scott as they embark on a culinary journey to discover the world of amazing food using store bought and packaged ingredients!


Vegas Style Shrimp Cocktail – Monkey Chow Las Vegas Edition!

What You Need:

Court Bouillon:

  • 10 cups cold water
  • 2 medium carrots, quartered
  • 2 stalks celery, quartered
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves


  • 1 pound medium or large shrimp, in the shell, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 lemon, cut in wedges
  • shredded lettuce
  • Cocktail Sauce, recipe follows
  • Lemon wedges

Cocktail Sauce:

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 lemon, zest finely grated and juiced
  • 4 teaspoons prepared horseradish, or to taste, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce, to taste



Put the water, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, lemon, parsley, thyme, and bay leaves in a pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer, set a cover on top slightly ajar, and cook for 10 to 30 minutes.

Drop the shrimp into the liquid and turn off the heat. Cook the shrimp, stirring occasionally, until they curl and turn pink, about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes for medium shrimp, 3 minutes for large ones. Drain and cool to room temperature. Peel the shrimp and remove the vein along the curve of the shrimp, if desired. Refrigerate if not serving right away. If refrigerated, bring the shrimp to room temperature 20 minutes before serving.

To serve put the cocktail sauce in a medium bowl and surround with the shrimp, or loop the shrimp over the edge of an individual cocktail glass and top with the sauce. Garnish with the lemon and serve.

Optional Tip: To de-vein the shrimp before cooking, hold a shrimp between the thumb and forefinger with the rounded side of the shrimp upward. Place the pointed end of a wooden skewer at the junction of the second and third segments of the shrimp shell, about 1/8-inch down from the top. Gently push the skewer through the shell and then lift up to remove the vein.

Cocktail Sauce:

Combine the ketchup, lemon zest and juice, horseradish, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Add hot sauce, if desired. Mix well, then refrigerate until ready to serve.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

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