The transformation of Geno's Italian restaurant in the Gonzaga district is shocking — that place has been flipped.
Zola chef and owner William Webster and his team have been gutting the old building on North Hamilton Street since May. Today, it's finally ready for business.
At the restaurant last night, a huge smile on his face, he pulls out the "before" pictures and gestures to everything he ripped out of the building. The wood paneling. The fake trellises. The two suspended ceilings.
Geno's now features the same salvaged-material aesthetic as Zola. Old circus-trailer siding with a clown painted on it lines some walls, as well as material from a circus tent. The centerpiece of the bar is made from the insides of old pianos and vintage target shooting games, with broken piano keys as design accents.
The spot also incorporates Zola's nightly live music element, and last night's soft opening party, featuring musician Dan Conrad and his yet-to-be-named backing band, proved that the venue also packs some good sound. The stage area is located in the main dining area, which also has a giant rolling garage door that opens to a patio lit by overhanging string lights. All in all, it's beautiful.
But about the food.
Webster says he had a long-time friend fly over from Philadelphia to help him craft an original Italian menu, featuring appetizers, sandwiches, salads, entrees, and, of course, pizza. The majority of the dishes fall in the $10-$15 range.
Although these are standard fare for Italian places, Webster has done it right. The ingredients are exceptionally fresh, the dough is shipped in from New York's Lamonica's Pizza Dough Co., Inc., and the dishes exemplify authentic cooking. We tried the delicious Italian breakfast pizza, which is topped with rich pancetta, red bliss potatoes, rosemary, baby arugula, fresh egg and smoked mozzarella cheese.
Geno's is a gem — see for yourself at tonight's grand opening.
Geno's • 1414 N. Hamilton St. • Open daily, 11 am-close • 368-9087
Photo: Aaron Schaber