Gia Mia an unlikely new tenant in old Nichols Library in downtown Naperville
Brian Goewey had a vision for bringing his Gia Mia restaurant chain to Naperville.
What he created, though, is truly visionary.
Goewey's restaurant group recently launched its sixth Gia Mia Italian eatery -- and ninth overall restaurant -- at the old Nichols Library building in downtown Naperville. From the restored brick interior to the 100-seat patio facing Washington Street, the historic landmark is experiencing a rebirth.
Since opening on Aug. 15, Goewey couldn't be more pleased with the reception from the community.
"The response has been amazing," he said. "Everyone's coming out and telling us how much they love the space and what we're continuing to do with the building."
Calling the space at 110 S. Washington St. an "Italian villa," Goewey said he aimed to bring new life to the 125-year-old building while maintaining its historic feel. Among the elements remaining from the original library is a 19th-century plaque commemorating its construction in 1897.
Removing layers of plaster exposed original brick that was refurbished by a masonry expert. The floor is polished concrete in a chocolate color, and a brick oven was shipped in from Italy.
The expense was significant: $1.5 million. Supply-chain issues and rising costs didn't help and also caused a delay in the planned July opening.
The cost was more than twice as much as his group spent on any other restaurant.
"You think you have everything figured out, but a project like this is kind of design on the fly," Goewey said. "This was a fun one. It was quite the interesting project to get it going and working right."
At one time designated for demolition, the old Nichols Library was saved in 2017 when city officials granted it landmark status. The 4,500-square-foot footprint has a larger kitchen and is about 25% bigger than other Gia Mia locations in Downers Grove, Elmhurst, Geneva, St. Charles and Wheaton.
The menu features the same wood-fired favorites that have made Gia Mia popular. In addition to pizza, the restaurant serves pasta, appetizers and Italian standards like chicken Parmesan and chicken Marsala.
"My kids tell me this is the nicest restaurant we've ever put together," Goewey said. "It's a lot of the historic components, the neighborhood we're in and the building we're in. There's just a natural beauty to the space."