It’s a query they’ve gotten many times about their Chesterfield-based Sicilian restaurant and pizzeria over the last decade. People want to know why the owners of Vito’s in the Valley, Giovanni and Jessica LaFata, didn’t just name the place Gio’s. Well, now they are doing just that.
Enter Gio Modern Italian.
“Guests have always asked us why we didn't name the restaurant Gio's,” Gio says. “I guess because I'm the face they see every time they dine with us, and they know I have a little boy named Gio. My team has always said the same thing. Making friendships with guests and my team is my favorite part of this business.”
So, as they approach a decade of creating modern Italian recipes for the masses, they are changing their name to match. “As we approached our 10-year anniversary, we were finally prepared to create a space that feels like ours—a representation of our modern Italian food, the cocktails we craft, the wines we sip and the warm energy cultivated by a triad combination that is our community, our team and our family,” Jessica says. “As we transformed the inside to feel like us, we decided it was time to transform from the inside out and be who we always have been. We are updating our look to match who we already are—a modern Italian restaurant. We are simply becoming who we've always been.”
Giovanni says they opened the Sicilian restaurant and pizzeria—where customers are treated to authentic, made-from-scratch Sicilian food—"with the simple idea of bringing a locally owned restaurant to an area that didn't have many. St. Louis is such a strong supporter of small businesses, and we felt Chesterfield needed more of it. The direction of our food, drink and wine menus, as well as our offerings like brunch, lunch, happy hour, dinner experiences and seasonal events organically came to life. We took what customers wanted, what our team was great at, and what our family loved and just went for it. We use the acronym G-growing I-into O-ourselves as the root of our name change. We started with a simple idea but have grown into who we are today.”
Gio says he started helping his dad make pizzas as soon as he “was tall enough to reach the ingredients.” That eventually led to him and his brothers opening Vito’s Sicilian Pizzeria in Midtown in 1996. Then in October 2013, Gio and Jessica opened Vito’s in the Chesterfield Valley.
“They say ‘stick to what you know,’ so we opened with the idea of authentic Sicily that I always knew,” Giovanni says. “Growing up spending summers in Sicily and operating a restaurant with my family for 20 years, it made sense. However, our customers, team, and family naturally idled in a more modern direction almost instantly. We enjoy exploring new ideas and allowing our chef and team to be creative. Old and new combined is who we are.”
Now once again, the LaFatas are looking to the future. And when they do, the first place they look is at their children. “We have two little boys, Gio, 9, and Luca, 6,” says Jessica. “They are an extension of the restaurant. Our staff and customers love seeing them involved in all that we do, and we love integrating our business into their lives in every way we can. This is our family business. With this one becoming ‘Gio,’ we want our community to get excited about our plans for a ‘Luca’ in the future. We didn't want to keep ‘in the Valley,’ because we plan to expand.”
Giovanni says a perfect example of the restaurant’s move to modern is the success of all of Gio’s more modern concepts and menu items including the following:
- Happy Hour: “People love our Happy Hour,” Giovanni says. With $5 food and drink specials on the entire menu, Gio says they wanted to create an affordable way for guests to try “a little bit of everything, and it has been one our greatest successes.”
- Brunch: “Brunch is a big weekend favorite that is such an exciting change from our other Italian-focused menus,” Jessica says. “I created the menu with the idea that weekends are meant to celebrate, so make the menu fun. Make it modern and trendy and worth celebrating. And our ‘Bottomless Bubbly’—a choice of champagne, mimosas, sparkling rose or a variety—is a fan favorite.”
- Menu Items: Gio’s whiskey shrimp, Sicilian hot wings and charcuterie trays and seasonal entrées are guest favorites as are the restaurant’s seasonal handcrafted cocktails like Apple Cider Sangria, Strawberry Basil Mojito and Snowflake Martini. “We work hard to find balance in keeping classics and creating something new,” Jessica says.
"We are updating our look to match who we already are—a modern Italian restaurant. We are simply becoming who we've always been,” - Gio Modern Italian co-owner, Jessica LaFata.