Giada De Laurentiis Discusses Her Decision to Open a Restaurant in Baltimore

| February 21, 2018 | 0 Comments

Food Network Star Giada De Laurentiis was in town this week prepping to open her new restaurant, GDL Italian, at Horseshoe Casino Baltimore. GDL is expected to open in April and will replace Johnny Sanchez, which closed last fall.

De Laurentiis owns Giada, a high-end Italian restaurant at The Cromwell Las Vegas, and Pronto, a quick-service Italian restaurant at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Both restaurants are located in properties operated by Caesars Entertainment, which also operates Horseshoe Casino Baltimore.

During a press event on Tuesday, De Laurentiis said that GDL will be somewhere in between the two Las Vegas restaurants – it will be more casual than Giada, but more formal than Pronto.

Opening GDL in Baltimore wasn’t an easy decision, according to De Laurentiis who is from Los Angeles and described Las Vegas as being pretty close to her hometown. “Why would I want to go to Baltimore? I’m a California girl,” said De Laurentiis. “I needed to educate myself on Baltimore, the people, and the chefs.”

The unknown and fear of this new opportunity also intrigued De Laurentiis. “When I’m incredibly fearful of something is when I have to jump off the ledge and try it,” she said.

De Laurentiis has since visited and toured Baltimore several times, met different chefs from around the city, and come to realize Baltimore has a lot in common with her own Italian culture.

“What I like about this town is how proud everyone is of the city,” said De Laurentiis. “Being Italian, I’m very proud of my culture. It’s that same feeling of pride of where you come from, who you are. The culture of the area (Baltimore) itself drew me because its very similar to how I feel about my own culture and my own country and my own food.”

She added, “There’s something to be said for that kind of pride. I live in Los Angeles and we don’t necessarily have that. We are great in many other ways, but that sense of pride for the City of Los Angeles doesn’t exist. I think it’s an East Coast vibe. Living on the West Coast is different – it’s not better or worse, it’s just different.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity to try a new concept,” De Laurentiis continued. “I think that the people here are special and there is a very big Italian contingency and appreciation for Italian food.”

Unlike Las Vegas, De Laurentiis sees Baltimore as less of a tourism destination and more of an everyday city. “I’ve never opened a restaurant that wasn’t in a destination. Both of my restaurant are in Las Vegas. I’ve never opened a restaurant in a real working city,” she said. “I need to pull from the neighborhoods. I need their support to survive. Here, I just can’t survive on the people here to gamble.”

“I need to get to know the people of Baltimore and solidify myself in this community as a food person,” she said. “It’s not going to be easy, since I don’t live here and I’m not from here. I know this is a tight-knit community. How do I break through that? I guess the same I way I did with my TV shows by making it warm, making it inviting, and giving them a little tweak on what they know is Italian food, and setting myself apart and being a little unique.”

De Laurentiis is still working out the details of the menu and has hired a team of local chefs including Executive Chef Brian Drosenos. GDL will have homemade pastas and an antipasto bar, and De Laurentiis is hoping to also have a pizza oven.

De Laurentiis noted that her food is similar to classic Italian, but with a lighter spin, which comes from her California roots. She said an example is her Lemon Alfredo.

Popular items from her Las Vegas restaurants will appear on the menu at GDL, including her meatballs and her Lemon Ricotta cookies.

De Laurentiis plans to give a nod to local cuisine with plates such as a crab cake inspired by arancini and a Rockfish cacciatore. De Laurentiis is also experimenting with some types of Old Bay pasta and noted that local oysters will be on the menu.

De Laurentiis said she is committed to working with local purveyors for food supplies.

The menu will include an extensive wine list with Italian and California wines. Cocktails, like at Giada, will be inspired by the names of films produced by her late grandfather Dino De Laurentiis.

Construction on GDL recently began. De Laurentiis said the decor would feminine, approachable, bright, and inviting. It will have an open kitchen.

Due to Maryland casino laws that have an age restriction of 21, GDL will not allow children because it is located inside Horseshoe on the second floor. De Laurentiis said she is working with the Horseshoe team on designing a separate stairwell to GDL to resolve this issue. She said that Giada serves many families and children and she hopes to be able to do the same in Baltimore.

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Founder and Publisher of, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.