Almost two years after opening a second location in Downtown St. Louis, the iconic Gioia's Deli is headed to the county.
Gioia's was approved by St. Louis County today for a third location, located at 623 N. Ballas in Creve Coeur, Missouri, in a former Mr. Goodcents space. Co-owner Alex Donley mentioned a possible Creve Coeur expansion as early as January 2017, but he didn't want to move forward until the right space came along.
"Our growth model is, and always has been, opportunity and when we’re ready. We don’t really grow just to grow," Donley says. "It all started when a space out in Creve Coeur that’s perfect for us opened up. We [were] very particular about what we want – 2,000 square feet, on the main road, good parking."
Donley hopes to start the buildout on Monday of next week to ready the space for a spring, "hopefully April, at the latest."
Gioia's, which first opened on The Hill in 1918, was purchased by the Donley family in 1980. The Donleys added a food truck in 2014, and opened Downtown in 2016.
"Downtown is not dead, that's for sure," Donley says, noting that a second location taught him not to underestimate the crowds. "We just have a brand that transfers, and people want fast casual, high volume and quick. It helps that we won a James Beard [Award]."
Last January, Gioia's was one of five restaurants nationally – and the first ever in St. Louis – to be named a James Beard America's Classics honoree, which recognizes "regional establishments, often family-owned, that are treasured for their quality food, local character, and lasting appeal."
Donley found out in advance (he was sworn to secrecy), but that gave him the chance to reach out to previous honorees so Gioia's would know what to expect once it became public. For about three months after, both locations definitely felt the pressure.
"They were like, 'You're gonna get a lot of people that say, ‘[Gioia's doesn't] live up to the hype’ so just make sure you're putting your best foot forward from the beginning,' and we did," Donley says. "Our Google rating and our Yelp rating stayed strong at that 4.8, thank goodness. You don’t ever want to give somebody a bad experience."
The Creve Coeur location will have the same menu as the other two – featuring, of course, the signature hot salami – and Donley says the team plans to focus on call-in and online ordering, as well as getting people through quickly during the high-volume lunch rush.
"We're gonna stay true to what we do well," he says. "We're just gonna do what we do."
Gioia's Deli, 623 N. Ballas, Creve Coeur, Missouri, gioiasdeli.com