June 3, 2014 at 10:31 AM ET
The dress rehearsal is over and the excitement has set in for Giada de Laurentiis as she unveils her new Las Vegas restaurant.
"Honestly, I can't believe I'm here, that we're opening,'' she told Matt Lauer on TODAY Tuesday. "I think the biggest fear is just getting it right. We've been working so hard to iron out all the kinks, and watching people coming through the door, real paying customers now, I just want to see the look on their faces and the reactions. I'm super excited and super nervous."
The restaurant, named "Giada,'' is part of the Cromwell, a new luxury boutique hotel. It seats about 300 people with a view of the Bellagio hotel and the mountains in the distance. While many other Food Network chefs have opened restaurants, this is the first for de Laurentiis.
"I'm in a situation where I've never done this before, and I'm doing it in a very grand way instead of starting small, which most people do,'' she said.
Construction began in May of 2013 to transform a two-story parking garage into a restaurant that she hopes will make diners feel like they are having a meal at her Los Angeles home. Rehearsal dinners have helped staffers prepare for Tuesday's opening, and Giada hosted a VIP event on Monday night with her husband, Todd Thompson, and six-year-old daughter Jade.
"I tried to pick iconic dishes that I knew people loved of mine,'' she said. "The first time I saw people eating and drinking in this restaurant with music going and the windows open and servers, everybody in their outfits and their uniforms, it gave me chills, but I also went into the bathroom and cried in one of the stalls. The emotion is so overwhelming.
"My family is in every part of this restaurant, from some of the recipes to the artwork. This restaurant is like coming to my home. It's personal, and that's why it matters so much."
The restaurant, decorated with family photos, will feature the homespun Italian food like a Tuscan ribeye steak with a fried egg on top for meat lovers, and lighter fare like Giada's signature lemon spaghetti with jumbo shrimp.
"One of my pride and joys is this big antipasto bar that I have at the restaurant so everybody can sort of share lots of different appetizers,'' she said. "It's sort of sharing a meal with friends and family as you go through the courses."
With restaurants in Las Vegas featuring cuisine from world-renowned chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Joel Robuchon, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Alain Ducasse, de Laurentiis had to carve out her own niche.
"I wanted to kind of create a homey environment, something that felt like they were coming over to my house for dinner, so a lot of the seats I picked out, all of the basically details of this restaurant, are very near and dear."
De Laurentiis has been mulling this project for eight years but waited until she found the perfect location.
"This has been a real labor of love, and sometimes it's been more labor than love,'' she said. "Opening this spot for me personally, it is a lesson in letting go of it, of your life, and realizing that you're not always 100 percent in control. That's OK, but it's a very difficult pill to swallow.
"It is very much like having a child or having a baby in the sense that so much happens to you, all in a very short amount of time."
Tuesday night, guests will begin enjoying lamb chops, deep-fried risotto, bacon-wrapped dates and lemon ricotta cookies at one of Sin City's most anticipated restaurants.
"It's a huge dream of mine,'' she said. "It's been a lot of hard work, and I am so excited to open the doors tonight and see what the reaction is."