The Scoop: Couples planning a special dinner date often look for a place with excellent service, a romantic atmosphere, and menu items made from the best ingredients. Gianni’s Steakhouse & Seafood, just outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, has been serving top-quality steaks and other delicious dishes to couples in elegant style since 1997. The restaurant is located next to Lake Minnetonka, and has become a popular date destination for a young, successful crowd.

Over the years, Gianni’s Steakhouse & Seafood, located outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, has been the site of many romantic proposals. But hosting those special moments has never felt routine because the restaurant staff always gets excited.

Owner Terri Huml admitted that she sometimes finds herself sneaking around the corners waiting for a flash of a ring to appear during dinner. Many couples have visited the popular restaurant on date night only for the woman to be surprised by a proposal.

It almost always goes smoothly, but Terri told us that once she got a little ahead of herself. While watching a couple she knew was about to get engaged, she thought she saw a ring box emerge from the man’s pocket.

Excitedly, she raced behind the bar and pulled out a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne along with three glasses to toast the big occasion.

The Gianni's Steakhouse logo
Couples enjoy Gianni’s Steakhouse & Seafood for its romantic ambiance.

“I got to the table and shouted my congratulations, but they looked at me with a blank look,” she remembered. “I said, ‘Oh, too soon?’”

As it turned out, he hadn’t asked the question yet. But after a big laugh, he did. Of course, she said “yes,” and the celebration continued well into the evening.

For decades, Gianni’s Steakhouse has been a place for couples to share special evenings — whether or not they get engaged.

The steakhouse is known for its high-quality ingredients, innovative menu, and excellent customer service, making it a perfect choice for a memorable meal. Plus, its location next to Lake Minnetonka gives it a romantic ambiance that keeps couples coming back.

A Long Tradition of Excellent Service

Gianni’s Steakhouse dates back to 1997. It has always been easy going. The housing crisis of 2008 and the ensuing recession took its toll on the business, and the restaurant’s owners had to cut corners to stay afloat. Before Terri came on board, the previous owners considered closing the restaurant.

But Terri knew she had to do whatever it took to save the iconic steakhouse.

“It was too wonderful of a place to close,” she said. “I told the owners, ‘How about you hire me to be your general manager, and if I can turn it around, I’ll buy it from you.’ That’s how it came to be.”

Photo of Gianni's Steakhouse Owner Terri Huml
Gianni’s Steakhouse & Seafood Owner Terri Huml spoke with us about the restaurant’s rich history.

Once Terri took over as general manager, the first thing she did was hire an executive chef. When Chef Steve Vranian started in 2010, he set about improving the menu and ingredients in the dishes.

He knew that cost-cutting in that area would negatively impact the business, so he focused on using the freshest local ingredients to create an innovative menu. He kept it simple and used the dishes to complement an overall exceptional evening.

Chef Steve wasn’t alone in his desire for excellence. Terri said many staff members have been around since the day the restaurant opened nearly 25 years ago.

“There’s a lot of consistency with our food and services because our team has been together for such a long time,” she said.

Its location across from Lake Minnetonka also helps, and dining on its patio is especially popular among couples.

Young Professionals Enjoy the Restaurant’s Menu

While many restaurants were forced to close due to mandates related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gianni’s Steakhouse stayed open and saw its clientele change dramatically.

Previously, its guests tended to skew older. But today, Terri said she was surprised to discover that the average age of her customers has dropped by at least 20 years.

“That’s the future for Gianni’s, the younger groups coming in. There are kids that were my kids’ ages, now in their late 30s to 50,” she said. “They love the old-style steakhouse.”

Photo of Gianni's Steakhouse Patio
Many diners enjoy their meal on the patio, which offers views of Lake Minnetonka.

One reason the restaurant is so popular with the young, savvy crowd is that the team prioritizes sustainability and locally sourced ingredients more than most area restaurants. For example, Gianni’s Steakhouse uses only USDA Prime beef from a specially branded program created by Stockyard Meats in St. Paul and Creekstone Farms. The restaurant has an exclusivity contract with the purveyors, so no other restaurant in Minnesota can boast the same high-quality menu items. And all the beef is cut in-house.

It only serves “Never Ever Beef,” meaning the farms use no hormones or antibiotics in the feed. The goal is to keep the food as natural and environmentally sustainable as possible.

The restaurant gets its chicken from an organic farm nearby and works hard to source other ingredients from independently owned, small businesses throughout Minnesota.

One of the most popular items on the dinner menu is its spun salad, which comes with parmesan cheese, bay shrimp, red onion, black olives, pickled peppers, tomato, bacon, bleu cheese, white anchovies, a hard-boiled egg, and croutons.

Gianni’s Steakhouse: Perfect for a Romantic Evening

Thanks, in part, to its location on Lake Street in Wayzata, visitors have always viewed Gianni’s as a “special occasion restaurant,” Terri said.

“I have customers who have gotten engaged at Gianni’s and then come back every year for their anniversary date. I’ve had people who have come 20 years in a row,” she said.

And each year, those customers can see improvements. In 2021, Gianni’s Steakhouse underwent a major renovation to update its already elegant decor.

The restaurant recently opened a private dining room next door for those who need a space for a rehearsal dinner or reception for a small wedding. Terri said she jumped at the opportunity when a nearby retail space became available in 2020.

The new private dining room seats between 24 and 36 people and has its own entrance, private patio, bathroom, and a mini-version of the Gianni’s Steakhouse bar inside. The design is masculine and elegant with gray and white brick. The space is called One Door West, and it is often booked months in advance.

“Everything we’ve done, the response is great, and the customers love everything,” Terri told us. “And we’re situated to go well into the future.”

Still, she said they’re not done improving. Part of what has made Gianni’s so successful as an ideal date location is that they always have new ideas. Small touches like cloth towels in the bathroom, fresh flowers, and upgraded hand soap make a big difference. They’ll soon be serving their steaks with new knives featuring rosewood handles.

“We want to do everything to make the experience better. We always embrace change to make it an all-around lovely experience,” Terri said.