Make no mistake, Bobby Flay has built his brand on the back of a chili pepper. Now, though, he's taking a big gamble, and it's conveniently happening in Las Vegas. In June 2021, the affable chef opened Amalfi inside Caesars Palace, which is his first-ever Italian restaurant. Out is the Southwestern cuisine he's famous for, and in is the Mediterranean food he's loved for decades. Just before opening the doors to Amalfi, Bobby chatted exclusively with Wonderwall.com about a slew of things including his new restaurant, his close friendship with Giada De Laurentiis, his dream job (if he weren't a chef) and his recurring kitchen nightmare.
Keep reading to learn all about Bobby's big roll of the dice…
On his love of Italy:
"I've really been obsessed with Italy for the last 20 years just as a traveler, and clearly food and lifestyle is an incredibly important part of my happiness. So when you go to a place like Italy, obviously the food is so good and it's very different depending on which region of the country that you're in. The thing I think that I've gotten most from Italy is not just the food, but also the sort of way that Italians approach life. They can drink an espresso for three hours — and artfully! It's really amazing. I kind of try to adapt a part of that approach to my own life, and I just like all things Italian. I've become obsessed with it. I've never had an Italian restaurant before. The Amalfi Coast is someplace that I go every year and my whole body just relaxes. I go to the same place called Lo Scoglio. The woman who owns the place, her name is Antonia. It's a family-owned business and it's been in their family literally for a hundred years, maybe longer. I'm always with 10 or 12 people. I have friends with me. The same people go every year. But she's like, 'Why is it every day, you come here for lunch and order like it's a wedding?' And I'm like, 'Because I want to eat everything you guys cook.'"
His interactive new restaurant, Amalfi:
"We have this fish market. So people get up from their tables and they walk over and we have a fishmonger there. We have five, six, seven varieties of fish depending on the day. You pick your fish, you buy it by the pound and then we take it from there. We can filet it for you right away and grill it or we'll roast it whole, whatever you want to do. There's a handful of different sauces you can pick to have it served with. It's very simple. It's very Amalfi Coast in that way. Also, our handcrafted pastas have just been a runaway hit. There's a couple of dishes on the menu that are very sort of Amalfi… I'm nervous because this is my first time doing an Italian restaurant, and I'm not Italian. But I appreciate that cuisine so much, and I have to say, I've done my time there. I go to Italy a lot. I've gone to Italy so many times. When I get a chance to take a breath, that's where I go. I don't feel I have to travel the world and go to a different place every time. I go to Italy."
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On filming "Bobby and Giada in Italy" for Discovery+:
"Giada [De Laurentiis] and I have been friends for so long. Giada in Italy is my favorite Giada. She is really happy there, she's really comfortable there. She's exuberant about the place that she grew up, especially Rome, because that's where she was born. It's really nice to see that part of her and she's so much less under pressure in a place like that, because in the United States she's recognized everywhere. She's always working. She's one of the hardest working people I've ever met. So it's nice to see her relax and share a meal there with her. We spent four or five weeks in Italy together. We had the best time. It didn't feel like work at all."
On designing the new restaurant over Zoom:
"Caesars Palace and I agreed to do Amalfi right prior to the pandemic. So we had a new deal and then the pandemic hit. I was like, 'What's going to happen now?' To their credit, they were like, 'We want this restaurant.' So I designed it with the designer through the quarantine every day on Zoom. Then five months ago we started building it. And as soon as Vegas opened up, we literally opened. We basically ripped the Band-Aid off when the city did."
On aspiring to speak Italian fluently:
"I've taken a lot of Italian classes. I lived in Italy for six weeks by myself about three years ago. I just tried to live like a local. I wasn't working there. I was sort of moonlighting in some trattorias behind the scenes. When we were filming ['Bobby and Giada in Italy,' Giada De Laurentiis] actually said something to me that I was really kind of actually touched by. She's like, 'I have to admit, Bobby might know more about Rome today than I do,' because I'd lived there. I lived there for six weeks. It's not a big town when you get down to it. I walked the city every single day. I was actually giving her a couple of tips in Rome, which was really nice. Anyway, so it's always been my dream to be able to speak the language and I'm not going to be able to do it unless I packed up and lived there. Giada was very helpful with my Italian pronunciations."
On his nightmares about kitchen disasters:
"There's always a bad night in the kitchen that comes out of nowhere. We call it getting in the weeds. You get murdered. It's the worst, and I had one not too long ago and it came out of nowhere. I have actual nightmares about not getting the food out, more so than it actually happens. It's definitely part of my life for sure."
On his favorite chef to beat in reality TV competitions:
"Gordon Ramsay. No, not really, Gordon and I have never competed. We've only competed for customers. I feel like I've competed against every single person that actually wants to come in to the arena, so to speak, in so many different ways, whether it was 'Throwdown!,' 'Iron Chef,' 'Beat Bobby Flay,' 'BBQ Brawl.' I mean, it's like everybody wants to compete against me. It's crazy. It's like, what did I do to you guys? But it's really fun. It gives the other chefs a stage that they might not otherwise have in some regards. That's fun. Opening a restaurant is way more serious to me. My kitchens in my restaurants are the place that I want to be most more than anything else.
On the perfect Fourth of July meal:
"I always go very American because I cook all kinds of different cuisines through the rest of the summer. And so it's going to be ribs; it's going to be barbecue chicken; it's going to be cornbread, cast iron cornbread and potato salad and things like that. But for cocktails this year, I'm bringing back the punchbowl. I just made one in my house the other day and it's so awesome because first of all, it's just kind of cool. You have this beautiful bowl and you make a batch of drinks and this way you don't have to keep making it. It looks great and it's festive. I like kind of bringing back retro stuff like that. So the other day I did it. It was gin, grapefruit juice, Campari, Aperol, pomegranate juice and then a bunch of berries. I made an ice mold out of a Bundt cake pan with some berries in it. I just dropped the ice ring mold into the punchbowl, so it slowly melts and then you have the berries in there. It was really cool."
On his dream job if he wasn't a chef:
"Mayor of New York. I'm a New Yorker and I like to work to make things better in general. So if I had the time and they wanted to give me that job, I would do it for a while, but I'd get my a** kicked. I'm sure of it."