Giada De Laurentiis Takes on Vegas

Amy Neunsinger

The Food Network star opens her first Las Vegas restaurant.

In May, Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis opened her first restaurant, Giada, which we talk to her about here.

Q: Your restaurant is one of two on the Strip helmed by women. The other is Border Grill (run by chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger). Why so few women chefs in Vegas?
I’ve heard a million reasons. Some say it’s because there aren’t many big-name women chefs. Others say women don’t wow people—they aren’t like French chefs, who do architectural dishes. Others say women don’t have the strength for it. I have to be honest: It’s obnoxious.

Q: Other chefs have told you, “Chefs open restaurants to get to where you’re at with your brand, not the other way around.” Why are you opening one?
I wanted a different challenge. I had been looking at spaces, mostly in L.A. When this place came about, I couldn’t say no. The fact that it is indoor-outdoor in Vegas, that it has a Bellagio fountain view—it felt like a home run.

Q: What’s your plan for differentiation?
I’m an Italian cook with a California spin—brighter flavor, a little show. So I'm going to entertain people. Some pastas will be finished tableside. A chicken will be presented, carved in the kitchen and re-presented. In any other city, this kind of production would be an annoyance. In Vegas people come to be dazzled.

Q: It’s a huge restaurant, with about 290 seats. Did you want to start off so big?
Of course not! Every chef who dreams of opening a restaurant dreams of 25 seats. We think small so we can be artists in the kitchen. But as my grandfather [late producer Dino De Laurentiis] would say: Go big or go home. He was a little man who made huge Hollywood productions. He said if you lose big, at least everyone will remember you.

Q: Speaking of your grandfather, how well do you know Sophia Loren?
I’ve met her. I’m friends with her son.

Q: What should everyone do in Vegas?
Race NASCAR at the Richard Petty Driving Experience [Las Vegas Motor Speedway; 800-237-3889; drivepetty.com]. It releases stress, which, let me tell you, I’ve got a lot of right now! At 3595 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-777-3777; thecromwell.com.