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November 2022 View more

Gia Mia 110 S. Washington St. Naperville

Brian Goewey has quietly become of the most successful (if least well-known) restaurateurs in the west suburbs. His latest, Gia Mia in Naperville, is the ninth restaurant for his group, his third in the last 18 months, and his sixth Gia Mia overall.

Not bad for a guy who didn’t get into the restaurant game until 2011.

The Naperville Gia Mia, opened in August, is the most visually impressive of the group. It sits in the Old Nichols Library (which served as the town’s public library for nearly 90 years) that has been lovingly restored, particularly its beautiful yellow-brick and limestone exterior. Red umbrella-topped tables line the raised patio, offering about 85 outdoor seats. Inside, the high-ceiling dining room seats nearly 150; a few book displays hark to the building’s origins.

The Bruno pizza

The Gia Mia locations have virtually identical menus, and the big draw is pizza. Custom-made, brick-lined, and wood-fired ovens produce pizzas boasting thin but substantial crusts and blistered, chewy heels. You’d call them Neapolitan pizzas, but it’s not a term that Goewey prefers. “I call them California Neapolitan,” he says. “Straight-up Neapolitan is a little limited in terms of toppings.”

Gia Mia offers traditional pies, including margherita, quattro formaggi, and primavera versions but also pepperoni with banana peppers, the Livia with spicy soppressata (a nod to another Goewey restaurant), and the North End (inspired by a trip Goewey took to Boston) featuring Italian sausage and spicy cherry peppers. My favorite pizza is topped with roasted pears, caramelized onions, Gorgonzola cheese, and balsamic syrup; I’m tempted to order that one for dessert sometime.

Prosciutto and fig bruschetta

Among the appetizers, veal meatballs over creamy polenta with a sturdy tomato sauce are a good bet, as are Parmesan-dusted arancini (fried rice balls). Zucchini fries, with lemon and Parmesan, arrive piping hot, and charred cauliflower dusted with pine-nut breadcrumbs pick up sweet and salty notes from honey and olives.

Toasts, whether it’s the wild mushroom toast or the prosciutto and fig bruschetta, are piled high with ingredients—so much so that the first order of business is deciding how to attack them (use a knife and embrace the messiness). Asiago gnocchi and ricotta with roasted tomato sauce and Pecorino Romano cheese is the best bet to order when all you want is a little pasta.

Salads include the Not Your Classic Caesar, a dish Goewey tweaks only slightly. “We shave the romaine, rather than plate the hearts,” he says, “and kick it up with a good anchovy-and-black-pepper dressing.” (The salad also includes cherry tomatoes—an unconventional but tasty addition.)

Pastas tend toward the traditional—rigatoni Bolognese, lobster ravioli and shrimp, paccheri vodka—highlighted by the short rib gnocchi. The same Asiago gnocchi offered among the appetizers returns with fork-tender short rib meat, carrots, and tomatoes in a rich demi-glace sauce. As we head into the cold-weather months, this hearty dish will likely become a fan favorite.

There are four entrées (Bigger Plates, per the menu), among them twin beef fillets with Broccolini and carrots as well as pan-roasted salmon over herbed farro and asparagus. Chicken piccata, featuring a nicely balanced lemon-caper-white-wine sauce, is an especially good choice.

An additional entrée, at least to me, is hidden among the greens. The tenderloin steak salad places a four-ounce fillet on a pile of Bibb lettuce with mushrooms, peppers, Gorgonzola and more, with a pesto vinaigrette. The portion is substantial, and at $19.75, the dish is a real bargain. The only thing I’d recommend is serving the steak sliced, tagliata di manzo style, to add a bit of color and make the salad easier to eat.

There are a few attractive desserts; unique to the Naperville location is the Dolcinos flight, a sampler of four desserts (chocolate tartufo cake, ricotta cheesecake, vanilla bean gelato, and tiramisu) nestled in adorable little teacups. Each is $3, or $11 for four, and when all you need is a bite of something sweet, this is a terrific option.

The wine list is heavily but not exclusively Italian, and prices are moderate; there are plenty of bottles at $40 and less, and by-the-glass options top out at $13. If you want to be even more fiscally shrewd, head to Gia Mia on Wednesdays, when any bottles normally $60 or less go for half price.

There’s also a $13 lunch menu, offered every day, and on Mondays, pizzas are half price. Just know that “pizza Mondays” are already very popular.

“I started the Monday special pre-COVID,” Goewey says. “I was tired of slow Mondays. Now it’s the third-busiest day of the week.” 

Photos courtesy of Kelly Vanderploeg (patio and pizza) and Natalie Meynart (Bruschetta and bar)