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Fresh from the farm

Giovanni’s and Riverbottom Farms collab for farm-to-table efforts, market produce

Since pizza doesn’t grow on trees, the staff of Giovanni’s must look for other ways to introduce fresh-from-the-farm ingredients into its lunch and dinner menus. The longstanding Newton pizza parlor has been implementing more contemporary business methods these past few years, hoping to broaden the customer base and encourage others to also value freshness.

Adhering to the growing interests of the farm-to-table movement, Giovanni’s is making sure customers expect fresh, all-natural food before they even step foot into the pizzeria these days.

Posted on the marquee sign outside the First Avenue East business is the phrase “farm fresh,” an appropriate claim considering the restaurant’s partnership with a Marshalltown farm continues to bring farm-made goods to customers’ plates, as well as a small retail booth near the south entrance of the restaurant.

Frequent visitors to the Newton Farmers’ Market ought be familiar with the selection of jams, jellies, desert pies, baked goodies and other purchasable eats (and natural care products) by Whitmore’s Riverbottom Farms. Jerney Shores, who works personal relations with Giovanni’s, said a tent is put up every Tuesday to introduce visitors to a tasty collection of food made from scratch.

The collaboration between Bob Galloway of Giovanni’s and Doug Whitmore of Whitmore’s Riverbottom Farms, she added, has been going on for years.

Before Galloway and Whitmore teamed up, there was a mutual concern for adding more natural and locally grown ingredients to the restaurant while also staying environmentally conscious. Whitmore said they played with the idea of starting a farm full of naturally grown produce to be used in the food at Giovanni’s and therefore “have a better product for the community.”

For the past five years or so, Whitmore’s Riverbottom Farms has been making fresh lettuce for Giovanni’s side salads, big onions for orders of fried onion rings and cauliflower waiting to be breaded and dropped into a vat of oil. Customers, Whitmore said, are noticing the changes.

“The reason we do it is all long-term in our minds,” Whitmore said. “We do the farmers’ market. There’s a lot of benefits to it … We’re being active in the community so that we keep up the awareness of Giovanni’s or the farm. The (other benefit) is getting them to try these new products so that they realize they can come here and get them and build that reputation off of that.”

Galloway has been working at the pizzeria long before he took over ownership duties. To see Giovanni’s evolve over time, especially now, is exciting, he said.

“It’s kind of changing with the times,” Galloway said. “I think more awareness of the food and genetic modification of the foods over the last several years is becoming very evident that it’s affected people health wise, and it’s been a concern. We’re battling against that.”

Simultaneously, staff members at Giovanni’s are working towards fun ways of getting the restaurant’s signature dish to customers. Currently, Shores said the pizza parlor is working on introducing a take-home-and-bake style pizza, as well as a food truck for events in which pizza by the slice could be made and sold individually.

“We would like to end up getting around and not just be in just our community but being able to share it with more people in the area,” Shores said. “We have a lot of people that will come from out of town just for pizza. We want to be able to provide for them as well. I’m excited for that take-home-and-bake because we are so close!”

All of those styles of pizzas, she added, are created in-house. Studies Shores has researched have pointed to more people buying less groceries altogether. She said Giovanni’s is trying to keep up with those kinds of changes in order to better provide the same level of services to an alternating environment and economy.

Acclimating to the farm-to-table approach is a direct result of the changing food landscape, which Shores argued is trending to more natural-focused menu selections and a decline in fast food and processed food dependency or interest. Giovanni’s, she said, has been willing to take that extra step — hence the farm in Marshalltown.

“(Doug) is talking about raising his own cattle and pigs and stuff some day,” Shores said with a laugh and noticeably overwhelmed by the idea. “We got a minute before we get to that point.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or

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