Giada De Laurentiis lands in Las Vegas with a careful confidence. She knows she’s got a lot going for her here: a perfect partner in Caesars Entertainment; a peerless location at the Cromwell with near-panoramic views of the Strip; a stunning, splashy, wide-open space that feels as if it was designed to be The Hottest New Restaurant; and most importantly, her own beloved brand, now available, for the first time, as an interactive format with which any Vegas visitor can freely engage. (If they can nab a reservation.)
But she’s still careful. This is her first time, and she’s obsessed with creating a winner. She’s spent much of the restaurant’s first weeks here, making sure chef Kurtess Mortensen and his crew subscribe faithfully to her recipes and style, which are distinctive.
Giada’s menu reflects this tension, the dueling desires to accommodate all while staying true to how she likes to cook and eat. There’s a lot to sort through, but first you’ll cruise past a beautiful display of antipasti, a fresh pasta production station, a wood-burning oven for wonderful mini-pizzas and a handsome bar where delightful cocktails are named after grandpa Dino De Laurentiis’ Hollywood blockbusters.
Take a few moments to savor this dynamic room before you plunge into that menu. It’s crowded, but not too loud to carry on a conversation. I can’t wait to brunch here later this year when weekend, breakfast and lunch options launch.
Okay, let’s order. There’s an incredibly long list of small appetizers, vegetables and meatballs, salumi and seafood and cheese, and all of them sound delicious. Streamline by ordering a pre-selected assortment (platters range around $30-$40) or pick and choose, which is fun but expensive. My faves include eggplant rollatini ($12), a petite dish of smoky veggie coins filled with fresh ricotta plus tangy pomodoro sauce, and the spicy, smile-inducing salume pizzette ($13). I also adore Giada’s crostini, small toasts with brilliant toppings like ricotta, honey, lemon and pink peppercorn ($11), tomato-strawberry jam with feta and mint ($11) or pea pesto and prosciutto ($14).
If you’re expecting big, garlicky red sauces on massive bowls of pasta, oops. That’s not Giada. These pastas are precious, portioned just right with sometimes subtle, certainly more nuanced flavors. Her favorite is lemon spaghetti ($28) with shrimp, and it’s nice and sharp. I prefer rich, creamy risotto ($30) with a little crab and a lot of seared scallops, and the vegetable Bolognese on the rigatoni ($26) is impressive, too.
Giada compromises for a handful of big Vegas dishes but does them in her own way, which works out really well. A 28-ounce aged bone-in ribeye is impeccable and smartly finished with lemon, arugula and yolky egg, and chicken cacciatore ($55) transforms into a crispy whole roasted bird with the tomato-based sauce on the side. The best is branzino ($34), crispy and tender with greens and a tangerine vinaigrette.
Giada the restaurant was always going to be a big deal. It’s off to a strong start and will likely improve, but a standard has already been set—it’s a beautiful place with Italian food unlike what we’ve already got on the Strip.
Giada Cromwell, 855-442-3271. Sunday-Thursday, 5-10:30 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5-11 p.m.