June 28, 2002 10:45 AM

On Broadway, it is said that rain on opening night is a good omen. If that’s the case, then the thunderstorm over Manhattan that greeted the opening of Britney Spears’s new restaurant, Nyla, on Thursday night should translate into a very long run. And no, the 20-year-old pop princess was not there with former flame Justin Timberlake. (He did not attend.) “My dad is my date tonight,” Spears told a media mob, including PEOPLE. “I’m kind of bummed out because of the weather,” she said, “but I am so glad that the fans came out anyway.” A large white tent covered Nyla’s arrival area, keeping guests dry as they traipsed inside Spears’s first foray into the food business. “And it’s all about food,” Spears, in a black backless dress cut low enough to reveal the Chinese character tattoo at the base of her spine, assured reporters of her venture, which is located inside the upscale Dylan Hotel. “I know food,” she added. Featuring Cajun fare, the restaurant takes its name from its backer’s home state of Louisiana (that’s the “La” part of it), while the “Ny” represents New York. According to New York’s Daily News, on this first night Spears was expected to sample the fried chicken, which is accompanied by fresh corn, potato Johnny cakes and vegetable slaw. (The News noted that Spears “smacked on some chewing gum for an appetizer.”) The dish comes with a $16 price tag, but food and drink were gratis on opening night. Among those enjoying the offerings in the purple and cream chiffon-draped setting, reports PEOPLE, were former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Donald Trump, illusionist David Copperfield, reigning Miss USA Shauntay Hinton and “Gilligan’s Island” castaway Tina Louise. “I love New York,” Spears told the media crush. “The energy here is so good.”

From Mouseketeer to restaurateur! See Britney grow up in our special photo gallery.

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