Gia Mia - Geneva
Restauranteur and Chef Brian Goewey’s Gia Mia is a place where you can eat good food, drink good wine, enjoy good craft beer, and be with your good friends and family.
Ryan and I had eaten at Gia Mia several times before I spoke with Chef Brian Goewey about his restaurant. I was familiar the urban-Italian feel of the interior, the mouthwatering menu, and the warm service the staff offered, so I thought I knew what to expect. It’s the little details and back-stories, though, that really connect you to the place you eat - and that’s just what I learned once we started chatting!
Brian’s culinary career has brought him all over the country. Spending most of his career based in Indianopolis, IN and Columbus, OH, Brian worked with his employer to open restaurants in over 35 states. He also spent time in New York, where he says he worked alongside longtime friend and fellow Chef Roberto Caporuscio, who was born and raised in Italy. Brian says the time spent in the kitchen alongside Chef Roberto (who owns Keste and Don Antonio by Starita) is where his pizza skills were truly developed.
Ending up in Illinois, Brian worked in a few restaurants in the Chicago area, and ultimately worked to open Glen Ellyn’s Fire + Wine, which he describes as having a different feel and menu than Gia Mia. Gia Mia itself was a concept that took 10 years to create, Brian told me. He wanted to create a place where you bring your friends and family to gather, share food and drink, and be happy. It had to be done right.
The name of the restaurant was chosen, which Brian explained is a play on his daughter, Gianna’s, name. He says his other daughter, Livia, was a bit jealous for a while – until she got her own menu item. “The Livia” pizza now offered as a staple menu item!
The first Gia Mia successfully opened in Wheaton in April 2015, and within 6 months Brian knew a second location in Geneva needed to happen. In fact, he had been eyeing the Fox Valley spot for some time. The location was once home to Great Harvest Bread Company, which closed in 2014 after 20 years. The building itself is historic, which made renovations a bit more challenging for Brian and his crew. While he couldn’t alter much of the exterior (the windows circa 1900 are there to stay), he did a full gut job on the interior. Brian told me people often come in and wonder where all of the new space came from. He’s says it was always there – they just utilized the space in a new way that would bring the building to life for his guests. They were proud to finally open the doors of their second location in March 2016!
Brian describes the interior as having an urban look, leaving you feeling like you’re in the midst of downtown Chicago in River North. You’ll notice a blend of wood, metal, food, and warm lighting throughout, and the music is always set to be upbeat and trendy. The canvases lining the walls aren’t just random pieces he purchased – they are select photos of Brian’s favorite foods and members of his family.
He told me his wife and kids are vegetarians, so Brian often serves lots of fresh fish, salads, and vegetables at home. This inspired the heavy vegetable base to the current menu, which also allows Brian to utilize a farm-to-fork way of business. Brian’s favorite menu item is any of the salads, he tells me. He particularly loves the Blackened Salmon Salad, but makes a point to include many classic dishes and meats on the menu.
When I asked about the creations behind the bar, Brian immediately introduced me to head bartender Luke Newman, whom Brian says gets free reign to be creative. Luke and Brian met through a mutual friend and employee, which Brian believes is the best way to gain employees that end up being more like family. Brian says they don’t say “hi”, or “how are you?” when they see each other - they immediately start into a “guess what I came up with last night!” banter that ends with new specials and menu options. You can tell they are great sounding board for each other’s culinary and cocktail creations!
Luke told me his goal is to revive the classic cocktail by infusing his own liquors and adding an artistic flair to each drink. He truly enjoys the etiquette aspect of bartending, and likes to educate each person on the history and background of the drink they are enjoying. Visitors are encouraged to ask Luke and the other bartenders what they have newly concocted that day, as you might be privy to a new drink feature in the works. Luke explained his creations move with the weather – he might develop a lighter sangria in the summer and a heavier, more robust sangria for the fall, for example. Gia Mia also offers an extensive wine list and craft beers from around the area, including nearby Penrose Brewing.
Ryan and I have had the pleasure of trying several items on the menu at Gia Mia. The Tuscan Shrimp (blackened shrimp with roasted peppers, lemon, vino, grilled toast, and chives) and the Heirloom Tomato + Mozzarella (with EVOO, sea salt, micro basil, and balsamic) are two no-fail appetizers to try.
If you are thinking pizza, the Hammakers Pie is incredibly delicious! Rich tomato sauce, mozzarella, mushroom, pepperoni, sausage, and oregano are blended and wood-fired to perfection. I love to add crushed red pepper, while Ryan likes it as-is.
Opting for a more traditional entrée? Ryan loved the Medallions of Beef – served with broccolini, mushrooms, harvest carrots, peppers, pesto, and balsamic. I’m a pasta girl, so I’d have to recommend the Paccheri Vodka with giant rigatoni, Italian sausage, garlic, roasted tomato, chili flakes, prosciutto, and vodka sauce.
If you don’t have time to eat, at least stop by the bar for a drink with Luke. We tried his Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and of course, wine. Luke also gave me a sample of his sangria, which was light and fruity for the weather at the time, but definitely strong - in an absolutely great way!
Ryan and I will definitely be making this place a staple. I’m glad I was able to learn (and share) the unique details about Gia Mia that prove it’s truly a warm environment to bring your loved ones!
13 N Third St, Geneva, IL 60134
Monday: 4PM – 9PM
Tuesday: 11AM – 2PM, 4PM – 9PM
Wednesday - Thursday: 11AM – 2PM, 4PM – 10PM
Friday: 11AM – 10PM
Saturday: 11AM – 10PM
Sunday: Private events