Lobster arancini with a view of the Vegas Strip at Giada at the Cromwell

Name of restaurant: Giada at the Cromwell.

Concept: Food Network Star Giada De Laurentiis' first restaurant is meant to feel like you're dining in her home. There are books on shelves, photos of De Laurentiis and her family, and Italian food you'd see the celebrity chef making on her TV show "Giada at Home" on the menu. And in case you forget whose restaurant this is, Giada's name or signature G is on everything from the placemats, to the back of the bar chairs, art on your latte foam, the napkins, serving boards and on a pink sign that simply reads "Giada." There's also a large display of Giada's cookbooks, T-shirts, hats and aprons behind the host stand.


The restaurant has also made an effort to incorporate more technology into the dining experience. There's a photo booth in the waiting area, where you can take photos and send them directly to Facebook. You're presented with a digital menu on an iPad in addition to the paper menu when seated, and your check comes with an iPhone with a digital survey.

What dish represents the restaurant, and why: Any of the antipasti, and the whole roasted chicken for two, cacciatore-style. De Laurentiis makes a lot of antipasti on her show, and the page-long selection, which includes various crostini, lobster arancini, charcuterie and pizettes are all idea for snacking with a cocktail. For date night, the whole roasted chicken for two, served with crisp skin and a bowl of cacciatore-style tomato sauce.

Runners-up: The spaghetti with shrimp, lemon and basil; or the bucatini with Calabrian chile pomodoro and fresh ricotta. All of the pastas come with parentheticals telling you how to spell the pasta names phonetically. Next to spaghetti, you have (spah-geh-tee), and next to bucatini (boo-kah-tee-nee), so when ordering, you can pronounce your pasta correctly.

Each table is also served a ball of warm rosemary focaccia, Parmesan flatbread and bread sticks with lemon mascarpone butter, pesto, chile flakes and salt.

What are you drinking: All of the cocktails on the menu are named for movies her late grandfather, Dino De Laurentiis, produced — except the Giada Cocktail. Her signature drink is made with Kappa pisco, pineapple gomme syrup, lime, apricot preserves, egg whites and Angostura bitters. And of course, the cocktail comes with a "G" written in the drink's foam.

Who's at the next table: Everyone. There's a family dining with small children next to a table with a young man wearing an Ed Hardy shirt and shiny Rolex watch with his date, who has bleached blond hair and six-inch zebra-print heels; a couple wearing Las Vegas T-shirts and denim shorts eating bowls of spaghetti in the lounge; two 30-something women with fresh blowouts, red lips and two variations on the same little black dress are chatting up the bartender in between sips of their pink martinis. The smell of their fruity perfume reaches all the way to the nearby tables. And a table of three men dressed in suits all take turns shaking their server's hand as they get up to leave. One tells the waiter everything was "just fantastic."

Appropriate for: Any occasion. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And the tables overlooking the Strip — where you can have the window retract for some fresh Vegas air, and a view of the Bellagio fountains — are ideal for a romantic date.

Problematic: It's a busy restaurant, so don't expect to show up without a reservation and sit in the main dining room. Seven out of seven parties without reservations were told they could sit in the bar area, which is actually equipped with a good-sized seating area, so no one went hungry.

Info: The restaurant is open from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The lounge is open 4:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. daily. 3595 Las Vegas Blvd., South Las Vegas, (855) 442-3271,

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