Written by Dave Fidlin
Photos Courtesy of The French Country Inn
A secluded inn on Lake Como in Geneva, WI, holds a storied past within its walls. The French Country Inn’s newest restaurant, The Getaway, boasts a robust menu of family recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest of eaters.
The Getaway may be one of Lake Geneva’s newest restaurants, but it is nestled within one of the area’s most storied buildings, steeped in robust history.
Located within the French Country Inn, The Getaway opened its doors in October 2022 with limited hours and grand visions for the future. The restaurants’ owners are brothers Arney and Andy Silvestri from the legendary Mars Resort, a staple on Lake Como.
Eric Moorehead, general manager of the French Country Inn and The Getaway, says the Silvestri family’s influence is spread across the menu with a variety of made-from-scratch dishes borne out of family recipes.
“The Italian dishes are passed down from generations,” Moorehead said. “The sauce is my favorite part. It is the best you’ve ever had.”
As is the case with any item on The Getaway’s menu, Moorehead said time, care, and dedication are among some of the key ingredients in helping ensure the marinara sauce and other homemade dishes are top quality.
“It takes so much time,” Moorehead said of the preparation involved in creating the marinara sauce. “It is so thick. The cooks work on it the day before. You can shape the sauce, it’s so thick!”
Since opening its doors this past fall, The Getaway has been open for dinner four nights a week. Moorehead said the goal is to expand the hours and menu offerings as 2023 gets underway.
“We’re looking to do lunches on the weekends. By spring, we’re hoping to be open seven days a week,” Moorehead said. “We’re working on hiring more staff so we can open up more days.”
The Getaway is the latest in a long string of restaurants to take root within the French Country Inn. The most recent occupant, Savoy, shuttered midway through 2022 and offered an eclectic menu of offerings not readily available in the Lake Geneva area.
With The Getaway, Moorehead said the intent was to offer a decidedly different menu designed to please all diners’ palates.
“This is what I’ve been wanting for a long time,” Moorehead said of the restaurant concept. “It’s been great having people who can come in and put together a menu that is family-friendly. A picky eater is going to find something and be happy with it; the people who are discerning eaters will be happy as well. It truly is a happy medium.”
The goal, Moorehead said, is for diners to feel relaxed and at home at The Getaway while enjoying a top-notch meal.
“I hope they have an unforgettable time,” Moorehead said when asked what his goal is for people who take a seat within the restaurant. “I hope it’s an experience that they will want to share with friends and loved ones.”
The French Country Inn is located within the former Lake Como Hotel, which initially opened in 1921. The building itself, however, has a backstory that stretches back even further on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
The main building was constructed in Copenhagen, Denmark, initially for a World’s Fair exposition taking place in 1893, before coming over to the United States.
“It was shipped across the Atlantic (Ocean), built up on the south side of Chicago for a couple of years before the World’s Fair,” Moorehead said. “It was used as the Danish Exhibition House and served that purpose until about 1900. They then tore it down, put it on the logging train, shipped it over to Lake Geneva, and it’s been here for the last 120 years.”
While the Lake Como Hotel first opened within the building out of the present-day location a little more than a century ago, it was touted as a family-friendly lake resort.
However, the venue gained notoriety for another reason, in large part because of its secluded setting, which at the time was not accessible from any major roadway.
A number of well-known Chicago mobsters made frequent stops at the Lake Como Hotel. Among them: John Dillinger, George “Bugs” Moran, and Baby Face Nelson. During the years of Prohibition, the property also was known as a place to stash away alcohol and gambling machines.
There still are remnants of an intact speakeasy casino underneath the main building that largely has remained in the same setup over the decades.
“It’s not usable right now,” Moorehead said. “We’ve probably got a year’s worth of work before it’s usable again. There’s an original stage from the 1920s and 1930s with an original fireplace and a couple of steps that would have gone to a trap door at one time. It’s also intact and original.”
Because of the unique history and big name guests, the venue has long gained international attention. Filming crews from PBS, for instance, more recently attempted to uncover discarded gambling machines—allegedly dumped in Lake Como after a federal raid of the premises—but were unable to do so because of the current ecosystem within the body of water.
Against the backdrop of the dramatic stories of bygone eras, today’s French Country Inn and The Getaway have a more relaxed, intimate feel, though there has never been any shying away from the venue’s earliest years in Lake Geneva.
“The Getaway is named in the spirit of the place,” Moorehead said. “For those that know the history, it will click for them. For those that haven’t been here, it just seems like you’re here for a getaway, in the general sense of the word.”
W4190 West End Road | Lake Geneva, Wisconsin 53147
Thursday 4-9 pm, Friday-Saturday 4-10 pm, Sunday 4-9 pm