Steve Giardina, a good friend and one of our area’s most gracious, energetic and enterprising residents, died this week after a long and courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. We are heartbroken and our love goes out to Steve’s wife, Cindy, and their children, Jessica and Eric.
Shannon and I first met Steve around 2015 after he and Cindy bought the former Cirinos restaurant building on Broad Street in downtown Nevada City, and they lovingly restored it into a craft cocktail lounge with a “golden era” theme.
“We enjoyed some great lounges in larger cities serving craft cocktails and wanted to bring the same experience to our community,” Steve told me for a 2016 cover story in our FoodWineArt magazine. “The combination of location, building, craft cocktail expertise, hospitality and community won us over.”
The Golden Era has been a labor of love for Steve and his family, and our town has benefited. During the building’s extensive renovation, I’d often stop for an impromptu visit, and Steve (who personified the word “ebullient”) would enthusiastically describe one of his latest “finds.” These ranged from the handsome wooden bar that was made in the mid-1890’s in Chicago to entertaining relics, such as an “Old Maid” card game from the late 1800s.
A passion for history
When opened, the Giardina’s lounge harkened back to the Gold Rush era, with a decorative gold tin ceiling, chandelier, Edison lights, and polished wooden floors — all a testament to Steve’s passion for history. A fireplace glows in one seating area, Gold Rush-era artwork hangs on the walls, and a fresh rose adorns each table. Cindy and Jessica’s talents are showcased in the inviting interior design and decor.
As a tribute to the Giardina’s efforts, the Nevada County Historical Landmarks Commission erected a plaque at the site of the Golden Era lounge. It reads: ”309 Broad St. was landmarked by the Commission in 2017 and has served as a saloon or bar since the Gold Rush era. It was masterfully renovated by Steve and Cindy Giardina, who reopened it as the Golden Era lounge. It has many historical features.”
Eric and a friend created the Golden Era’s bar program. They worked for Future Bars of San Francisco, known for stellar bars such as Bourbon & Branch, Rickhouse and Devil’s Acre. Esquire has named Bourbon & Branch one of America’s best bars.
These master “mixologists” created the Golden Era’s “Miner’s Punch” (pisco, lime, pineapple syrup, Dubonnet and bitters); “Nevada City Swizzle” (rum, pisco, lime, raspberry syrup, Peychaud’s Bitters and seltzer); and “Grass Valley Girl” (gin, lime, orange syrup, cucumber, seltzer and orange bitters) cocktails, among others.
Thanks to the Giardina’s passion and hard work, the Golden Era has become a premier destination in the Sierra Foothills for handcrafted cocktails, regional wines, award-winning local craft beers, along with delicious appetizers.
The lounge also has helped reinvigorate our historic downtown. During the pandemic, the Golden Era has remained open as an outdoor venue, with a heated patio, entertainment, and socially distanced tables, another testament to the Giardina’s imaginative nature.
A “people person”
Steve was a dedicated father, husband and friend. He also epitomized the “people person.”
I lost my dad in 2007, but Steve helped fill that role with some sound advice. He also offered valuable career advice to our son, when he was accepted at Johns Hopkins University as a biomedical engineering major last year.
Steve’s career was in healthcare technology. He was responsible for and participated in numerous new product innovations in nuclear medicine and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) over his 20 years in the field. More recently, Steve was responsible for the establishment of over 100 wound healing centers nationally with the firm Healogics.
In 2017, Steve was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After surgery and chemotherapy, he went into remission. Eight months later Steve’s cancer metastasized, and he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He was told that additional surgery wasn’t an option.
Steve started to look for ways to ease the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy, and he discovered a medical approach that included medical cannabis.
Telling Steve’s story
“The Hill Witches of Nevada County” is a documentary that tells Steve’s story. It explores the emotional roller coaster of cancer; Steve’s evolution from abstaining from to embracing medical cannabis; and the guidance he and his doctor received from a specialist in cannabis cultivation.
“Our dear friend passed away today,” filmmaker Rick Beaty wrote earlier this week. “I know he was holding on for the film’s premiere but as Cindy says, the Rainbow was too inviting.
“Our documentary has now become a tribute to Steve. He was extremely proud of the film and wanted everyone to see it, not because of his involvement but because of the message. In honor of Steve, we will continue with the premiere’s showing as a celebration of his life.”
The documentary, titled “A Journey of Healing,” will premier this Sunday at 4 p.m., online via Zoom, in an event sponsored by The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley.
Rest in peace, Steve. Thank you for your contributions as a family man, entrepreneur and friend. We will miss you but remember you always.
(Photo: Kial James for Sierra FoodWineArt magazine)