Giada to join celebrity chef crowd on Strip

TV food personality Giada De Laurentiis’ first restaurant will be on the Las Vegas Strip.

The still-unnamed restaurant, expected to open early next year, will be on the second floor of the Gansevoort (formerly Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall, formerly the Barbary Coast), in a space that had been a parking garage.

In fact, that ex-parking garage — or, more to the point, the blank slate it represents — seems to be part of the appeal for De Laurentiis, a classically trained chef who was born in Rome and, yes, is the granddaughter of movie producer Dino De Laurentiis. The only other female chefs with restaurants on the Strip are Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, who have Border Grill at Mandalay Bay.

“For my first restaurant, it had to be all the things I wanted, rolled into one,” she said last week. “Some kind of al-fresco dining. A view of some kind. A space that I could transfer into what I really wanted, rather than just giving it a fresh coat of paint and some new carpeting.” The view will be of the area around the Strip and Flamingo Road, overlooking Caesars Palace in one direction and Bellagio in another.

De Laurentiis said she also wanted the location to be somewhat independent, “in the sense that I wasn’t lined up with a lot of other restaurants right next door. And smaller — something that works with my brand more. It’s a boutique hotel with 188 rooms, which you can’t find on the Strip in Las Vegas.”

She said she had investigated other possible locations.

“I have been thinking about it for a long time,” she said. “Not really having any sort of agenda as to time frame, more thinking along the lines of finding the right space for me. In the last five to seven years I’ve been offered many different places and taken the time to look at several. Several have been in Las Vegas, but they never seemed to actually work out. I felt like the stars were aligned.”

De Laurentiis added that since she has a 5-year-old daughter, she also wanted to be sure the timing and the project were right. But this won’t be the case of a celebrity chef lending a name to a restaurant and seldom actually showing up, she said.

“Like everything I do — that I put my name on — I spend a lot of time creating and nourishing and holding its hand in the process,” she said. “I intend on spending quite a bit of time there.”

Because she lives in Los Angeles, Las Vegas is a convenient location.

“The ability to even drive down there with my daughter is doable,” she said. “New York would be a bit of a different story. I can go in the morning and come back at night. It’s much more doable than any other spot besides Los Angeles.”

The restaurant still is in the early planning stages, but De Laurentiis does have some specifics in mind, including tall windows that provide a lot of natural lighting.

“With my home and everything I do, I like a modern Italian spin,” she said. “Clean lines, pops of color, but nothing that’s too overpowering. I’m looking for more of a sleeker, sort of Milan style, rather than a rustic Italian feel, which is what most people have come to think of in Italian dining. I like the food to be the center of the focus.”

The food, she said, would be her California-style Italian, lighter than that found in traditional Italian restaurants.

“Definitely with my stamp on it — what they would expect from me,” she said. “Unique enough that it keeps them coming back for more.

“And some old family recipes, maybe some I couldn’t do on my show because they were a little bit too laborious. So comfort, with familiarity.”

De Laurentiis said customers can expect to see an antipasto bar near the door, and visible bread and pizza ovens.

“I want people to walk in and feel a connection to the kitchen,” she said.

And, honoring Las Vegas tradition, she promises a surprise or two.

“I’m looking to give people a couple of very unique things they won’t find anywhere else,” she said. “I don’t know which one is going to work out. It’s still a parking garage.”

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474.