Celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis is opening her first East Coast restaurant, GDL Italian by Giada, this April.
The 180-seat eatery inside the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore will offer a more casual atmosphere and more affordable dishes than her fine dining restaurant, Giada at the Cromwell in Las Vegas, and is expected to focus on local seafood, pasta, and antipasti. It will be the Food Network star’s third restaurant, the details of which were unveiled at a press conference February 20 at the casino. She opened Pronto by Giada at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas earlier this month.
“It is not a fine dining restaurant. It is not a quick serve restaurant. It is more like a trattoria style — casual with elevated food,” De Laurentiis told reporters.
Customers at GDL Italian can expect an antipasto station and an open kitchen where they can watch chefs preparing lemon spaghetti, vegetable Bolognese, and locally inspired dishes with an Italian twist. The latter might include a rockfish cacciatore or crab cake arancini with an Old Bay aioli, Giada said. Executive chef Brian Drosenos, an alum of BLT Prime in D.C., will oversee the kitchen. Local suppliers include Stone Mill Bakery (bread), J. J. McDonnell & Co. (seafood), and Roseda Farm (beef). The extensive wine list will include Californian and Italian favorites while the large bar will serve cocktails inspired by her grandfather’s movies.
GDL Italian will replace shuttered taqueria Johnny Sanchez and incorporate a more feminine look, with red, yellow and rose gold as the color palette.
“I want it to have a bright and happy feel. I don’t want it to be a dark, dungeonous room where people feel intimidated,” De Laurentiis said.
De Laurentiis said she has made four or trips to Baltimore to discover the local flavor, and has become “texting friends” with Charleston’s Cindy Wolf. But she readily admits she was reluctant at first when the powers that be suggested Baltimore should house her next restaurant. “I was a bit hesitant,” she said. But Charm City’s residents ultimately won over the newcomer. “What I like about this town is how proud everyone is” of their hometown.
De Laurentiis said she has visited Da Mimmo Italian Restaurant in Baltimore’s Little Italy. She also gave a shout out to Dovecote Café (“those ladies are fun”) and was slated to head to Rye Street Tavern and Artifact Coffee to meet James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef and newly minted D.C. restaurateur Spike Gjerde.