Celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis is maximizing her trip to Baltimore this week. Last night, she threw out the first pitch at the Orioles game, and on Saturday, she’ll attend her first Preakness Stakes.
”My goal here is to experience a little bit of what this city and this state has to offer,” De Laurentiis said.
The Food Network star known for her Italian food is also here on business. On Tuesday, her first restaurant not in Las Vegas — GDL Italian by Giada — opens to the public inside the former Johnny Sanchez space at the Horseshoe Casino.
“This is my opportunity to make a mark on the East Coast,” said De Laurentiis, who lives in Los Angeles.
Standing inside the spacious, 180-seat restaurant on Wednesday, De Laurentiis and her staff (including executive chef Brian Drosenos) presented dishes from the menu during a preview event.
Dishes included a meatball trio, featuring two best-sellers from her Las Vegas restaurant: an orzo meatball in a rich red sauce and a chicken marsala meatball. The third, a turkey meatball made for GDL Italian, had a crisp crunch to it.
A signature pasta dish, chitara with lemon and pea Alfredo, tasted bright and citrus forward, with long, thick housemade pasta that soaked up the sauce.
The rockfish cacciatore from the entrees section was tender, and the potato chip gremolata added a welcome dimension of crunchy texture.
The menu’s inclusion of light, bright flavors like lemon and sweet onion, along with the warm ambience and displays of meats and cheeses, speak to her approach, she said, describing it as Italian food “with California flair.” De Laurentiis said it was important to her to offer an Italian culinary experience Baltimore doesn’t have.
“You have some really good Italian restaurants here,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that I did something Italian, a little bit different.”
In town to prepare the restaurant and staff prior to Tuesday’s opening, De Laurentiis said she decided to extend her trip to see Preakness. She said she planned to drink a couple Black-Eyed Susans and place some bets.
“I don’t know if I’m doing any interviews or what,” she said. “I think it might be just for fun.”
The restaurant also features a bar with wine on tap, and housemade spirits from De Laurentiis’ own recipes.
Located on the casino’s second level, GDL Italian by Giada will open at 4 p.m. daily.