At a Glance
What is it?
A restaurant from Food Network celebrity chef Giada De Laurnetiis.
Where is it?
At The Cromwell on the Center Strip.
What kind of food is served?
Italian and Mediterranean dishes with a summery California cuisine vibe.
What is the atmosphere like?
Bright and sunny with great views of The Strip and Bellagio Fountains.
How is the service?
Terrific throughout the meal.
What are the prices like?
Very expensive but you feel like you are getting your money’s worth.
What else do I need to know?
Giada herself is not in the kitchen cooking every night, but does make appearances.
What’s the bottom line?
A welcome addition to the celebrity chef restaurant portfolio in Vegas.
Most people only know Giada De Laurentiis from her Food Network show “At Home with Giada” or her “Today” show appearances, but she actually has a pretty extensive culinary background that may come as a surprise to some. The granddaughter of famed director Dino De Laurentiis trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and was a chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Beverly Hills. Considering the backgrounds of some people who have restaurants in Vegas, it’s actually a surprise she didn’t have one sooner.
The space at The Cromwell is a stunner. Carved out of the second floor area that used to be a parking garage, the room is accessed by escalators or elevators from the casino level that open out onto a sunny, white, light-filled space with light woods, homey furnishings, and big windows overlooking The Strip. Get the right seat and you’ll be able to watch the Bellagio Fountains blast off from your table.
The menu here fits right at home with the De Laurentiis’ specialties – Italian and Mediterranean cuisine with a bit of a California influence. At first glance, everything seems light, summery, and fun; the kind of stuff you would get at a small cuccina in Italy rather than a typical Vegas restaurant with its big heavy portions of meat and potatoes.
Which is not to say that the food isn’t substantial. Everything we sampled was so robust and bursting with flavor that you would do well not to overdo it on an ordering spree, no matter how tempted you may be.
The first page of the menu is all starters – a sort of create-your-own antipasti platter from vegetables like marinated olives or baby sweet peppers with goat cheese; meat like bacon wrapped dates with spicy Italian sausage; seafood with charred octopus or clams casino; cheese from mozzarella with a citrus chili pesto to parmigano with wild sage honey; salamis; crostini (finger sandwiches); and miniature pizzas. You could make a meal just from this section and we almost did with the orzo meatballs done with a light parmesan, the burrata with balsamic salt, and the prosciutto San Daniele. All of it was fantastic but both the burrata and the prosciutto made me deliriously happy and I could’ve ended the meal right there without any complaints.
There are some soups and salads, which might be good options if you need something really light. I sampled the pasta e fagioli and was a little disappointed – I thought it had been over-spiced but someone else at the table also had a bowl and thought it was fine so different taste buds may react different ways.
Owing to the Italian influence there are a variety of house made pastas to consider including a spaghetti with shrimp and lemon, a rigatoni with vegetable Bolognese, and a ravioli with lobster and asparagus. We sampled the tortellini with pea pesto, pancetta, and mint and the only bit of advice here is one taken from the waiter: you have to like peas to like this dish. I don’t so it wasn’t what I would have selected but the person who ordered it declared it perfect.
The risotto with crabs and scallops was also sampled and it was a great example of the deceptive portions here. When it came to the table it didn’t seem like it was going to be enough for a main course but the bowl was deeper than it appeared and turned out to be not only satisfying in proportion but bursting with flavor.
Main courses are things like a Tuscan rib-eye done with a sunny side up egg, a veal chop Saltimbocca, rack of lamb with spinach, pan roasted salmon, and a whole roasted chicken for two. We tried the filet, served with a zesty salsa verde and crispy polenta, and it was a terrific cut of meat done better than many steakhouses can do it.
Dessert is brought around on a cart and changes based on the whims of the pastry chef but could include things like sorbet and gelato, cookies, tiramisu, creme brulee, cakes, tarts, and more. One bit of advice – don’t tell the server that you have a nut allergy if you actually want to have dessert. They wouldn’t give me anything from the cart, even things that didn’t have nuts in them, out of cross contamination fears. I explained that my allergy was not that severe but they stuck to their guns, which was both good of them and kind of annoying at the same time. My dining companions declared the chocolate cake and the cookies they sampled to be amazing and I hated them a little bit for it.
There is a weekend brunch menu offering things like waffles, egg dishes, and an Italian hash plus a lunch menu that features many of the same dishes as dinner but adds more salads, pizza, and sandwiches including muffaletta and a lemon pesto grilled cheese with prosciutto.
There is also a tasting menu that comes with four courses and a signed photograph of Giada herself.
Prices are pretty much what you would expect them to be, which is to say on the expensive side. Antipasti selections are mostly in the $10-$15 range, pastas in the $25-$35 sphere, and main courses anywhere from the mid $30s to over $70 for the big rib-eye steak. Our meal for three with one round of cocktails, three starters, three entrees, a couple of desserts, tax, and tip worked out to about $80 per person. Go at lunch and you could probably get out for about half of that. That’s not bad for a nice restaurant in Vegas in general and especially one this good.
The service was fantastic throughout the meal (except, perhaps, for the whole “no dessert for you” thing).
One important note is that the restaurant remains popular so advance reservations are required.
Las Vegas really didn’t need another celebrity chef restaurant but if it was going to get one, it couldn’t have been any better than Giada.