After 58 years of business, Gio’s Pizza and Bocce, an Italian restaurant and bar located in Downtown Berkeley, closed Dec. 19.
The original restaurant, Giovanni’s, opened in 1961 and was later remodeled, becoming Gio’s Pizza and Bocce after a major fire accident in 2015. The newly modernized restaurant featured a 4,000-square-foot bocce ball court in the middle, according to the East Bay Express.
The daughter of original owner Giovanni Schipani, Anastasia Schipani, worked as a bartender and bar manager at the restaurant and said there were efforts during the remodeling process to keep some of the restaurant’s original designs to honor the past.
“We had a lot of good months with a lot of local business, and it became a great place for events,” Schipani said. “We had a lot of private parties and different kinds of celebrations, but it just never quite became lucrative enough to keep going.”
The remodeled restaurant was owned by three UC Berkeley alumni: Xin and Michele Jin and Nathan George. Joel DiGiorgio and Adam Stemmler from Farm League Restaurant Group were their managing partners, according to the East Bay Express.
According to Schipani, a lot of Berkeley community members were attached to the original restaurant’s old-school charm. Although some of the old guests liked the new remodel, a majority of the people disagreed because “they felt like it was a completely different restaurant.”
“I really love this place,” said Yelp reviewer Laurina Sousa. “Such delicious, upscale Italian food. I adore variety of appetizers, their salads are a great addition to the eclectic menu items. The service is excellent.”
Samuel Barnes, a Yelp user, wrote in his review that although he missed the original restaurant’s interior design, he still enjoyed eating their meatball appetizer and their vegetarian pizza.
Schipani said the bar was one of the main attractions at Gio’s Pizza and Bocce, since there was a cocktail program that interested a lot of guests.
“The spritz are to die for,” said Yelp user Alia Thomas. “Pink lemonade, lavender, etc. The list goes on, the flavors change with the season and you can literally taste the craftsmanship that has gone into making them.”
Schipani said she enjoyed working at Gio’s Pizza and Bocce because she was able to see regular customers. She added that she noticed a common trend of restaurants only lasting for a little more than a year, and she misses restaurants that have the “old characters.”
“I wished that legacy of the restaurant continued in some ways,” Schipani said. “It’s really a hard loss for me, and I know that the owners, it was difficult for them as well. I’m glad that effort was made. I wish the end would have been different, but the restaurant had a long run.”