RAMSEY, N.J. – Family is everything to Ramsey café owner Giovanna Germinario. She spent much of her childhood helping out at her father's restaurants in northern New Jersey and New York City.
"The nature of this business runs through my blood," Germinario told Daily Voice.
Like many members of her Italian-American clan, she was a good cook and had dreams of opening her own restaurant someday. But the then stay-at-home mom wanted to wait until the time was right.
Next on her career path was Bloomingdale's, where she took a deep dive into the foodie world. As its culinary director, she held cooking demonstrations and other events with customers, vendors and chefs.
In addition to working five days a week, Germinario also graduated from the French Culinary Institute.
"(Bloomingdale's) was a lot, a lot of fun, but ultimately, not for me," she said. "I wanted to work for me, and my family."
Two years ago, she took that chance.
Germinario said that she wants customers at Giovanna's Café, which serves breakfast and lunch, to feel comfortable as soon as they walk in the door.
"The feeling that I've always wanted people to have, is for them to feel like they were walking into my kitchen, my living room. I wanted them to have that comfort," she said.
The food she makes there "is the food that I feed my family," she added.
Located at 19 Main St., the café is now the second-highest rated eatery in the borough.
Her success seems to be mirroring her dad’s.
He started Gina's Pizzeria in Hoboken in 1965, then opened a place in Union City and another in Manhattan. His "big place" was Italian Village in Fairview, Germinario said. It had a restaurant in the front and a delicatessen in the back, with a pasta-making machine, from which ravioli flowed.
Germinario's own family has, quite literally, stepped up to the plate.
Her husband did the construction, and her son and two daughters helped her get the café off the ground in the fall of 2014.
Her middle child, Gina Marie, had done a lot of the baking, but she's now working there on a part-time basis: "I'm a nonna for the first time," Germinario said, with a bit of wonder and a smile in her voice.
"Nonna" is Italian for grandma.
And her staff and customers have become her extended family, she said. Her regulars are not only from Ramsey, but they travel from Mahwah, Allendale, Waldwick, Wyckoff, Upper Saddle River, Ho-Ho-Kus and Ridgewood.
In the warmer weather, they can dine outside, and bring the family pet with them. The café even puts out water bowls for their furrier visitors.
Just as families tend to do, the eatery has expanded. It now does catering and takeout -- with a case of grab-and-go goodies and prepared hot foods.
The menu also sports gluten-free options.
When crafting her homemade dishes, Germinario tries to source ingredients locally. Her biggest current partnership is with Goffle Road Poultry Farm in Wyckoff, and she's got others in the works.
She also stays intimately involved with all the aspects of the eatery.
"I'm the one that does the hands-on picking of the vegetables, the meat. I've done that all my life, and I continue to do those things."
The restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. It also does local deliveries.For more info on the café, visit its website or Facebook page.