Great steaks are complemented by delectable Italian cuisine in this innovative restaurant concept that’s both sophisticated and affordable.
- Brand Concept
The first Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse opened in Des Moines, Iowa to rave reviews in April of 2002. Today, there are ten locations in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kansas and Ohio, with several more in development. As a distinctly upscale dining experience with reasonable prices, Johnny’s is uniquely positioned between casual (e.g. Outback Steakhouse™) and fine dining concepts (e.g. Ruth’s Chris™).
The ambiance at Johnny’s is reminiscent of the classic supper clubs of the 40s and 50s, creatively blending the sophistication of the past with a modern edge. Think tiled floors, large upholstered booths and crystal chandeliers, all while Sinatra, Diana Krall or Michael Bublé plays melodically overhead.
This innovative design features thematic décor sets and vintage finishes as well as luxurious draperies that create private dining areas within the restaurant. As well, the Blue Bar™ provides guests with a lively lounge atmosphere where cell phones take a backseat to conversation. This is not your average, testosterone-driven steakhouse; the eclectic atmosphere draws in a diverse crowd of male and female, business and leisure.
At Johnny’s, the steaks take center stage, and are complemented by a gourmet assortment of Italian cuisine that doesn’t require Iron Chef skills. Our professional culinary team ensures the quality of the dining experience from one location to the next via standardized and costed recipes along with demonstration videos and online tutorials.
The versatility of the concept has already been proven a success as part of free-standing developments, lifestyle centers, retail-level offices and hotel complements. With exceptional food and furnishings, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse accommodates a wide variety of demographics.
- Brand Story
From its humble beginnings in Iowa, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse™ has grown to be an aspirational brand that celebrates both its Midwestern heritage and its contemporary edge.
Building on the success of other restaurant concepts in the Heart of America Group family, the first Johnny’s was opened in Des Moines in 2002. The core idea was to create an upscale yet affordable dining experience reminiscent of the classic 1940s and 1950s supper clubs, with a menu featuring delicious steaks and Italian cuisine. Staying true to its roots, Johnny’s would also offer the classic Steak DeBurgo, a quintessentially Iowan dish consisting of succulent beef tenderloin medallions lathered in basil, garlic and butter.
The launch of the first Johnny’s was immediately embraced by the community with a surge of rave reviews and loyal patrons who continue to return to this day. Presently, many other communities have come to enjoy this same positive experience following the openings of their own Johnny’s locations.
The original restaurant in Des Moines has since gone through several renovations as the concept has been refined based upon the feedback from enthusiastic customers. It is this intimate relationship with consumers that has guided the brand’s expansion into new territories where it has also been embraced as a beloved restaurant destination.
- From Moonshine to Stardom*
The Story Of How Johnny’s Came To Be
One of the most popular questions our guests ask is, “Who’s the Johnny in Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse?” The name actually relates back, though, to two iconic personalities who would both help shape and define our beloved restaurant.
Growing up during the dismal days of prohibition and the Great Depression in Valley Junction – what would become West Des Moines, Iowa – John Stamatelos often received 25 cents from government tax collectors to reveal the locations of his father’s corn moonshine stills. Happily accepting the cash, the youngster would then lead the G-men astray to spots where stills were long since abandoned.
After serving in the army during World War II, Stamatelos turned all those quarters into seed money as he converted his own house into Johnny’s Vets Club in December 1946. Since liquor by the glass was still illegal, he operated the club as a speakeasy. Situated across the tracks from a cement plant, the location was ideal for spotting the authorities preparing for a raid as dust from the factory would alert spotters who could then float whiskey barrels down the nearby Raccoon River.
Playing host to community dignitaries and thousands of other locals, busy nights would find guests waiting 90 minutes for a seat with Stamatelos at the front door leaning back in a canvas-backed movie director’s chair. He had one golden rule, “You are not doing a customer a favor by being in business. The customer is doing you a favor by patronizing your place.” It’s easy to see how he became such a beloved and admired doorman.
Meanwhile, and also in 1946, Johnny and Kay Compiano opened Johnny and Kay’s Restaurant on the other side of town – a humble one-room dining area and bar with a maximum capacity of 32 people. Compiano’s love for cooking started in New Orleans while serving in the Coast Guard and his iconic steak de burgo soon become a nightly attraction. Staying true to his namesake which stems from the Italian verb for ‘to fulfill’, Johnny and Kay’s Restaurant would grow to become a state landmark with seating for up to 450 people.
Aside from their mutual love of hospitality, both Johnnys would lay claim to the best de burgo in Iowa – one adhering to the Italian style of cooking with olive oil while the other used butter, garlic and heavy cream.
In 2001, Mike Whalen, CEO of Heart of America, was looking to start a new restaurant concept in the southside of Des Moines. After much contemplation and with the blessing of both families, he created a modern-day tribute to the concepts fostered by Stamatelos and Compiano. Today, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse serves thousands of guests far and wide with the same spirit of service and culinary flair as the storied gentlemen sharing this emblematic first name.
*Des Moines Register April 11, 1981
- Business Proposition
Conceptualized by the creative mastery of the Heart of America Group and backed by over three decades years of food, beverage and hospitality experience, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse™ delivers proven results.
The convergence of a steakhouse with Italian cuisine plays exceptionally well as consumers are familiar with both dining categories. Johnny’s does not fall victim to being classified a ‘special occasion only’ restaurant either. It’s more often described as an everyday indulgence because it’s affordable but also a social experience beyond anything in its class. Furthermore, incorporation of the Italian component assists in achieving food costs not normally seen in pure steakhouse concepts.
The Johnny’s concept leverages its unique mix of elements to drive guest satisfaction and bottom line results. Replicable in a variety of markets, it’s ideally suited for established multi-unit operators and those who are approaching market saturation. Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse™ is an aspirational brand, allowing you to attract and retain top tier local talent.
- The Play, The Production
This is the mindset we have established as a framework for how our Cast Members (as the staff is known) should perform in the presence of guests. It is an integral part of day-to-day operations, used to ensure exceptional service. This simple yet elegant change increases accountability and inspires only the best performers to join and stay with our team.
We start our day with “Show Time!” modeled after a Broadway production. Our goal is to provide a dining experience worthy of a standing ovation with each and every meal.
- The HUB: Online Portal
Operators receive access to one of the industry’s most progressive support tools known as The HUB. The HUB is an online portal with direct contact support providing a wealth of information available to all key positions within the restaurant. It not only speeds up the training process but also acts as a constant resource for Cast Members. The system provides for direct communication between Cast Members at all locations via a social media style interface. The HUB can be accessed 24 hours a day everyday using any internet enable device and is even mobile optimized.
The result is a concept that performs without the trappings of being a chef-driven restaurant. Culinary talent can effectively be sourced throughout the fast casual marketplace and trained to deliver an outstanding dining experience.