My niece was getting married back at the family farm near Kellogg, IA over Labor Day weekend. The night before, my sister and the mother of the groom had a reception for both families, but woefully under estimated the amount of food needed because of the number of people from the groom's family who showed up. I didn't eat, but Cindy did a little bit. I told her, "Hey, don't eat too much. I've got an idea for dinner." I'd heard about a place over in Colfax called Papa Georgio's and wanted to try it out. We left around 8:30 and high-tailed the 20 miles over to Colfax to find the place.
Georgioz (they have appeared to dropped the "papa" and changed the spelling) is a little pizza/sandwich place just as you cross the railroad tracks coming from Interstate 80 on the north side of Colfax on Highway 117 at Front St. (see map) The building in which Georgioz is housed used to be various bars and even a strip club a number of years ago. Pam and Andrew Weigle bought the building, fixed it up and opened for business in 2003. Pam's father, George Dickerson, whom I knew years ago, helped out with financing on the place, hence the "Papa Georgio's" name when it first opened. From all indications, it's simply known as Georgioz these days.
(Pictured right - the front of Gergioz. Photo courtesy Waymarking.com)
Not knowing how late they stayed open, we pulled into the parking lot just before 9 p.m. a few cars including a couple larger boats behind pick-up trucks were in the parking lot. As we were getting ready to walk in, I looked in the window and a long line of people were approaching the door to leave. We stood as about a dozen of them came out. One of the guys held the door for us and said, "There were 18 of us, so you may be running into a few more on your way in."
Sure enough, the rest of the people were coming toward us as we turned the corner. A young waitress, Brooke, came up with the final people leaving the place and I asked her, "Are we too late to get some food?"
She said, "Oh, not at all! We're open until 11!" She grabbed a couple menus and took us down a narrow passage that also had some tables along the wall, past the open kitchen on the left that housed a large Baker's Pride pizza oven (below left) and into a larger dining area. She said, "You can take your pick. You guys are the only ones here!" We took a table opposite the side where the large party had just finished.
The dining room at Georgioz could be categorized as "industrial chic". The walls were a bright red with what appeared to be metal truck liners (that's what Cindy said they were) about three feet up around the walls. Contemporary art work adorned the north and west walls with windows along the east side. All the tables had metals tops and padded metal chairs.
Brooke asked us what we wanted to drink as we looked over the menu. I got a beer, but Cindy was surprised to see that they offered a number of wines by the glass - including a malbec that she promptly ordered. Frankly, I was sort of surprised with what they had for wines, as well. It appeared that Georgioz had their own private label house red and house white wine available.
Pizza, sandwiches, and appetizers and salads are the main fare at Georgioz. They have a number of specialty pizzas including a Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza that's topped with ground beef, onions, dill pickles, bacon, and mozzarella AND cheddar cheese; a Bleu Cheese pizza that is topped with a garlic butter sauce, seasoned chopped chicken, red onion and garlic, then finished with bleu and feta cheeses with olive oil and a blend of mozzarella; and the Rueben pizza - instead of a pizza sauce, they use Thousand Island dressing, then it's topped with corned beef, sauerkraut, and mozzarella. It sort of sounded equally disgusting and interesting to me.
Cindy was looking hard at their salads and determined that she wanted to get one of their Greek salads. The only problem was that the 1/2 Greek salad was only a buck cheaper than a full one. When she asked Brooke how big the half was, she said, "Well, I certainly have trouble finishing one." Cindy asked me if I'd help her eat it, but I was set on getting a pizza.
Georgioz has a "create your own pizza" segment on their menu and you can choose between over two dozen toppings including mandarin orange, breaded chicken, fresh spinach and yellow peppers. Going back to my standard sausage, pepperoni and mushroom, I ordered a medium - 14" - pizza, figuring that we'd have a refrigerator in our room for leftovers back at the hotel that we hadn't checked into as of yet. (Note - we didn't.) I was also pleased to see that Georgioz used Graziano Brothers sausage, some of the finest Italian sausage in the Midwest. I asked Brooke if the pizza crust was thin and she said, "Well, it's not cracker thin, but it's more thin than other pizzas around here."
About 20 minutes later, Brooke brought the Greek salad and pizza out to the table for us to dig into. I would have hated to see what a full Greek salad consisted of because the half was pretty big on its own. For a buck more we could have gotten the full Greek salad just to see, but it would have been a waste of a lot of food. Cindy's Greek salad had ample amounts of feta cheese, chopped black olives, red onions and tomatoes. Cindy had their homemade Greek salad dressing served on the side. After the first couple of bites, Cindy said, "Oh, this is very good. Exactly what I wanted!"
The pizza was cut into party squares, exactly how I love a good thin crust pizza. The toppings were thick and plentiful. Most places that use Graziano Brothers sausage usually finely grind their meat before they put it on the pizza. It appeared that the sausage on the Georgioz pizza is not quite as finely ground as there were some larger chunks of meat on the pizza. After letting it cool down for a bit, I bit into the first piece. The sauce had a tangy sweet taste, the cheese was heavy and stringy, and the toppings were excellent. Georgioz uses fresh mushrooms on their pizzas and these mushrooms had a wonderful taste. The hallmark of a good pizza to me is if it tastes good with a beer. Georgioz pizza tasted GREAT with a beer.
We finished what we could and Brooke came over and asked if we needed boxes for the leftovers. Cindy said, "No for the salad, but yes for the pizza." When Brooke came back with the pizza box and the check, we got to talking to her about Georgioz and about her life. It turned out that her aunt and I went to school together over in Newton from junior high through high school. She told us how she had lived in Italy for awhile, then in New York before moving back to Iowa to finish her schooling. When Cindy asked her where she lived in Italy, she said, "I lived in Florence." When Cindy went to Europe to meet up with her daughter who was studying in Spain about four years ago, the most favorite place she visited was Florence. So, those two carried on for about 15 minutes talking about Florence.
I'd heard from others who told me Georgioz had good pizza and I had to find out for myself. Let's say I wasn't expecting much from the place and I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the restaurant, the service and the pizza. I told Brooke that Georgioz would beat anything any of the pizza places in the Quad Cities had to offer. She said, "We hear the same thing from people who come over from Des Moines." And Des Moines has some pretty fine pizza places. But Georgioz can stand up to any of them.