Feelin' Groovy at Monterey Place, Geneva's Newest Downtown Eatery
Monterey Place features gourmet pizza with all-fresh ingredients, a cheery staff and atmosphere, and an experienced Italian chef.
There's another new restaurant in town at the corner of State Street and North River Lane that in just a few weeks has made quite an impression. Monterey Place, serving gourmet pizza and classic American fare according to its website, was named for the owner's favorite place in California to find "peace and tranquility."
"Business has been good," owner Tony Andrews said. "Word of mouth has travelled like wildfire. We've only been open three weeks, and I've seen some people for a third and fourth time already."
He found his executive chef, Richard Mancini, online on Craig's List and calls him the perfect Italian chef. Together, they sat down and came up with their signature honey thin-crust pizza and an expanded menu that includes sandwiches and burgers (ranging in price from $8, $9, and $10); chicken, shrimp and steak dinners; and classic desserts that include tiramisu ($6) and cannoli ($4).
Andrews had thought about opening a restaurant for a long time, but said he envisioned doing it a few years from now when his daughter graduates from high school. He also figured he'd open it somewhere in Arizona.
"I've lost my job so many times that when it happened again, I thought, 'Why not do it now?' " he said.
Our server was manager Kim Haeger, who was quick to let us know that everything here is fresh and homemade. Andrews said his staff doesn't just cut open bags and dump stuff in a fryer; they're cutting vegetables and preparing everything fresh.
Not only that, we learned Monterey Place serves Old Style, a Milwaukee beer and old South Side of Chicago favorite since 1902. Andrews said it's becoming very popular with the younger crowd and also appeals to the older customers.
We started with the noticeably "not from a can" chicken rice soup that was thick, hot and very tasty and a dinner salad with house balsamic dressing. While the pizza was tempting, we decided on the Chicken Vesuvio ($14) served with white wine and garlic, potatoes and grilled zucchini and the Shrimp DeJohnge ($15) served sautéed with white wine, garlic and dejon mustard and bread crumbs, with a side of pasta.
The Vesuvio was a bit garlicky (but who would complain about that?) and very delicious with ample wine sauce. The shrimp was very tasty, smothered in sauce with thin pasta lightly buttered and seasoned. We would have preferred if the shrimp were tailless, but it was still worth the effort.
Andrews said he really hopes to build deep local roots within the community. He's already sponsoring some local athletic teams, and plans to do some fundraisers for local charities.
"We have art from local artists on the walls, and we're having some local musicians in," he said.
He talked about his idea to have a Patriot Hall in the private dining room where customers can put up a picture of someone they know who has served in the military to provide an honorable tribute to them.
He said there's a standing 10 percent discount to any veteran or government employee, including teachers, police officers and firefighters.
"Those people are heroes, and do things we need to get done," Andrews said.
Monterey Place is located at 7 W. State St. and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. The phone number is 630-845-9999. Delivery and catering are available. A private dining room is available, seating up to 50 people. Information on the local artists whose work is displayed can be found on the Monterey Place website.
A Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting by the Geneva Chamber of Commerce is planned at 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 13, with the Grand Opening Celebration that weekend, Jan. 15-16. Specials and free tastings will be offered as well as live music.