When it comes to being the best steakhouse in the Chippewa Valley, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse has only one secret: sourcing their meats from the best of the best.
“If you bring in a poor-quality product, and you try to dress it up, it’s still going to be a poor-quality product at the end of the day,” said Executive Chef Shawn Wamsley. “So we try not to dress our protein up at all. Our intent in the back of the house is to enhance the high-quality beef that we get in house to the best of our ability – easy, simplified seasonings: salt, pepper, olive oil. I don’t think it needs anything else beyond that because the protein by itself is that good.”
Their steaks are so dang good because they source their meats from quality meat producers, and Johnny’s also uses a unique approach to cook their steaks: they use a top-heat broiler as opposed to a bottom-heat grill, which sears instead of grills. “Here’s the beauty of a broiler,” Wamsley said. “It cooks the meat more evenly.
Transparency in their process is also crucial, as they show the worth of their food through the quality of their ingredients.“We couldn’t be more transparent with the cost of our product, with the recipe development of that product, and what that price point is represented on that menu to a guest that’s paying for it,” Wamsley said. “We will never gouge our guest.”
Not only does Johnny’s strive to have the best possible ingredients and sourcing for their foods, they also aim to be consistent – consistently good, that is. “We want to put out the best possible product,” said Matthew Rashid, general manager. That means high-caliber, consistent execution.
“People weren’t used to that in Eau Claire,” Rashid said “Automatically, there was this connotation that, ‘Oh, they’re probably overpriced.’ But when we nail that execution from start to finish, that’s what leaves people wanting more.”
Beyond the plate, Johnny’s has the feel of a destination restaurant in Eau Claire’s backyard, and they work to make sure they know every guest by name. “Interpersonal connection, loyalty, and respect – they’re huge,” Wamsley said. “And it’s hard to find a cohesive team in a restaurant. But there’s a lot of cohesiveness amongst all of us here... It’s empowering.” They celebrate with special events that are important to each Vallian: weddings, birthdays, bridal showers, and – most recently – vaccination celebrations.
Johnny’s also has deep community ties with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and Wamsley sits in committee boards with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department and the CVTC Culinary program.
“We want you to shine for who you are,” Wamsley said. “We’re not here to suppress. We’re here to support and motivate, and be successful.”