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The second Giuseppe’s emphasizes the restaurant part by upscaling both food and environment

Walking into the new Giuseppe’s Italian Grille on Horizon Ridge Parkway and Eastern Avenue, things look familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. Giuseppe’s Bar & Grille on Durango Drive is located near my house. It’s a family-run place that doubles as a video-poker bar and a small Italian restaurant, and is one of my go-to spots for pizzas and traditional Italian cooking. In a lot of ways, the new restaurant is very similar. It shares many of the same employees and many of the same menu items.

But Giuseppe’s Italian Grille is a more ambitious venture, clearly hoping to capture the Anthem crowd. It’s larger and more nicely decorated. And the expanded menu offers more formal dishes, particularly steaks and seafood entrees.

The restaurant is divided into four areas. There’s a large main dining room with an open kitchen, decorated with a flowing water wall that helps dampen the noise. The décor is casually elegant, and the tables are set with white tablecloths. Wine racks line some walls, showcasing the more than 50 vintages on the wine list — nearly all priced at $50 or under. The bar area, which caters to video-poker players, also has a semi-formal decor. There’s a beautiful private dining room and a large outdoor patio area.

Take a look at the menu, however, and you’ll see this isn’t a totally snooty joint. On the negative side, it looks awful. If your room is going to be this beautiful, please upgrade the cheap, laminated menus. On the positive side, the huge tome offers something for just about everyone. Nearly every one of the appetizers ($7-$13), sandwiches ($9-$11), pizzas ($10-$21), pastas ($13-$22) and Italian specialties ($13-$23) from across town are available here. That’s a pretty huge selection to start with. But they’ve added some more gourmet appetizers, three flatbreads ($10-$11) and a large selection of sliders ($9-$12). Finally, to truly upgrade the food to match the room, you’ll find a “chophouse” page packed with various steak and seafood dishes ($17-$32).

Since my wife and I have sampled most of the old menu at some point over the years — and have liked most of it — we stuck to dishes unique to the new locale. For the most part, we went with high-end dishes: a crab cake appetizer ($11), some halibut ($29) and a New York strip steak ($26). But I was also drawn to the more casual fried macaroni and cheese ($9).

It would have been a mistake to ignore that final dish. Because the mac and cheese here isn’t the version you can find at countless dive bars. The five breaded balls, which were beautifully crispy on the outside and moist in the middle, reminded me more of arancini (fried rice balls). And they were topped with a delicious, slightly spicy red sauce. Our crab cakes were also excellent. While the meat was shredded rather than lumped, giving them a very dense consistency, there was very little filler. And the Cajun lobster sauce that comes with them is amazing.

While some may find the pecan crust and Amaretto sauce that adorned my halibut a bit too sweet for that fish, they were delicious. Unfortunately, the fish they covered was a little overcooked. The large steak, on the other hand was great: quality meat, beautifully pepper-crusted and cooked to perfection. It was so good that it really didn’t require the brandy cream sauce that came with it. But that sauce itself also stunned. In fact, this was the best steak I’ve had outside a dedicated steakhouse in a very long time.

The mashed potatoes that came with my wife’s steak were fairly standard. But I was disappointed with my scalloped potatoes. While the cheese sauce tasted great, the potatoes themselves were cut much too thick to really be called scalloped.

The newest Giuseppe’s isn’t perfect, but it’s a great step forward for a place I already loved. By going a bit more upscale, it defines itself as a restaurant first and a bar second. At the same time, it has managed not to lose any of its neighborhood, family-friendly vibe. That should make it a hit with the residents of nearby Anthem, Seven Hills and Silverado Ranch.

GIUSEPPE’S ITALIAN GRILLE 2630 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, 675-4487. Read more about the Las Vegas dining scene on Al Mancini’s blog, and follow him on Twitter @almancinivegas.