Giada De Laurentiis’ Las Vegas Strip restaurant celebrates its 10th anniversary

This spring, Restaurant Giada begins its tenth year at The Cromwell, above the confluence of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard, with towering windows arranging views of Caesars Towers, Bellagio Fountains and the Strip beyond. The restaurant has become a Vegas institution. A quarter of a million skills of spaghetti with lemon was served.

But when Giada De Laurentiis, celebrity chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, Food Network star, and Daytime Emmy winner, was launching her namesake site, she said there were naysayers, despite her hit TV shows and amazing cookbook sales.

“I didn’t have a restaurant team. I didn’t have menus that I could pull from other restaurants. It was my first ever restaurant. We were going to open a motel. I was one of the first female chefs in the strip to have a restaurant. I think people wondered, ‘How long Can this continue?”

To generate interest in the restaurant, De Laurentiis handed out her version of muffulettas to valet taxi drivers at The Cromwell and at Caesars Palace, her older brother’s, across the street.

“I can’t tell you what it did for our business,” the chef said of the sandwich’s gift during his recent visit to Vegas. “At the end of the day, I’m a fraud.”

Photography and fans

It’s a busy Saturday for Giada during her trip. In person, De Laurentiis appears just like she does on TV: petite, her hair in loose light brown waves, her manner open and easy, with a knack for making any food she happens to discuss seem at once approachable and sensual. (She is, after all, Romanian by birth.)

During the photo shoot, the chef strikes her mark, discusses a new tortellini dish and interacts with fans who have left their tables (and serving Cavatelli), as their smartphone enthusiasm threatens to disrupt the shoot.

“I want people to have a special experience when they come here,” De Laurentiis said, and if that experience means making an impromptu iPhone, that’s part of being a Giada.

View room

Later that afternoon, the chef returned to the topic of the early days, when Giada was forming.

“There was nothing here. It was a two-story garage.” Did you understand the ins and outs of the building? Honestly, I had no idea.”

But one thing De Laurentiis understood, right from the start, was the view, and how the restaurant could take advantage of it. “It’s great,” she said. “On a good day, the windows are open. It’s like you’re hanging above the bar.”

What awaits us. Loving the locals

Besides Giada, the chef owns only one other restaurant: Pronto by Giada, a casual setting at Caesars Palace. And unlike the popular cookbooks and TV shows, when it comes to restaurants, less is more, she said.

“I am not one of those people who have 20 concepts in the same city. In order to keep a gem as a gem and special, you can’t open too many concepts in the same city.”

Which means a lot of her focus in Vegas is still on Giada and her future.

“The sector is changing a bit,” she said, “and there hasn’t been more competition.” “I think another 10 years will bring remodels, tables, and fixtures. I’m excited about what the next 10 years will bring.”

The focus will also continue to be on Vegas residents, who can drive to The Cromwell just off Flamingo, then walk up the escalator to Giada and slabs of spaghetti with lemon.

“I think the restaurant was built with the idea that everyone who stays at this hotel will be the only people dining here, but that wasn’t the case,” said De Laurentiis. “A lot of the success comes from the locals. We market to them. And it really works.”

Valentine’s dishes

During her visit, De Laurentiis worked with her team on Giada’s Valentine’s Day menu.

There’s tortellini stuffed with lemon-scented ricotta, in shoals of Parmesan broth, Barolo-braised short rib medallion cooked in the middle, and garnished with candied beets for a “nice little sweetness,” said the chef. A spiralized cone of lemon spaghetti with jumbo crab, mascarpone cream, and tarragon receives a caviar knot on Valentine’s Day.

Amore Chocolate Dessert Layers Chocolate Cake Layers, Caramel Panna Cotta and Sparkling Cranberry Jam. Amore’s is topped with delicate white chocolate feathers individually crafted by Robyn Lucas, Giada’s Executive Pastry Chef. (The current industry is such that the restaurant uses one of the most comprehensive kitchen manuals in town.)

If the weather is warm enough on Valentine’s Day, the windows will open at Giada. Because romance (lemon pasta) tastes best with a little bit of the outdoors.

Contact Jonathan L. Wright at [email protected] Continued @tweet on Twitter.