Luna by Giada is now open. Why to skip the new Scottsdale restaurant | Phoenix New Times

Here's why you should skip Giada's new Scottsdale restaurant

Giada De Laurentiis loves lemons. But the celebrity chef's new concept, Luna By Giada, is one.
At Luna by Giada, reservations are hard to come by. We tried the restaurant so you don't have to.
At Luna by Giada, reservations are hard to come by. We tried the restaurant so you don't have to. Tirion Boan
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When a new spot opens in town, we're eager to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).

When Giada De Laurentiis announced her plans to bring a duo of restaurants to Scottsdale, fans were ecstatic. They couldn't wait to try the food she excitedly cooks on her TV shows, shares in her recipe books and tastes on her world travels. The restaurants, located in the newly opened Caesars Republic Scottsdale, are the celebrity chef's only eateries outside of Las Vegas.

On March 6, the resort opened its doors alongside De Laurentiis' two concepts: Luna by Giada, the main Italy- and California-inspired restaurant, and Pronto by Giada, a counter-service option for a quick bite on the go. At Luna, reservations quickly booked up, and the restaurant sold out for months in advance.

But on a recent Tuesday night, possibly due to a last-minute cancellation, we were able to snag a same-day table at 6 p.m.

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At Luna by Giada, the celebrity chef created the lemon pizza as a riff on her signature lemon spaghetti.
Tirion Boan
Customers enter Luna through the hotel's grand lobby, which is decorated with cream marble, a floating fireplace and plenty of leather and light wood seating. The lobby decor is glamorous with a nod to the feminine, and the vibe continues at Luna.

The restaurant is curved, with a long, thin dining area arching around an open kitchen encased in floor-to-ceiling glass panels. The space is carefully laid out so each table feels unique and has its own dining space. Among the elegance, there are nods to the namesake chef's bubbly TV persona with hints of whimsy and fun. Bright, swirling tiles line the kitchen and a faux lemon tree rests on the bar.

The Mornings in Venice, a riff on a Bellini, is served in a comically tall martini glass with a double-height stem. These sky-high glasses pose a great challenge to servers carrying the drinks around the bustling restaurant and are difficult to drink out of — but they are fun. Resting on a finishing station in the kitchen are two bright red pepper mills, each about three feet tall. Fun to look at, but hard for servers to hoist above your table.

In addition to the Mornings in Venice, we ordered the bourbon-based Moderno, which is topped with a red wine float. On our visit, that float was spilled all over the table as it was delivered. No problem, we thought, mistakes happen. But it was unfortunately the start of a long meal.

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The crab arancini were the best bite of the night. However, their overwhelming flavor was lemon.
Tirion Boan
First came the crab arancini, four deep-fried balls of risotto, cheese and crab. De Laurentiis is vocal about her love of lemons and their ability to add a pop of brightness to a dish, including her famous lemon spaghetti. But these arancini got more than a pop of citrus. They tasted entirely of lemon, which drowned out any of the subtle crab flavor that might have otherwise shone through.

The celebrity chef also has put a spin on her signature pasta by creating lemon pizza, a new dish available only at Luna by Giada. Our server, after admitting he doesn't love the lemon spaghetti, pointed us to the pizza instead. The white-sauce pizza topped with garlic creme and lemon slices came on a doughy crust missing any kiss of color. And instead of a pop of much-needed acid, the lemon skins brought only bitterness, failing to cut through the thick layer of cheese.

From the pasta options, the agnolotti was just boring. Pockets of braised pork and veal were haphazardly thrown on a plate and doused in "natural parmesan brodo," a salty broth that lacked depth or much flavor at all.

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The agnolotti are stuffed with braised pork and veal and come swimming in a "natural parmesan brodo."
Tirion Boan
From our table next to the glass-enclosed kitchen, one thing that caught our eye as waiters picked up meals throughout the evening were the desserts. Decadent and artfully plated, they were enticing.

We tried the tiramisu, which came in a rocks glass and was big enough to share. Layers of chocolate cream played like the contents of a pudding cup and weighed down the delicate lady fingers below until they almost were dissolved. But overall, it was sweet, creamy and full of chocolate flavor — perfect if you love pudding.

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The tiramisu was far from a classic rendition of the Italian dessert.
Tirion Boan
In a last-ditch effort to end the night on a high note, we ordered a couple single shots of espresso. Luna is an Italian restaurant, after all. When the coffees arrived, though, they were not hot enough to melt a sugar packet and, like the lemon peels before them, extremely bitter.

Luna by Giada is a beautiful space filled with fashionably dressed diners starting their night in Old Town Scottsdale. It's upscale yet not stuffy, and the scene begs to be the backdrop to an excellent meal. But to our dismay, De Laurentiis' menu is a lemon.

Luna by Giada

4747 N. Goldwater Blvd., Scottsdale
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