Chef brings Chicago pizza to Nashville

If Greg Knoteks The story of culinary entrepreneurship seems ripe for television because its story is strikingly similar to the hit Hulu show The Bear.

  • Like the main character on the show, Knotek is a classically trained chef who cut his teeth while working in Chicago’s French restaurants and country clubs.
  • Unlike The Bear, where an award-winning chef takes over the family’s Italian beef shop in Chicago, Knotek left the Windy City to start his own business in Nashville.

Why it matters: Knotek’s dream concept Gio’s Chicago Pizza, which opened in February, is poised to take on the city’s best pizzerias.

Driving the news: We received a tip about Gios from reader Benjamin P., who responded to our call for story ideas in our one-year anniversary newsletter.

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Details: Gio’s operates out of the “food business incubator” Citizen Kitchens on Alabama Avenue in The Nations.

  • The menu is simple and on-brand: Chicago-style deep dish, tavern-style (the less heralded version of thin-crust Chicago pizza), and—you guessed it—Italian beef sandwiches.
  • Like many Chicagoans, Knotek wears his hometown pride on his sleeve. He also explains in detail to Axios how he painstakingly prepared his pizza recipe and why the word “Jagoff” is so loved by Chicagoans.

What he says: Knotek, 59, chose Nashville because his daughter got a job as a registered nurse there, but dreams of running his own pizza restaurant run deep.

  • “I just love pizza. It brings us together,” says Knotek. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.” He says his 12 years at Al’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria in Cicero, a suburb of Chicago, were particularly formative.
  • His time in French kitchens also prepared him for this. “Am I a five-star chef? No I’m not. But I worked in these kitchens. I’m something of the perfect sous chef. I’m a nice guy and I’m a hard worker and I’ll get my stuff done.”
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What’s happening: Knotek is making efforts to spread the word about Gio, but he’s been cautious about marketing.

  • So far there has been no paid advertising, just word of mouth and social media posts. He says foodies have come from Bowling Green and Murfreesboro for his pies and beef.

Flash Forward: Knotek says it hopes to find a brick-and-mortar space in the next year or so and is open to investors to make it happen.

  • “With Nashville and the great exodus of Americans and Midwesterners and Chicagoans who like Chicago-style taverns and sandwiches, there seems to be a market for it,” he says.
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Mark your calendar: Gio’s is hosting a pop-up event at the Harding House Brewery in the Nations on Wednesday.

💭 Nate’s thought bubble: Gio’s has the ultimate trump card: the pizza is delicious. Growing up outside of Chicago, I would probably rank deep dish pizza as my favorite food.

  • Although I loved Gio’s deep dish, especially the sauce which Knotek painstakingly created, the tavern style was the highlight when my family ordered it this week. There were no leftovers.

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