I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Giada at the Cromwell, by chef Giada DeLaurentiis, is one of the most talked-about Vegas restaurant openings of the past year. I’m mostly immune to these sorts of things, but I admit, the hype got to me. For one thing, it’s nice to see another female celebrity chef opening a restaurant on the Strip. If I’m not mistaken, the last one to do so was Carla Pellegrini when she opened Bacio at the Tropicana–and that was a few years ago.
But, gender aside, what really matters is the food and dining experience. Early reviews on Giada were very positive. My brother (“Vegasbrolo”) and his wife ate here the week before I did and raved about it. But I don’t believe I ever read any reviews speaking from the solo diner point of view. It’s a dirty job, but someone had to do it. Oh, who am I kidding? I couldn’t wait to try it. So I made a reservation for my January trip.
I was a little nervous about the dress code (business casual) here before my trip. I purposely traveled carry-on only this trip (for the first time ever to Vegas) and so I really had to limit my outfits to things I could wear more than once, during the day and in the evening. I decided to bring black cords instead of black dress pants so I could wear them during the day as well. But would black corduroy be considered dressy enough for a place like this? I didn’t know.
On the evening of my reservation, I wore a dressy black top, a nice necklace and my flat black dress shoes to round out the outfit. If they turned me away because of the way I was dressed, I reasoned, at least that would give me something to blog about, right? I needn’t have worried. Not only did the hostesses not bat an eye at what I was wearing, I saw people there wearing jeans.
It was drizzling rain that night, and I neglected to bring my umbrella with me. So instead of a leisurely trip to the Cromwell, I hurried over there as quickly as possible (to get out of the rain), which meant I arrived 15 minutes early for my reservation. Even though it was busy, they seated me right away, which created a great first impression for me.
Before I arrived, I had been planning on offering to sit at the bar. I thought it might be more comfortable for me to blend in with others there rather than be seated at a two-top by myself. But they didn’t offer that as an option, and I’m so glad they didn’t. Instead, I was led to a two-top with bench seating facing the huge front window overlooking the Strip.
Wow, what a view!
Even though I was set back at some distance from the window, I could still see Caesars Palace all the way down to the Cosmopolitan. I even saw a Bellagio fountain show over the heads of people sitting at tables between me and the other side of the restaurant. (Sorry, I couldn’t get a photo of the view.)
The restaurant has a very contemporary, yet warm, decor. It’s dimly-lit (what else is new in the restaurant world). My standard for classy restaurants is if the waiters wear jackets and guess what? They do here (white jackets). Mine had an Italian accent, which also made me feel like I was getting “the real deal,” if you know what I mean. It would feel a little weird to be served in an Italian restaurant by someone with a Jersey accent, right?
I was not the only solo diner in the restaurant. Next to me was a business woman sitting alone as well. She was wrapping up her dinner as I was getting started. I asked her a question, and we chatted a bit before she left.
She gushed about her whole experience, including how wonderful the rosemary bread was and the vegetable bolognese. She said she is in Vegas frequently on business and always treats herself to a nice dinner at a fine dining restaurant. (Clearly, her employer offers a bigger dining budget for travel than mine does. One meal at Giada would blow the entire daily dining budget where I work.)
By the end of the meal, I had to agree with her positive review (and even texted my brother to tell him where I was and how much I loved it). Service here is impeccably perfect, or at least that was my experience. Granted, I’m not fussy about things like that. As long as I’m not forgotten, ignored, or treated like a second-class citizen, it’s hard to upset me.
But still, service was definitely above average here. You might think that a solo diner in a busy, expensive restaurant like this might be neglected a bit, but you’d be wrong. I received excellent service throughout, and it certainly wasn’t because I looked rich.
Giada has branded this restaurant very well. Her name is everywhere, including the napkins. There is no chance you’re going to forget the name of the restaurant or its owner/chef. I got a kick out of their use of technology. The cocktail menu is available on iPads and your check comes with an electronic survey about your experience that you can fill out on the spot. Easy and convenient.
Since all of the cocktails looked a bit strong to me and I am not a wine fan, I asked my waiter if they had Sangria. (Yes, I know this is made with wine, but it’s sweeter and fruity, which is what makes it taste better to me.) He said “Absolutely. I can make you a sangria.” I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant where they make sangria on request. Usually, it’s either available on the menu because a batch has been premade or they say “No, sorry, we don’t have that.” So again, I was really impressed by this.
He asked if I preferred white or red. I went with white. It was an excellent sangria. It came in a large glass with fresh berries and orange and lime slices. Yum!
For some reason, I’ve become addicted to cheese plates over the past year, so I decided I wanted to try one of their cheese appetizers. I asked for his recommendation. He described them all, but recommended the Parmigiano-Reggiano with wild-sage honey. I ordered it. There were about five chunks of cheese on the plate and crackers, but not quite enough of the honey for each piece. It was very good, but I’m more of a soft cheese person, so I think I would have preferred something more easily spreadable or maybe even a blue cheese.
Dinner came with a complimentary bread board featuring a thick, round, warm rosemary focaccia, parmesan crisps, and breadsticks, along with a variety of condiments, including capers, Himalayan salt, butter, dipping oil, and crushed red pepper. I’m not normally one to fill up on bread at dinner, but the presentation and variety was irresistible. My next-door table neighbor was right about the bread being fantastic. The rosemary bread was very tasty with the dipping oil and Himalayan salt. My favorites, though, were the other two. I devoured the Parmesan crisps. I think I could make an entire meal of just Parmesan crisps.
For my entree, I had the tortellini with kabocha squash, crispy prociutto, and crumbled amaretto cookies. I won’t claim it was the best tortellini I’ve ever had–and I would have preferred if it hadn’t come sitting in a puddle of oil–but it was very good. I especially loved the crispy prociutto. That was a real treat for my tongue.
The portion size was what I would consider reasonable; it was a relief to be presented a plateful of food I knew I could finish; this is very rare in Las Vegas. Some people might consider it small. But then, if you do, you’d be able to squeeze in dessert afterwards. I unfortunately could not. I was too full. Believe me, I was sad about that.
The bill came to $60.54 before tip, and I left a 20% tip. You do the math. I am very frugal as a rule, so this was definitely on the pricey side for me, but I have no regrets.
In summary, while there are a lot of great restaurants in Vegas, the experience and atmosphere here is just different enough that I think it’s a must-try, at least once. If you do, definitely make a reservation ahead of time, as it’s a very popular restaurant. (I reserved on OpenTable more than a month in advance.) Will it be the best meal of your life? Depends on the other meals you’ve had in your life, I suppose. But there are a lot of stellar, small touches here that, combined, make an overall excellent experience.
Hell, I’d go back for the view alone.