Bites Nearby is generally not an opinion or a review but rather an eatery suggested to support and highlight area businesses.
This week, however, Bites Nearby is written with the intention of both, motivated by a recent visit to Gio’s Café and Deli in Bridgeport. It's a 28-minute trek from the center of Darien, provided that traffic on Interstate 55 North is a breeze.
The term “neighborhood gem” aptly describes this BYOB (no corking fee!) Italian restaurant, specialty store and deli located in what once was a grocery store.
Gio’s restaurant atmosphere is intentionally very casual - about 12 tables with red-and-white checked tablecloths surrounded by the deli cases and shelves of homemade and imported Italian specialty items.
“We wanted to create a very informal place where the idea was to keep the good ingredients we were used to working with without making it too expensive,” said Ignacio “Nacho” Bautista, co-owner along with Giovanni “Gio” Liuzzo and Victor Quezada.
Bautista attributed their success to maintaining quality ingredients, the consistency of their staff (most have been employed at Gio’s for eight to nine years) and good service.
Their expertise and commitment to quality was evident during my visit with my husband and two friends who introduced us to this very authentic establishment.
The server was prompt and friendly, and had fresh bread and olive oil delivered to the table as she uncorked and poured the wine we brought.
We began with an appetizer of sausage and peppers - a religious experience for my taste buds - served in a fragrant, light broth.
My husband ordered his usual - cavatelli with vodka sauce - and considered it among the best he’s had.
My friend’s husband ordered mostaccioli broccoli, while my friend and I split an order of mostaccioli with marinara and a side of meatballs. The sauce and meatballs left nothing to be desired.
We sampled each generously sized entrée and couldn’t stop with our accolades.
Sadly, we couldn’t find room for dessert as we had practically licked our plates clean (to the chagrin of our full stomachs) as we knew leftovers would spoil while at the Sox game.
Our South Side friends have been frequenting Gio’s for years to enjoy the restaurant, deli and catered cuisine that has become a staple for their family gatherings.
And while there are many amazing Italian restaurants in the suburbs and Chicago, it’s a wonderful thing to add a true jewel to the list.