Chefs Brendan Duggin, left, and William Bennett, right, have returned to Giovanni’s Ristorante, which was purchased in December by Dee Owen, centre bottom, and Trent Belcourt, centre top. — Adam Kveton

Putting Giovanni’s in Qualicum Beach back on the map

Deez owners bringing back original concept, their own touch to their new business

Since last December, Giovanni’s Ristorante in Qualicum Beach has been under new management, with the owners of Deez Bar and Grill excited to bring back original owner and chef Giovanni Belcastro’s vision for the downtown eatery.

New owners Dee Owen and her business partner, Trent Belcourt, met with The NEWS at Giovanni’s, where the changes they’ve brought won’t necessarily be seen right away, but will definitely be felt, they said.

“We want to put (Giovanni’s) back on the map,” said Owen.

The restaurant has gone through two management changes since Belcastro purchased what was the Red Radish Bistro and made it into Giovanni’s.

With the plan of bringing back the fine Italian food philosophy of fresh, quality ingredients with simple preparation, and served at a restaurant that welcomes everyone, Owen and Belcourt got help from Belcastro in the first week they spent reopening the establishment.

Now, chefs William Bennett and Brendan Duggin — both trained by Belcastro — are continuing the Italian food tradition, said Owen.

Many of the sauces come right from Belcastro, said Bennett. “It’s quality ingredients with simple preparation, which is very much Italian cooking,” she said.

Belcourt pointed out the pizzas and desserts as some of his highlights from the new menu, adding, “Billy’s dinner specials are off the hook.”

Owen cited another special, the lobster fettuccine, as one of her favourites.

The restaurant is also continuing to expand its wine list, offering some higher-end wines as well as a quality Italian house wine.

The restaurant hasn’t undergone any substantial physical change. “We might have touched up the paint, but we bought it like this,” said Owen.

What she and Belcourt bring to the table are experienced chefs, a great staff, their own enthusiasm and the enthusiasm of their Deez patrons.

Another aspect of the business is the lounge.

Originally a sauna store, the lounge right next to the restaurant space offers a lighter, relaxed dining experience open for lunch every day and serving contemporary cocktails and beverages, along with light dinners.

It’s all part and parcel of the welcoming atmosphere, combined with a fine-dining experience, the new owners plan to create.

“Come have a beverage after the theatre, come over for a cold pint after lawn bowling. If you’re uptown doing grocery shopping and you feel the need for a refreshment (the lounge is there),” said Belcourt.

Currently, the new business has 42 staff members, but Belcourt and Owen continue to look for more, and expect they could have 55 employees by the end of the summer.

Both Owen and Belcourt said they’ve been looking for opportunities to purchase another business over the past several years. Belcourt, brought in as the Deez manager in 2008, was made a partner in 2011.

They said they’re very happy to have gotten a spot in Qualicum Beach’s core, and as much as they are looking to bring back the original Giovanni’s experience, Owen said they plan to listen to their patrons to guide their business decisions.

“The number one thing that has supplied us with continuous business and success is listening to the clientele,” he said. “And that is something that we are still doing here. We’re still in the first six months. We still want the customers to help mould our business into what the community wants. Even though we’re established, it is a new business and we are excited and looking forward to the growth ahead of us.”