Gia, a new Italian restaurant nestled into the former Cavé Vin space in Minneapolis’s Armatage neighborhood, opened this week on February 6. Chefs Jo Seddon and Lisa Wengler, both alums of Gavin Kaysen’s Wayzata restaurant Bellecour, have run Gia as a pop-up over the past three-and-a-half years — now they’ve found a permanent home for their fresh, thoughtful menu of sharing and small plates (artichoke and polenta fritti; bruschetta pomodoro), mains (Chianti-braised beef; shrimp bucatini studded with plum tomatoes), and desserts (affogatos; lemon tarts with cream).
Seddon and Wengler met at Bellecour in 2017. Wengler, born and raised in Minnesota, worked at Shakopee’s Cocoa and Fig Bakery during her college years before attending New York’s Culinary Institute of America and eventually landing back home, where Kaysen hired her. Seddon practiced medicine in London for years, but she always had a “culinary edge,” she says — so she made a career 180 and enrolled in culinary school.
“One day, I must have been about 30, I woke up and I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to be 50 and still be waking up wondering whether I should be cooking,’” she says. She worked at London’s River Cafe until she and her husband took a leap across the Atlantic and moved to Minnesota.
The chefs only overlapped for a short time at Bellecour: When Wengler was hired, Seddon was readying to have a baby. (She left the restaurant but continued to work for Kaysen at his then sports catering company, KZ Provisioning.) On Jo’s last day — Wengler’s second — she came over to give Wengler a big hug, and wish her well. “It made a big impression on me because she was the only female line cook at the time — there were women in pastry but there weren’t any other girls on the savory side,” Wengler says. “I felt this camaraderie with her.”
Seddon eventually launched her own catering company, and when Bellecour closed abruptly in 2020, Wengler joined her. They delivered meal packages and popped up around the Cities. In the summer of 2022, they got the opportunity to run Gia as a kind of seasonal restaurant for four-and-a-half months at Sovereign Wine Estates in Waconia. “That made us both realize that while catering was great in many ways and gave us a lot of control, we really missed the hospitality piece of cooking,” Seddon says. In October 2023, they took over the lease of Cavé Vin, where they’d been hosting pop-ups.
Gia’s restaurant menu is similar to that of the pop-up: Italian fare with careful attention to vegetables; bright acid from lemon and tomato; fresh mozzarella and ricotta; meats meticulously braised, grilled, and seared; canonical Italian desserts. Seddon and Wengler plan to keep it succinct and nimble enough to reflect the changing seasons. They painted inside Cavé Vin, making it lighter and brighter, and changed out the banquettes. They envision a neighborhood restaurant that’s unfussy and unpretentious, that transcends trends with steady hospitality and warmth.
“There’s a lot of our personality in it,” Wengler says. “We just wanted it to feel welcoming, like you would feel if we were having you over to dinner in one of our homes.”
Seddon is excited to be a part of the new guard of Gavin Kaysen alumni opening their own restaurants this year (Bûcheron is one; Diane’s Place another) — Kaysen has been a true mentor to them, she says. She also sees a parallel between her partnership with Wengler and that of chefs Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray, the founders of River Cafe. Ruth was American and Rose was English; Rose was 12 years older than Ruth, similar to Seddon and Wengler. “They were two incredibly inspirational women,” she says. “I think that there’s something really cool about being a female chef team — Lisa and I have a really deep friendship and trust.”
Gia is open Tuesday through Saturday for an apertivo hour from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and dining from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.