Bill Mintiens

For the Spokesman

Geno’s Italian Grill

Geno’s Italian Grill

Location: 1857 NW Hwy 97

Phone: 541-504-4300

Web: genositaliangrill.net

Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 11 am-8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 am ~ 9 pm, Sunday 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Closed Mondays

Lunch served 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Dinner served 4 p.m.-close

Debbie Burke, co-owner of Geno’s Italian Grill, chuckles about the fact that neither she nor husband Geno are Italian.

“I’m actually French and German and Geno is as Irish as they come!” she said. “Geno’s real name is Gene but everyone calls him Geno. The name was a perfect fit for the restaurant.”

Family heritage aside, as a young woman in her early 20s, Debbie Burke earned the right to be called an Italian chef. Burke “made her bones” in the kitchen of a now-closed Italian restaurant called Pitossis in Washington state.

“The head chef taught me a lot, mentored me actually, on Italian cooking,” she said. “After working at Pitossis I always wanted to have my own restaurant.”

The Burkes realized Debbie’s dream almost 20 years ago when they opened Geno’s New York Pizza in Redmond. The timing was also good for Geno, a contractor by trade, who was ready for a career change.

“Geno really couldn’t do construction work anymore so he said let’s do it!” Debbie said.

After 20 years with the pizza restaurant the Burkes sold the business and moved to Madras, opening Geno’s Taste of Italy and operating it for 12 years.

By the end of 2017, Debbie was considering retirement and really didn’t want to renew the lease on the Madras space.

So they closed the restaurant, sold their home in Madras and moved back to their first home in Redmond.

But retirement was not in the cards for Debbie.

“We were told that this building (1857 NW Highway 97, next to the Sleep Inn) was available and were we interested in renting it for a restaurant?” she said.

“I knew I wanted to work at least 31⁄2 more years (before retiring) so I told Geno let’s just get into it again,” she added.

So in February, the Burkes moved all the equipment from the Madras restaurant to the new location in Redmond, in a space another Italian restaurant was previously located. Debbie hasn’t regretted the decision to “get back into it.”

“We made the right choice, because now we are so busy it’s incredible,” she said.

Over the years the Burke’s have continually evolved and expanded their menu offerings. Originally starting with pizza and calzones in Redmond, adding pasta dishes and steaks, chops, chicken and a full bar in Madras, they now offer a full range of both Italian and American dishes.

“Basically our menu is all about what I’ve learned over the years,” Debbie said. “I really like to throw things together, experiment with customers, and design the menu based on that.”

Debbie’s signature soup, Chicken Tuscana (cup $5, bowl $8), is a classic example of Burke’s cooking ability. “People just love that soup, it’s a secret recipe and we always have it on the menu.”

Geno’s pork chops ($15), topped with an apple and sautéed in a brandy reduction sauce are also very popular with customers.

Interestingly, Debbie Burke has noticed that her Redmond customers have a different palate than her customers did in Madras .

“In Redmond, lighter Alfredo sauces, lighter wine sauces, and pasta dishes are the norm,” she said. “In Madras we served a lot more beef dishes.”

Geno’s buys all its beef from Oregon Beef in Madras.

“We pay top dollar and it’s really good beef,” Debbie said. “Our Spicy Sausage and Shrimp Linguine ($18) is a big seller. So is our lasagna ($14) and spaghetti and meat balls ($14).”

Listening to Debbie Burke describe her Chicken Marsala ($17) and Seafood Cannelloni ($21) dishes, both large sellers, made this reporter’s mouth water.

With over 150 items to choose from, diners are sure to find a dish to love. Everything from salads to Debbie’s pasta recipes to steaks and sea food are on the family-friendly menu.

Dinner prices range from $12 to $27, lunch from $11 to $15. Pizza and calzones range between $9 and $28.

Tim and Sue Ramsey of Redmond recently dined at Geno’s on a Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m kind of a snob when it comes to Italian food, and that’s why I love Geno’s,” Tim said. “We’re regular customers.”

Debbie Burke feels that their success stems from listening to and respecting their customers.

“I listen closely to our customers, love to hear their feedback, and I make what they want,” she said.

— Contact Bill Mintiens at billmintiens@gmail.com .

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