If she weren’t an Emmy Award-winning celebrity chef and New York Times best-selling author, Giada De Laurentiis says she’d be a race car driver. “It has almost as much adrenaline as being in that kitchen,” De Laurentiis told the 144 guests at a collaborative dinner with Bobby Flay during Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit in early May. Those guests, Flay explained, were actually the first to experience De Laurentiis’ cooking in a restaurant setting. They would not be alone for long.
On June 3, the curtains rose on De Laurentiis’ debut restaurant, Giada, in all-new The Cromwell Las Vegas, the only standalone boutique resort on the Strip. Roman-born De Laurentiis is also the first female celebrity toque in Caesars Entertainment’s Las Vegas pantheon of culinary deities, rubbing chef-coat shoulders with the likes of Flay, Gordon Ramsay, Guy Savoy and Nobu Matsuhisa.
From The Cromwell’s casino floor, you’ll ascend to De Laurentiis’ eponymous space via escalators, passing posters from the prolific career of film producer Dino De Laurentiis (he was the chef’s grandfather), before landing in what Giada would like you to feel is her living room. Indeed, the hostess podium takes a note from a desk in the chef’s home. Cubby shelving displays tastefully beachy bric-a-brac, a motif echoed throughout the multilevel space that is feminine without being overly girly. The restaurant was designed by Studio Collective and carries a reported price tag of $19 million.
The first thing De Laurentiis wants you to encounter is not a bar, but her food. So, entering through the lounge, you’ll come nose-to-display-case with her Cal-Italian antipasti display: chilled bowls of citrus-marinated calamari, grilled octopus, olives and rollatini (ricotta-stuffed eggplant), and a candy-apple-red slicer peeling off lacy ribbons of prosciutto San Daniele. Then, come to the pasta station, bread station and, finally, the chef’s prized pizza ovens. No, this is neither the time nor the place for counting carbs.
Wrapping around the L-shaped bar are perhaps some of the world’s most comfortable barstools; De Laurentiis tested all of the options herself in her own home. Each bears an embroidered “G” on its back, as well as a handle, which is helpful, she noted during a preview tour, when pulling them out for ladies. (Hint, hint, guys.) The Giada Cocktail — made with Kappa pisco, pineapple gomme, lime, apricot preserves and egg white — also has the delicate cursive initial emblazoned in bitters across its foamy top. The lounge, too, speaks to De Laurentiis’ casually elegant aesthetic, with quilted couches, inviting seating groupings, homey in their mixed and matched fabrics, and cocktail tables with mirror and marble tops.
The main dining room is just a few steps down from the bar and lounge, looking out over one of the busiest corners on the Strip, with views west to the mountains and south to the Bellagio fountains. Squat chairs (also with handles) surround linen-topped tables, which groan gracefully under the weight of De Laurentiis’ thickly crusted racks of lamb; 28-ounce, bone-in Tuscan rib-eye; signature lemon spaghetti with shrimp; and whole-roasted chicken cacciatore for two. Here, seven custom 12-foot-by-10-foot, remote-controlled hydraulic windows open the entire space up to the city — with somewhat cacophonous results, perhaps the only misstep in this gorgeous room. But if, at first glance, windows prove the only issue with the place, it’s safe to say De Laurentiis is sitting comfortably in the driver’s seat among Vegas’ new restaurateurs.
Photo Courtesy of Caesars Entertainment