Wausau Pilot & Review
Editor’s note: Business of the Week is a sponsored feature that shares the stories of locally-owned and operated businesses in the Wausau area, highlighting the products and services they offer and the ways they contribute to the metro area’s unique flavor. Learn how to feature your business by emailing email@example.com.
This week’s featured business is Ciao, an incredible downtown Wausau restaurant that features authentic Italian cuisine in an upscale, yet comfortable atmosphere. Owner Adam Jamgochian, who owned and operated Michael’s Supper Club before opening Ciao in the former Daly’s space, said his menu is inspired by old school recipes that were passed down to him from his Sicilian great-grandmother and his parents. Opening an authentic Italian restaurant is a dream he shared with his late father, Roger Jamgochian, who owned Hiawatha for decades before his death in 2013. Now, Adam is honoring his father’s memory by fulfilling that shared dream. The Ciao team includes Adam’s girlfriend, Tara Sperry, who serves as bar manager, along with sous chef Keith Kriesl and dining room manager Kelsey Jakubowski. All three have worked with Adam for well over a decade, which means the Ciao experience is smooth and sensational for customers who enjoy casual fine dining and an evening of pure escape. For Adam Jamgochian, food means family – and his patrons are made to feel a part of his. Read on to learn more about Ciao.
Q: When was your business established, and what prompted you to start?
A: We opened on November 15, 2019. I’ve always wanted to be downtown, and a super authentic Italian restaurant is something my dad and I always talked about doing and never got around to. My dad was from Brooklyn and my great grandmother was from Sicily and they always loved good food. My mom and dad passed down all their family recipes, and being able to eat as a family was always a big deal for us, gathering together and enjoying all the flavors together. I was always involved in my dad’s restaurant business, from the time I was 8 years old. I wanted to bring the New York flavor of Italian food to Wausau so I can eat it all the time myself and everyone else can, too. This restaurant was really inspired by my family.
Q: How did you choose the name of your business? What are you trying to convey?
A: Ciao, in Italian, means hello or goodbye. It’s one of many names we toyed with, and that one stuck. It just seemed like the right thing to do, and we created a logo around that word that worked and expressed what we wanted to convey. Plus, it sounds like “chow,” which means it’s time to eat. That seems about right, too.
Q: Tell us about your business. What do you offer?
All the menu items are my personal favorite things to eat. A lot of the recipes are passed down from my family, things I’ve tweaked with my personal style. We feature handmade pasta, it’s like nothing else you’ve tasted, and it’s hard to find here, and we feature dry aged beef, certified organic beef, fresh oysters, a lot of things that you won’t find at another place in this area. You can’t get homemade burrata made from scratch anywhere between here and Milwaukee, and if I had to choose a favorite appetizer that would be one of them. The braised veal with lemon artichoke sauce is amazing and our Bolognese is unbeatable. We know how important it is to keep money in the community, so we source our ingredients locally as much as humanly possible. I started doing that at Michael’s and continue to do so here. When people leave the restaurant I want them to feel like they’ve had one of the best meals of their lives with service that’s second to none.
Q: What makes your business unique? What sets you apart?
A: I’d say it’s all in the way we do things, from making our pasta from scratch to making sure our ingredients are authentic. We import our pantry staples from Italy, right down to the salt, vinegar and flour. The fresh produce is from as close to Wausau as I can find, and I work with Meadow Farms in Wabeno for the protein and a lot of the produce, too.
Q: What do you love most about your job? What drew you to this work?
A: I love making people happy with food and I love my restaurant family as well. I’ve surrounded myself with people who I get along with and cherish very much – from my employees to the clientele who come to my restaurant. It feels like family.
Q: What are you most proud of accomplishing?
A: I’m proud that I’ve established Ciao in my own right, my own entity. I own everything – there are no partners. I did it all on my own steam. We were able to open this place, with a lot of help from Randy Verhasselt at Evolutions, within a month after the closure of Michael’s. This is a great spot, and when Daly’s was operating here they had a great business too, and I was really happy to be able to carry on and honor that – but in my own way.
Q: How have you changed and evolved over time? What’s different now from when you first started?
A: We changed due to COVID – which, of course, changed everything for everyone. For us, our standards of excellence are even higher than they were before, as far as being sanitary, safe, keeping the public safe from any harmful viruses. That was really important to me. For awhile we were spending more on cleaning chemicals than we were on food. We actually upgraded our HVAC system to something similar to what you’d find in an airplane, with ionic molecules that kill 99 percent of bacteria and molds in the air an on surfaces. As far as the food goes we keep getting better at what we do, experimenting with what we do, pushing things with new ideas and pushing the envelope.
Q: What challenges have you had to overcome? Basically, if you had it to do all over again, would you do anything differently?
A: I might have taken a little more time off between my work at Michael’s and Ciao – it was only about a month. But it was a golden opportunity I wanted to take advantage of. And really, I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out.
Q: What are your hopes and dreams for the future? Where do you see your business in five years? 10?
A: I plan on branching out, possibly with locations in Colorado and Florida. If that happens I’d use exactly the same recipes, same decor, same kind of storefront and marketplace areas. I’m very excited about it. In the future, we’ll be having some live music, continuing in the tradition that Daly’s had in bringing music to the community and to downtown dining. Ultimately, though, I can’t express enough my gratitude for my staff and patrons. If we didn’t have such a great staff and if our patrons didn’t love what we provide we wouldn’t have stood a chance through the challenge of COVID.
Connect with Ciao
Ciao, 307 N. Third St., Wausau – Reservations at 715-298-2004
Hours: 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, closed on Sunday