Mystery Diner in Geneva: Livia Italian Eatery sparks lively mood

Livia Italian Eatery is one of the popular draws in the heart of Geneva’s historic Third Street district. We timed our arrival carefully to be sure to snare a table at the inviting outdoor patio.

The garden-level spot is artfully screened from passersby, but offers some of the best people watching in town. The long black awning entry leads to an appealing interior with drystone walls, banquettes, tables and an impressive bar known for its handcrafted cocktails.

Livia launched four years ago as one of the eateries created by suburban chef-turned-restaurateur Brian Goewey, who also brought his Gia Mia to Geneva and recently added a second local Gia Mia in downtown St. Charles. The restaurants are named after his daughters.

We ordered the lobster bisque for a decadent starter. Tidbits of lobster were a highlight of the richly flavored soup, whose garnish of bright green chives contrasted with the creamy pink shellfish treat. It was drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil for another flourish of flavor, and served in a lion-headed mini tureen.

My dining companion is a fan of the wood-fired pizza at Gia Mia, so he decided to try one of the flatbreads at Livia. He picked the Chicken Florentine, which arrived with tender chunks of chicken, fontina and mozzarella cheeses, bacon, spinach, artichoke and caramelized onion.

“It had a light, crispy crust covered with the perfect amount of toppings,” he said. “They know what they’re doing with their flatbreads.”

I chose the appetizer of Tuscan shrimp and eggplant. Like the flatbread, it was generously sized and turned into my entree. The colorful dish popped with velvety discs of eggplant in a savory, crisp breading, paired with a rainbow of petite sweet peppers and plentiful blackened shrimp. It was married with a creamy sauce accented with loads of shaved Parmesan. This seafood dish has some spicy heat to it.

Other tempting appetizers include calamari with shrimp, and a honey ricotta dish, showcasing honeycomb, micro basil, fig mostarda, extra-virgin olive oil and whipped ricotta, served with grilled toast. Inventive salads are another option, as are pastas, braised short rib, New Zealand lamb chops crusted in Gorgonzola, a steakhouse burger, butternut squash risotto, and Maryland shrimp and crab cakes.

A favorite at Livia for dessert lovers, including us, is the ricotta cheesecake with mascarpone cheese, lemon and raspberry sauce – lots of flavor and not overly sweet. We skipped dessert on this visit, and I’m still ruing the decision. It’s that good.

As a result of the pandemic, picnic tables dot the parkway in front of Livia for added restaurant service outdoors that’s dog-friendly.

Livia’s Facebook page notes it is adding new menu items in mid-June, just another sweet reason to head back soon.

• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Livia Italian Eatery

WHERE: 207 S. Third St., Geneva

HOURS: Opens at 11 a.m. seven days a week

INFORMATION: 630-402-6444, liviaitalianeatery.com