Geneva restaurateurs open The Burger Shop diner in the middle of the pandemic

  • In the midst of a pandemic, Marshall McCarty, left, and Tony Gargano recently opened The Burger Shop in Geneva.

      In the midst of a pandemic, Marshall McCarty, left, and Tony Gargano recently opened The Burger Shop in Geneva. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Updated 4/24/2020 9:56 AM

It would make sense for a restaurant owner to say the past several weeks have been difficult because of the coronavirus shutdown.

But it would be quite surprising to hear one say, in the next breath, that he opened another one right in the middle of this difficult stay-at-home period.


Tony Gargano, owner of Osteria Bigolaro, and Marshall McCarty, owner of The Walrus Room, both in downtown Geneva, fall into that latter category.

The two became friends after opening their restaurants around the same time two years ago, sharing ideas and experiences in getting their establishments situated.

Gargano and McCarty had another friendship brewing with the owner of Yelo, an Asian cuisine restaurant at 17 N. Fourth St., essentially in the back portion of the same building as Osteria Bigolaro at 317 W. State.

"We became good friends with her, and her restaurant had really good food, but she had other operations to take care of in Chicago and she made this Geneva site available," Gargano said.

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Gargano and McCarty knew their own restaurants no longer needed them on-site at all hours, and they had talked about creating an old-school diner together.

"It was to offer a diner burger, kind of like what McDonald's did years ago, and then see what happens," Gargano said.

They signed a lease last December and planned to open The Burger Shop diner this spring. Coronavirus hit, but they figured this place was designed mostly for carryout to begin, so why not open?

The Burger Shop now follows in the footsteps of Yelo, Firehouse Pizza and Aurelio's Pizza (before it moved to State Street) at that location.

"I have always loved pub burgers, and as I got older I was just craving that single patty burger, nothing fancy, and I saw the opportunity to do that here," Gargano said.

Gargano's description of the burger is perfect. After trying one, I found this to be a delicious addition to the burger scene in Geneva -- all at a place that will remind folks of small diners. And don't be fooled into thinking this is a like a run-of-the-mill fast-food burger.


Currently, patrons order and pay ahead and pick up the food while waiting in their cars. It seems to be steadily busy so far, but as more people try it, I sense The Burger Shop is going to find its niche.

The only thing missing is someone on roller skates delivering the order to cars in the parking lot.

In the future, a counter with seats will be available inside, while the outdoor patio initially built for Firehouse Pizza will make for a good summer setting.

"It is a different concept in general, but it has the challenges that we enjoy," McCarty said of The Burger Shop. "We have to find out the best way to do this with the highest quality, because there are a lot of moving parts in the restaurant business, whether you are offering fine dining or a quick burger shop like this."

In addition to offering burgers and fries, the business partners are anxious to establish a "shake bar" setup inside where patrons can choose toppings for milk shakes.

The Burger Shop will also include gluten-free buns and a vegan burger for those who avoid meat products.

For now, the restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, but when things get back to normal, Gargano expects to have the diner open seven days a week.

"No one else is focusing on the old-school vibe," he said. "It's kind of missing because so many places offering burgers are bars or bigger restaurants.

"We wanted to focus on something affordable for all ages, and hoping it can be a place for high school kids as well, because that is what is needed right now."

Another alcohol option:

At first blush, it does seem odd for a Binny's Beverage Depot to be setting up shop in the Geneva Commons along Randall Road.

Once things get back to normal, I suspect consumers are going to find it to be quite convenient to shop at the various stores and then also pick up their wine or beer in one swoop.

It is near Fresh Market, so it's not like Binny's is on a strange island with only clothing and apparel stores nearby.

Not all gloomy:

As with any crisis America has faced throughout history, there are always uplifting occurrences, no matter how small they might seem.

Batavia United Way found a couple and shared the info on its Facebook page last week, noting that a group of people linked on Facebook got together to buy six new iPads for a couple of senior living centers where residents were feeling isolated because they could no longer use the resource centers at their facilities. Another donated a couple of gently used iPads.

Now, residents check out those iPads like library books so they can stay connected with family and friends.

In another matter of helping elderly residents stay connected at their apartments, George Scheetz of the Batavia Public Library offered three "hot spot" Wi-Fi connections that the library was not using. Those seniors are now in business until the library reopens.

Birthday duties:

The St. Charles Police Department has joined many other businesses and agencies in saying it would be happy to send some officers and vehicles to stage a birthday party parade along the street in front of the home of the birthday celebrant.

It's been a great touch for kids, who are generally thrilled with the attention.

Those interested to request a police car in their birthday parade can contact commander Rich Clark at (630) 377-4435.

Checking the carryouts:

Readers have often mentioned they like it when I write about new restaurant openings or note something I have tried at our vast array of eateries.

As noted in the top story of the column today, I am still getting out on occasion to do a carryout order.

My loyal readers know of my love for a good Italian beef sandwich, so I will mention that a tried an Italian beef and sausage combo sandwich with melted mozzarella cheese at Joseph's Pizza Cucina in Wasco.

It was well-worth the trip, which was my second visit to this restaurant on Route 64 since new owner Joe Pavone took over just weeks before the stay-at-home mandates.

I'm hoping our area restaurants fare well, or as best they can, during the pandemic shutdown. There has to be a fair number of people who prefer a delivery or pickup to going out, regardless of the health circumstances. Maybe the restaurants can ride that wave for a period of time.

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