Giada De Laurentiis on writing, singing, South Florida and her favorite fast food

If you are one of those people suspicious of Giada De Laurentiis’ indefatigable perkiness, put off by her theatrical pronunciation of “spaghetti” and “prosciutto,” and overwhelmed by her foodie-culture ubiquity, well, stop reading. We will not be feeding your crankiness here.

The Giada we got during a midday conversation from her oceanside home in Los Angeles recently is the Giada you see on TV, only somehow more charming and relaxed. All the more remarkable given what’s on her plate these days.

Instead of yakking on the phone, she could be formulating recipes for one of her five TV shows on the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, or writing a story for her new weekly iPad lifestyle magazine (“Giada” debuted on Aug. 29), or consulting the marketing plan for her next cookbook, “Feel Good Food” (due for release in Nov. 5), or checking on the progress of her first restaurant (opening at the Gansevoort Las Vegas early next year) or starting work on the third of her four-book series of children’s stories (this one focused on Hong Kong).

“I’m always looking to do something different,” says Giada, also the mother of a 5-year-old, Jade. “When you become comfortable, that’s when you need something to reinspire you, to give you that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling… But my husband does think that I’ve lost my marbles.”

Hot off the press are Giada’s first children’s books, “Recipe for Adventure: Naples” and “Recipe for Adventure: Paris,” which she’ll sign at a meet-and-greet Thursday at Books and Books at Bal Harbour Shops. Lost marbles notwithstanding, Giada says there were unexpected rewards in creating these books, which use young Emilia and little brother Alfie to introduce small readers (and parents) to new cultures and food (with recipe cards in the back).

As she began writing, Giada realized that she was giving Alfie the adventurous character traits of her younger brother, Dino, who died of skin cancer 10 years ago at age 31. This made for a turbulent writing process.

“Obviously there were a lot of feelings and memories of my brother, who I miss tremendously,” she says. “But you know what, at the end of the day the writing was very therapeutic. It was a conversation, just between me and him.”

Here are seven other things we learned about Giada De Laurentiis:

Her South Florida history: When the Rome native first moved to the United States she lived for a couple of years in Fort Lauderdale. “I was little, like 5, but I remember the beautiful Fort Lauderdale beach. I had never seen anything like it.”

Favorite local hangouts: Giada is a regular visitor to Miami Beach, especially for the annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival.  Asked for her must-visit spots, she called Casa Tua “my favorite restaurant in South Beach,” among “so many great places to eat." Also mentioned: Joe’s Stone Crab and Soho Beach House.

Favorite food: Hong Kong is one of her favorite cities, and the setting for her next children’s book, so she’s been doing a lot of zongzi lately. “It’s a bamboo leaf filled with sticky rice and chicken with coconut milk. It’s so flavorful,” she says. And don’t get her started on pai bao, an Asian sweet bread. “In my version they are filled with chocolate,” she says.

Her digital magazine:Giada,” an iPad magazine published every Thursday, offers a lot of the features from a standard lifestyle publication but with more energy and immediacy, she says. ”It’s a combination of Twitter and US Weekly,” she says. 

What she’s not good at: Yes, there are things she can’t do, such as singing and dancing. “You will not see an album of me singing my all-time favorite music,” she says, laughing.

Favorite thing to cook with Jade: “Mac and cheese cupcakes… It’s macaroni, sausage, chicken, cheese and veggies baked in muffin tins.” Cooking with her daughter is important, she says. “It creates memories  and traditions, gives her a better understanding about what she is ingesting, and gets her excited about new foods.”

What she gets at McDonald's:  She admits, as a mother of a 5-year-old (and wife of an enabler), she has had a burger and fries at McDonald's, and her daughter has eaten McNuggets. Giada says she leans toward a salad or a shake, and if she craves a drive-thru burger, it's at an L.A. staple, In-N-Out Burger. 

IF YOU GO
TV chef and cookbook author Giada De Laurentiis will appear at Books and Books at Bal Harbour Shops (9700 Collins Ave.) at 6 p.m.  Thursday to sign copies of her children’s books, “Recipe for Adventure: Naples” and “Recipe for Adventure: Paris” (Grosset & Dunlap, $6.99 each). Vouchers are required for the event and can be obtained with the purchase of both books at the Books & Books website or at stores in Coral Gables, Miami Beach and Bal Harbour. The voucher is good for autograph-line entry to a family (up to four people). All books will be distributed at the event. De Laurentiis will sign both children’s books and any of her cookbooks purchased that day at the Books and Books in Bal Harbour. Information: 305-864-4241, or go to BooksandBooks.com. More info: GiadaDeLaurentiis.com.

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