Gourmet Detective

GIADA Brings Culinary Zest
To The Las Vegas Strip

by Pamela Price

Giada De Laurentiis was destined for culinary greatness. The worldwide star and daughter of film producer Dino De Laurentiis came from a large Italian family in Rome, where she spent most of her days in her grandfather’s restaurant. Years later, Giada followed her passion for cooking to train professionally at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She went on to impress at the prestigious Ritz Carlton Fine Dining Room and Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Beverly Hills before creating her own catering company in Los Angeles, GDL Foods. But it was in 2002 when Giada was first noticed by the Food Network. Her TV shows, from “Everyday Italian” to “Giada’s Weekend Getaways,” “Giada in Paradise: Capri and Santorini” and “Giada at Home,” grew a community of fans from all corners of the world.

Several years ago, I first saw Giada on the Food Network, where I was instantly hooked after she taught a segment on how to make Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil Bruschetta. I followed the Emmy winning food star’s career from then on. With regular appearances on NBC’s “Today Show” and New York Times best-selling cookbooks, it was only a matter of time before Giada would open her first restaurant. And what better city to do it in than Las Vegas, where the most renowned Chefs come to make their restaurant mark at the top hotels.

This past June, GIADA opened at Vegas’ brand new boutique hotel, The Cromwell. It is the perfect location: young, hip and on the strip. In the heat of the summer, I had the opportunity to visit GIADA and it was certainly a memorable culinary experience. As you exit the elevators onto the second floor, you follow a sleek white hallway to the entrance of the restaurant. Just as Giada designed it, the entrance is very warm and welcoming. Just behind the hostess stand are ceiling high shelves decorated with beautiful vases, flowers and even some cookbooks. Everything from the china, to the glassware and silverware were handpicked by Giada and her team, which includes the Studio Collective and architect Leo Daly.

Inside, there is a friendly open environment with the kitchen and colorful antipasto bar where you can see the preparation of fresh pasta, breads and desserts right before your eyes. To the left is an open dining area with wooden floors and ceilings and the feeling of a posh living room, except no home has a view quite as great as GIADA’s panoramic windows which look out onto the strip. The white cloth tables are accompanied by modern, yet comfortable vanilla clothed chairs. I was shown to the crescent booth, with the perfect view.

As for the menu, it is truly a mirror reflection of Giada’s passion for Italian cuisine with a Californian influence, and, of course, her love for lemon zest. Several of the dishes you will recognize from her cookbooks and shows. It is always best to start with shared plates of the Antipasti bites. While there is something for everyone from vegetable plates to cheeses, salumi and seafood, the ultimate is the Bacon Wrapped Dates with spicy Italian sausage & gorgonzola crema ($13). The combination of each flavor is perfectly matched. I particularly have a love for Proscuitto, but GIADA’s
Prosciutto San Daniele is so soft, you would think it was butter. The bite is served on a crostini with an equally smooth pea pesto ($17).

To pair with our dinner, the Sommelier suggested the Leviathan Red from California. It is a rich and full wine made of blended grapes.

On the entree end, from seafood to meat and pasta, there is a strong dish for each category. The Salmon is wonderful. Line caught off the coast of Oregon, it was pan roasted to a rich pink color with a silky texture. It’s served with summer succotash & whole grain mustard ($37). If you are more of a meat lover, then the 28 oz. Tuscan Rib-Eye with lemon, arugala and a sunny side up egg is a hearty dish to share with your entire dinner party. The Grilled Broccoli Rabe with calabrian chili vinaigrette ($11) and the Sweet Corn & Spicy Sausage ($10) are the perfect side dishes to accompany the Rib-Eye.

Of course, the grand finale must be the pasta dishes, a signature for Giada. My favorite would be the Ravioli with lobster, asparagus tips and tarragon ($34). But if you are like Giada, then lemon is more your style and the classic Spaghetti with shrimp and basil is the entree to order ($28).

You will taste hints (and sometimes even overwhelming hints) of lemon in many of the dishes. This continues through to dessert. I tried the cookie plate with Giada’s famous lemon ricotta cookie, the chocolate chunk and chocolate peanutbutter and jelly.

GIADA is a success for the first-time restaurant owner. The decor is charming, the menu is carefully crafted and the portions are perfect. For Las Vegas, this is a breath of fresh air.

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