Pop Culture

Giada to open Vegas restaurant: What took so long?

Giada De Laurentiis gets giddy at the construction site for her new restaurant, set to open in 2014.

If star chef, cookbook author and TODAY correspondent Giada De Laurentiis is successful, her new Las Vegas restaurant will feel like home when it opens early next year.

The restaurant will feature iconic homespun Italian dishes like lemon spaghetti or chicken cacciatore as well as more intricate plates like her grandfather’s traditional ragout. And did we mention the antipasto bar?   

“The inspiration is really wanting people to feel like when they come to this restaurant, they’re coming into my home,” she told TODAY.com.

This being Vegas, that abode will not be so modest. The as-yet-unnamed restaurant will be part of the Gansevoort Las Vegas, a luxury boutique hotel. It will seat about 300 people, and has what De Laurentiis calls a “spectacular” view of the Bellagio hotel and the nearby mountains.

“It’s close enough to feel the energy, but far enough away so the energy can’t touch you,” De Laurentiis said of the patio’s proximity to the bling and bustle of the Vegas strip.

De Laurentiis, who lives in Los Angeles, has catered for the British royals and has been a star on Food Network for years – which begs the question, what took so long to open a restaurant? She considered it as many as eight years ago, but could never find the right space. Each location she toured in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas was a shuttered restaurant where she’d add a fresh coat of paint and change the sign on the door instead of building something from scratch.

She came close to signing a deal in Beverly Hills, but decided at the last minute that it wasn’t the right choice. Now her Las Vegas restaurant will be transformed from a two-story parking garage into the eatery of her dreams.

De Laurentiis has received helpful advice from other celebrity chefs as well as restaurateurs, but perhaps the most valuable guidance came from chef Bobby Flay.

“He’s spent many lunches helping me figure out what the best route is,” she said. “I think that his one piece of advice is to make sure I stick to my guns on what I want because people will try to push me aside and do what they want to do.”

Flay also urged her to make sure the restaurant serves food that represents her; after all, he said, “You’re just as good as your last dish.”

And good dishes in Las Vegas are not hard to find. The city hosts numerous world-class chefs, including Joel Robuchon, Wolfgang Puck, Alain Ducasse and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. De Laurentiis is thrilled to open her first restaurant in a city she considers the “mecca for food” and is proud that her presence practically doubles the number of women running their own branded restaurants. “It’s time we put some more female power there,” she said.

With her long-held vision finally close to becoming a reality, De Laurentiis feels prepared to deliver a great meal to her customers.

“This is what I hope will be one my most successful ventures,” she said. “I’m really excited.”