GENEVA – As fans of Gia Mia and its wood-fired pizza and Italian small plates, my dining companion and I were eager to visit its new sister establishment called Livia just a few blocks south on Third Street in downtown Geneva.
It’s one of the latest ventures for chef Brian Goewey, who has named both Geneva eateries after his daughters.
On a frigid Saturday, we scurried indoors, past the garden-level restaurant’s patio that in a few months again will be an ideal spot for people watching in the heart of the historic shopping district. An inviting space, the interior is warmly appointed with wood and contemporary drystone accents including the expansive bar, home to artisan cocktails. Federalist blue walls provide a neutral backdrop for colorful abstract paintings.
While we lingered over the menu’s offerings, we ordered the lobster bisque for a decadent warm-up to our meal. Notes of sherry infused the richly flavored soup that added jumbo lump crab tidbits to the lobster base. A garnish of bright green chives contrasted with the creamy pink shellfish treat.
The restaurant’s long black awning that stretches from the sidewalk to the entrance bears the name Livia along with the descriptive – Italian eatery. We were torn between such dishes as an appetizer of wild mushroom ragu with polenta; beef carpaccio with marinated portobello mushroom, arugula, fennel, Reggiano cheese and Calabrian chili aioli; or the butternut squash tortellacci with brown butter, sage, Gorgonzola and truffle oil.
And flatbreads tempted with choices of fennel sausage, shrimp Creole or sweet onion and bacon. They are offered with a cauliflower crust option for people avoiding gluten.
Entrees range from a steakhouse burger to pan-roasted grouper in a lobster tomato broth; short rib with braised kale risotto; and New Zealand lamb chops crusted in Gorgonzola and accompanied by asparagus and a crock of whipped potatoes. And then there are pastas – from penne with pesto to mushroom sacchetti.
I picked the roasted salmon with a fresh vegetable succotash and opted for gluten-free quinoa instead of the herb farrotto, which is wheat-based. The dish was superb, the succulent salmon prepared perfectly. And a melange of vegetables comprised the delicious succotash with nary a lima bean to be found. The neutral quinoa picked up the luscious flavor of the accompanying lemon broth.
Since we went on a Saturday, my dining companion had to try one of the a la carte weekend brunch offerings, a speck prosciutto sandwich with arugula and fluffy scrambled eggs in a delicate English muffin. It arrived atop a plank with lightly seasoned roasted potatoes and a side of wonderfully ripe fruits, no mean feat in winter.
We couldn’t resist trying the blackened shrimp salad, a generously portioned dish of mixed greens, avocado, tomato, red onion, peppers, sugar snap peas, micro cilantro and crisp tortilla strips in a cilantro-lime vinaigrette with peanut sauce. Large shrimp were plentiful in the salad, an interesting spicy fusion of Latin and Thai flavors.
We opted to take home leftovers so we could try the ricotta and mascarpone cheesecake, which arrived like a work of art with a giant strawberry carved into a rose. It was almost too pretty to eat, but we managed. Not too sweet, it was a standout finish to a lovely meal with attentive service.
We enjoyed excellent cappuccino to accompany the dessert course, and started contemplating what we’d like to try on a return visit.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Record Newspapers. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. The Mystery Diner is not intended to be a restaurant critic but does highlight the parts of a dining experience that he/she can recommend.