[14 to Watch in 2014]

Giada De Laurentiis, First-Time Restaurateur

Unbelievably, Giada De Laurentiis’s upcoming Las Vegas venture will be her very first restaurant.

She’s the granddaughter of legendary filmmaker (and restaurateur) Dino De Laurentiis and an Emmy Award-winning star in her own right, born in Rome to a large Italian family and educated at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Giada De Laurentiis seems bred to open a flashy restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip, and yet only now, after she’s been a Food Network mainstay for more than a decade and built an empire on cookbooks and product lines, will the puzzle pieces fit together to form what feels like an obvious reality.

Even in a year when other very famous chefs and food figures will hit the Strip, the effervescent De Laurentiis is one we’ll keep our eyes on. Why? Unbelievably, her Las Vegas venture will be her very first restaurant, a new challenge she’s been waiting to tackle at the right moment. “It is so exciting but at the same time nerve-wracking,” De Laurentiis told Robin Leach in October. The restaurant, set to open in late spring at the still-to-be-named renovated casino-resort formerly known as Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall operated by Caesars Entertainment, will seat 300, feature signature California-Italian dishes made famous in her cookbooks, and offer an open kitchen, living room-style furniture and giant windows for views of Bellagio’s fountains.

Perhaps most intriguing, this first-timer’s restaurant will bear the weight as a marquee attraction (along with Victor Drai’s next-level nightclub) at a refreshed resort with no clearly established identity. In other words, the vibe of this boutique casino-hotel will be partially built around De Laurentiis’ warm, welcoming style. Anyone who’s seen her in action knows it looks like a perfect fit.

NEXT: Bobby Hauck, UNLV Football Coach

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Brock Radke has been writing about Las Vegas for more than 15 years. He currently covers entertainment, music, nightlife, food ...

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