Related slideshow: see the facility and menu items here
Related slideshow: Bishop Conley blesses St. Gianna Jan. 14
Story by S.L. Hansen
LINCOLN (SNR) - Jan. 15 is the grand opening of Gianna’s Java and Gelato in Lincoln, a new café that helps fund the work of Catholic Social Services (CSS) in aiding the poor throughout the Diocese of Lincoln.
Bishop James D. Conley blessed the establishment at a special gathering Jan. 14.
The café opened quietly in December with a menu that includes custom-roasted coffee drinks, authentic Italian gelato, and a selection of breakfast and lunch items. A drive-thru window was in operation earlier this month. As of last Monday, Gianna’s Java & Gelato now includes a dinner menu.
“The intercession of St. Gianna has been powerful,” said Father Christopher Kubat, executive director of CSS. “We thought she was the perfect patron saint for this endeavor… Gianna’s Java & Gelato has a nice ring to it, too.”
Previously, CSS raised funds for St. Gianna Women’s Homes through a monthly fish fry. This was widely supported by area Catholics who welcomed the opportunity to help the needy, while enjoying a good meal.
Father Kubat and his team realized that with an expanded menu, this idea could work as an every-day venture. During ensuing conversations, the team eventually settled on gelato.
Father Kubat’s secretary, Pat Walbrecht, and her husband, Dave, volunteered to use their RV vacations to research gelato shops in other states. In Des Moines, they found a gelato shop that was structured in a way the Walbrechts thought would work well, with premium coffee and light meals.
“They connected with us being a non-profit,” Mrs. Walbrecht said. “They took us into their kitchen…. They got us connected with their suppliers.”
With space available on the CSS campus at 23rd and O streets in Lincoln, Father Kubat set things in motion to create St. Gianna’s Java & Gelato.
“God has given us this busy location on, perhaps one of the busiest arterials in the city, just on the edge of downtown,” he said.
The objectives are four-fold. First and foremost, all proceeds will be used to help the poor. The café’s motto is, “Good coffee. Good food. Great Cause.”
The second objective is to provide job training and experience for CSS clients. A few positions are reserved to help them become self-sufficient.
“An abused woman, if she’s been on the run for a long time and doesn’t have anything on her resumé for years, that’s a red flag,” Father Kubat explained.
Such a woman can get a job at the café and leave with a good recommendation when she’s ready to move on.
“We already have at least one person on staff whom we are training in both the kitchen and the front of the shop,” said general manager Jake Mousel. “It has been absolutely fantastic to work with her.”
A third objective is to provide opportunities for people to learn more about the Catholic Church. The cozy dining area with its inviting fireplace, holds books, magazines and other items to share the message of the Catholic faith. The last objective is to educate guests about the mission of CSS.
To make Gianna’s Java and Gelato successful, the team focused on serving the best possible gelato, coffee drinks and meals.
All of the gelato ingredients and equipment come from Italy, including the churn and the freezer case that holds gelato and sorbetto at the perfect serving temperature. Gelato doesn’t have to be kept as cold as ice cream, because it has less butterfat and less air. The resulting flavor is far more intense.
“I don’t know how many times people tasted our gelato and said, ‘Gee, I am in Rome!’” said Father Kubat.
Likewise, the espresso machine came from Italy. Mousel, who previously worked for a different coffee franchise, called it, “one of the most beautiful pieces of machinery I have ever had the opportunity to work on.”
He continued, “I love the fact that the baristas have to know a lot about coffee to use this machine. It’s something that requires a little more training than other places in town.”
The exclusive Gianna blend of coffee beans is from Caturra, a roasting company in Sioux City, Iowa, that supports CSS’s mission.
“As soon as I got to taste their beans, I was thrilled to be working with such knowledgeable people who are so good at what they do,” Mousel said.
Dave Walbrecht has been working on menu items, which include sandwiches and rotating specials. The tuna casseroles and potato casseroles, so popular at CSS fish fries, will be available from the freezer case or, if a patron calls in advance, piping hot from the oven to take home for an easy meal.
For breakfast, there are cinnamon rolls, scones, sandwiches, and Gianna’s Ultimate Breakfast Round, or GUBR (“goober”). Flavored with cinnamon and brown sugar, this handy meal-on-the-go has whole grains and fiber without any trans fat.
“I think I’m personally addicted to the GUBR,” Father Kubat chuckled.
The whole team has high hopes that the café will provide a great revenue stream for CSS.
“It bothers me to say no to people in need,” Father Kubat admitted. “This will help us assist more families and individuals… to further love Jesus in the poor and needy.”
Gianna’s Java & Gelato is open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, at 2241 O St., Lincoln. For more information, visit GsJavaGelato.com or follow the café on Facebook.