Celebrity chef Giada de Laurentiis plans to open her Italian restaurant, tentatively named GDL by Giada, at the Horseshoe Casino in either February or March, the Food Network star said Thursday inside the Baltimore casino.
Her first on the East Coast, the restaurant will replace JB's Café, a stopgap eatery that took over the Johnny Sánchez taqueria after it closed in September. (Johnny Sánchez Baltimore was co-owned by John Besh, who stepped down from his New Orleans-based restaurant group earlier this week amid sexual harassment allegations. The casino said the decision to close the property came before the allegations.)
While de Laurentiis' new restaurant is still in its planning stages, she said the menu will focus on "antipasti and pasta, the way that real Italians eat." It will be "way more casual and accessible" than her first restaurant, the fine-dining Giada at the Cromwell hotel in Las Vegas.
"You can bring your family, but you can still have that center bar so it can be hip and cool," de Laurentiis said.
The cookbook author and TV host first mentioned opening a Baltimore restaurant during a Facebook Live segment with the Food Network in July. When asked if she planned to open any restaurants in other cities, she replied, "Yes — don't ask my why, I have to think of the reason, but I am going to open a restaurant in Baltimore in 2018."
On Thursday, de Laurentiis further explained the response, clarifying that negotiations at the time were not complete. She also said taking on the Baltimore property was part of an agreement with Horseshoe's parent company, Caesars Entertainment Corp., when they offered her a second Las Vegas restaurant, the fast-casual Pronto by Giada, set to open in January.
"This opportunity was in conjunction with that opportunity," she said. "I thought, 'OK, we're still in the Caesars family.' I like to keep all my children under the same roof as much as I can, and I can try a new concept."
De Laurentiis said she's not very familiar with Baltimore, despite visiting a few times, but said she's asked friends like Charm City Cakes' Duff Goldman, another Food Network personality, for places to see and eat. She planned to explore the city later Thursday.
"I want to find some local purveyors for breads, and artisanal stuff that they make around here," de Laurentiis said. "I want to use what we can source locally, and support the communities here."
The addition of de Laurentiis' restaurant to the Horseshoe comes as fellow celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay plans to open a steak house at the South Baltimore casino by the end of the year. They will join Guy Fieri, who has two eateries in the venue.
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