When Pete Wells reviews a restaurant outside of New York, he does not implement his star-based award system. Even if he did, it seems unlikely that he would have given Giada, opened in Las Vegas’ Cromwell Hotel and Casino in June, even a single one.
“Understated” and “subtle” are not usually terms associated with Las Vegas, but Wells finds the branding of the décor in Giada De Laurentiis’ restaurant, even for its host city, completely over-the-top “there is little doubt whose place it is. Ms. De Laurentiis is invoked so often that it can seem she wants you to feel as if you’re in her museum... Her words, familiar to her television audience, are even repeated in six chandeliers around the dining room, cut out in silhouette so that light beams from behind: ‘I eat a little bit of Everything and not a lot of Anything.’” The critic then smoothly transitions from critiquing the interior of the eatery to the food he was served, delivering the first jab with his trademark high-brow snark: “As a quotation for posterity, this is not exactly ‘Et tu, Brute?’ But it may describe Ms. De Laurentiis’ philosophy for the food at Giada. All of it is in a relaxed, approachable California-Italian mode, and none of it is very hard to leave on the plate.”
He then continues with an unflattering barrage against the dishes he sampled, which were “flaccid” bucatini in a “bland” tomato sauce; a margherita pizzette that “might have come from the children’s menu of any restaurant in America except an Italian one,” and the chicken cacciatore for two. Billed as “Giada’s signature dish,” the presentation and subsequent sample served confused the critic, as first he was first presented with a trussed, roasted chicken garnished with cipollini onions, peppers, and mushrooms. After the bird was whisked back into the kitchen, the origin of the “stack of browned, dry chicken pieces” Wells was then served made him dubious as to whether they were actually cut from the enticing dish that had previously been displayed. This prompted the food journalist to poke fun at the celebrity chef’s culinary beginnings, with his final comment on the dish being “Something was missing here — maybe the commercial that on television would have run between the first chicken and the second.”
In the final paragraph, Wells points out that the restaurant is missing an executive chef, as De Laurentiis fired the one she had lined up just days before the official opening. The critic seems a bit mystified by how the eatery operates — albeit poorly — without one, and he takes this opportunity to deliver the Food Network star one last knock, subtly calling attention to the plebian nature of the cuisine her restaurant serves: “two weeks before Giada was scheduled to serve its first meal, Ms. De Laurentiis fired her executive chef. She has been looking for a permanent replacement ever since, but the restaurant stays open. The ideal candidate should have experience with pizza and pasta.”