Giada de Laurentiis of the hit
The name of the 9,500-square-foot restaurant hasn't been announced but will include the chef's name.
[Updated: An earlier version of this post said the restaurant would be 12,000 square feet.]
"I've been thinking about [a restaurant] for a really, really long time," De Laurentiis said. "I think every chef's ultimate dream is to have your own place. I never found the right spot. To me the location is the first step to a successful restaurant."
That would be inside what's being touted as the first boutique hotel on the Vegas Strip, and De Laurentiis' restaurant -- Italian with Californian influences -- will be above the casino floor on the second level, featuring al fresco dining and views of the Bellagio fountains, the Strip and surrounding mountains.
"Right now it's a two-story parking garage," De Laurentiis said. "I get to build my own kitchen and dining room. It's not an existing space where I just change the carpet and put my name on it. It will be a place where you can come and get engaged or just get a romantic dinner or just come for lunch."
De Laurentiis said she was approached about the space in February and traveled to Vegas to walk through it several times. "I could see the restaurant there and thought this might be the right venture," she said, adding that she's aiming for a March opening.
"I'm actually starting to develop the menu now. I'm going to build a beautiful antipasto bar like we have in Italy. You'll see an antipasto bar and next to it a bar bar. It will have a lot of warmth and a lot of softness. I think a lot of restaurants are darker, colder, more masculine. I'd like my feminine touch on this restaurant so that it's unique and inviting.
"Some of it will be traditional family recipes, and others the lightened-up California-style food I'm known for -- my lemon spaghetti and butternut squash lasagna," she said (yes, over-enunciating "spaghetti" and "lasagna"). "But also more traditional bolognese that takes longer to prepare and I don't get a chance to make on my shows or for my books."
She described the 300-seat restaurant as not a tiny endeavor.
Originally "I thought I'd start with something much smaller," she said, but noted that she probably thinks much the way her grandfather did. Film producer Dino de Laurentiis made epic movies (and opened a grand gourmet shop called the DDL Foodshow with locations in New York and Beverly Hills). "We're little Italian people who want to pretend like we're big."