My friends and I have been looking forward to Giada's first restaurant ever since it was announced that she would be opening in Vegas. Many news updates and delays later, Giada's finally opened to the public tonight. We were one of her first paying customers to be seated. The theme of the restaurant is Italian with a Californian twist, so most dishes were a bit lighter with very nice use of citrus to brighten up the food.
This will be a long review, so for those that don't want to read a wall of text, the words I would use to sum up Giada's would be "Homey", "Inviting", and "Perfection".
The restaurant is on the 2nd floor of the Cromwell, with escalators dedicated to it. Escalators drop you off at the hostess booth and then you are taken to your seat. The first thing you see walking into the dining room is a huge array of antipasti, a station where pasta is being made from scratch, and a pizza oven imported from Italy. It's a very smart way to let the diner see how fresh everything is and also to give a little preview of what's available. The room then opens up into a very inviting dining room. Casual with a slight feminine touch. You can feel how involved Giada was with the planning and design. The huge windows (which open to turn the dining room into a gigantic patio) look out to great views of Caesars Palace, Bellagio, Cosmo, and Aria. The Bellagio fountains are visible from almost every table. I can't think of a better location for a restaurant.
Even though it was opening night, service was impeccable. The staff are well-trained and know the menu. Our server was Jason and he was excellent. Every dish he talked about sounded more delicious than the one before it. And his recommendations were spot on. We felt cared for throughout and found our experience enhanced by the service.
Once we ordered, we received bread service that included very nice black pepper breadsticks and a warm lemon-herb focaccia served in a small cast-iron pot. Definitely one of the more unique and tasty bread offerings on the strip. We were also started with a complimentary apéritif with flavors of elderflower. A very nice start and an indication of the great meal to come.
On to the food. The two-page menu features a page of antipasto (with 45 choices of apps in small-plate format) and a page with the real menu. We started with an assortment of antipasti. The "Bacon-Wrapped Dates" came as a serving of five dates stuffed with spicy sausage and sitting on a bed of smooth, creamy gorgonzola. Tons of flavor, with the spiciness offset by the sweetness of the date and the crema smoothing out the flavors. The "Clams Casino" were excellent with fresh littlenecks cooked in white wine, with prosciutto, lots of garlic, and these tiny bread crumbs for texture. "Oysters Rockefeller" came with four deep fried oysters sitting in their shells with spinach bread crumbs. We also ordered the Burrata and the Prosciutto (separate dishes, but they complement each other). The burrata was made in-house and was sheer perfection. Fresh and smooth and silky, it went perfectly with the prosciutto. Prosciutto was served with pickled grapes and pickled apples. Wrap a grape in prosciutto and pick up some burrata with it for a bite of pure heaven. All the antipasti was good, but the clams and the burrata were standouts.
Next, we shared some pasta. The Spaghetti came with three HUGE shrimp (they must be 1-2/pound). The shrimp was cooked perfectly and the spaghetti was kept light with the addition of lemon and basil. The acidity of lemon really cuts through a dish that could otherwise be heavy. Spaghetti turned out to be the unanimous winning dish for the night. Next was the Lobster Ravioli. Each freshly-made ravioli was stuffed with a piece of lobster. Additional pieces of lobster joined asparagus tips on the plate. A very pleasant citrus sauce brought the dish together and it was excellent. Again we see the use of citrus to bring out flavors and cut through richness. I appreciated that the ravioli was stuffed simply with lobster meat. There was no cheese mixed in to make the ravioli seem dense and compete with the taste of the lobster. Finally, we received the Crab and Scallop Risotto. The risotto itself had pieces of crab folded in and came presented with two perfectly seared scallop sitting on top. The dish was finished with a light citrus olive oil. I really enjoyed the flavors of this dish, although the crab itself was a bit lost.
Main dishes arrived next. We ordered the "Porter house for two", which was presented to us in a very nice stainless steel pan and then carved table-side. Here is where they impressed me the most. The waiter expertly separated the filet from the strip steak, sliced each one into appropriate slices, and plated individual plates with both types of meat, adding grilled lemon, cherry tomatoes, and a supplemental streak of sauce. I forgot what he called the sauce, but it was an oil-based sauce with herbs chopped in. Great presentation and reflects great training and attention to detail. The steak itself was wonderful. A beautiful crust full of herbs and spices complemented by the sauce made for one very nice dish. Finally, we received the Veal Chop Saltimbocca. The Saltimbocca sauce was extremely flavorful and went well with the veal. While still excellent, this was our least favorite dish of the night. Although the fault is probably ours because the flavors were reminiscent of olives, something all of us dislike. With our main courses, we ordered a side of Lemon Potatoes, which is a real winner. Small potatoes cooked, smashed, and fried (think Umami Burger in LA) and topped with lemon-infused olive oil and lots of Parmesan. It took potatoes to a whole new level and paired very well with the main courses.
We were then presented with dessert menus and offered coffee. I don't know what it was called, but we ordered this Nutella espresso that was great. A dollop of Nutella, a shot of espresso, and fresh whipped cream all mixed together with some hazelnuts for texture. It was the perfect drink for our desserts. We ordered the Trio of Tiramisu and the Assortment of Cookies. The Tiramisu came as shot glasses with layers of cake and flavored cream (the trio being blackberry, chocolate, and raspberry). They were light and refreshing, which is a big change from the rich tiramisu you get elsewhere. The Assortment of Cookies came with four types of cookies (9 cookies total on the plate). The chocolate peanut butter one was great and the best by far was the lemon ricotta cookie.
Altogether, one heck of a meal. We were approached by Giada a couple times and by the GM a few times as well. It has been a long time since I've had a meal so consistently excellent. I will definitely return and it will definitely be a place I take visitors. 5 antipasti, 3 pastas, 2 entrees (including a steak meant for two), 1 side, 2 desserts, 2 cocktails, a $28 bottle of beer, and 2 espressos came to $380 before tax and tip. And it was more than enough for our table of four.
If I had to give criticism:
-We asked for more bread 2-3 times and finally received it after 20+ minutes, but that's just due to opening night jitters.
-The timing between courses was a bit slow, but the waiter often dropped by to apologize and explain that the kitchen was a bit behind due to it being opening night. He dropped by with three complimentary cocktails (chosen to give us a sampling of what the bar has to offer) to apologize for the wait.
-The risotto dish should be a larger serving. It's $30 and I understand why (the crab and the large scallops), but it looks a bit small for the price. They should simply give more risotto and nobody would find it too expensive, even though the crab and scallop amounts stay the same.
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