It’s a scorching 102 degrees in Las Vegas, but Giada De Laurentiis is freezing. With the AC inside her sleek new restaurant, Giada, on full blast on a recent Friday afternoon, the chef decides to change out of the stylish black chef’s coat created by her fashion designer husband, Todd Thompson, and into a sweatshirt—right in the middle of the eatery, even though it’s bustling with staff preparing for dinner guests. “Could you stand in front of me?” De Laurentiis asks an assistant and this reporter, in an attempt to be more discreet.
Who has time to seek out someplace more private? Not this culinary-world star, whose career is firing on all burners. Besides hosting a hit Food Network show, Giada at Home, the Italian-American chef, 43, is a mentor on Food Network Star and a contributor to NBC’s Today. Her growing empire also includes seven best-selling cookbooks, a series of food-themed children’s books, a spokesmodel gig for Clairol hair color, and, as of June 3, her namesake restaurant.
Located on the second floor of the Cromwell hotel in the heart of the Vegas Strip, Giada—which serves up Italian cuisine with fresh California influences, including the chef’s signature Lemon Spaghetti With Shrimp—seats 260 and has views of the Bellagio fountains and Nevada mountains. It’s hard to imagine a more high-profile location for her first eatery, but De Laurentiis likes high stakes. It’s in her genes. “I don’t do anything small,” declares the granddaughter of the late, legendary movie producer Dino De Laurentiis (Serpico, King Kong). “I’m like my grandfather—go big or go home!”
While grand in scale and ambition, Giada feels intimate, thanks to its soothing earth tones and personal touches, like the chandeliers inscribed with the chef’s stay-slim food philosophy (“I eat a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything”) and an antipasti bar and pizza oven that recall those in DDL Foodshow, her grandfather’s ’80s-era food market–restaurant in Beverly Hills. That’s where a preteen De Laurentiis could often be found hanging out after school. “It’s where I realized that I wanted to be a chef,” she recalls, settling onto a leather banquette and digging into a green salad. “I didn’t know if I could make money at it, but I loved it enough to try.”- Continue at Parade.