Melissa Forgea has spent her whole career in the food and beverage industry, but it’s working as the restaurant and bar manager at Giordano’s at The Grand Bazaar Shops at Bally’s that she’s truly proud of. “Everyone loves coming to Las Vegas,” said the California native. “And to manage a restaurant on the famous Las Vegas Strip, it’s just surreal.”

Before she moved to Vegas, Forgea worked in restaurants around her hometown, making her way up from hostess, server and bartender to supervisor and management. It was at TGI Fridays that she first earned her management title. “The company gave me the information and knowledge that I needed to pursue management,” she said. After about five years she needed a change of scenery, so in 2015 she moved to Vegas, transferring to a TGI Fridays in the suburbs. She eventually went on to manage several locations around the valley and near the Strip. By 2017, “I needed a new challenge, and I found Giordano’s,” she said.

She’s been with the restaurant for almost a year, and couldn’t be happier. “I oversee the entire restaurant,” Forgea said. “The bar is my baby, though. … Working here, I’m 110 percent being heard and appreciated. I love the guest interaction. I love being a problem solver, whether it’s with the staff or guests.

“When I first moved to Las Vegas, I made it a goal to one day work on the Strip,” she said, smiling. “And here I am.”

Chili Mango Margarita

It has to be said that this writer gets to try a lot of different cocktails as part of the ongoing Friends With Benefits section. That being said, the Chili Mango Margarita is one of the best cocktails in the city. Grabbing a slice of the Chicago-style pizza at Girodano’s is a treat, but even if you’re not in the mood to eat, pay a visit to at least try this margarita, recently created by Forgea. The frozen margarita is blended with El Jimador tequila, triple sec, mango purée, margarita mix and dashes of Valentina Mexican chili seasoning with a chili-rimmed glass. Seriously, delicious!