South Beach may be famous for its sparkling blue waters, white sandy beaches and diverse culture, but when Giada De Laurentiis is in town, the focus here inevitably turns to food. For her first solo event at the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, she joined forces with the team at Casa Tua Hotel and Restaurant — a longtime favorite of hers in the area — to offer an Italian in Paradise Dinner to an intimate crowd of just 100 people. She promised an authentic Italian feast designed by herself in conjunction with Paolo del Papa, the chef at Casa Tua, and together they delivered an elegant yet comforting spread complete with five signature courses and paired wines.
Before Giada took to the kitchen to help with meal prep, she mingled with guests at a walk-around cocktail hour in the upstairs lounge of the restaurant, posed for photos and signed cookbooks galore, providing fans a seemingly one-time-only opportunity to get to know their Food Network favorite. Party-goers munched on an array of passed spuntini — snacks — like rolled zucchini stuffed with creamy goat cheese, plus bite-size eggplant parmesan and chunks of deliciously salty parmesan cheese straight from the wheel of grana padano as they chatted with the hostess. Looking ahead to dinner, Giada told us, “We’ve been prepping for three days. It’s been awesome … Hopefully everybody will enjoy it.”