“The best stories in the world – in any language, from any culture, of any time – are love stories, full of desire and passion and perseverance.”
The story of JoJo’s on 22 begins over fifty years ago on the Mediterranean coast of Sicily, in the town of Carini. It features a young man – still just a boy, really – and a wood shop near his home.
Many boys have family, and this boy was no exception, for he had two older brothers and two older sisters. Each year, the boy and his brothers and sisters spent several months visiting an aunt and uncle on Sardinia. But this time on Sardinia was not just spent in laughter and relaxation (though there was plenty of both). You see, like the boy’s mother and grandmother and aunt, his sisters were fantastic cooks. Time they spent helping their aunt and uncle in their family business, a restaurant, only made them better. The boy spent time there too, and some of his happiest childhood memories would be of that time and that family and that restaurant, of what he saw and learned, of dedication mixed with laughter, of hard work tempered with love.
For now, though, that’s just part of the story. Most of the boy’s youth was spent in his home town, near that wood shop.
At that time, pieces were still crafted by hand. When he could get close enough, the boy spent hours watching this process. He was captured by the attention to detail, the dedication of the craftsmen, the care – and even love – that went into each piece, from the smallest to the largest. Sometimes the boy would get closer still, and sometimes he would dare to claim bits of scrap wood – pieces too small, or of too poor quality, for use. The boy took the scraps home, along with tools salvaged like the discarded wood. In private, he emulated what he’d seen as he watched the men at work in the wood shop, wanting to create as they did.
When he was eleven, the small things the boy could make at home were no longer enough. He went to the shop and he asked for a job, but the men told him he was too young. Thinking to get rid of him, they told him he could only work with them if his mother allowed it. So the boy went home and he asked. Then he cajoled and then he pleaded. Promises of good work at school were given, along with promises of the best behavior (the best a boy could offer, at least). Finally the boy’s mother relented, and he began work at the wood shop.
As the boy grew into a young man, so did his responsibilities grow. He moved from cleaning the shop and tending the tools to the caring creation of cabinets and persiana and bedroom suites, all assembled by hand in the classic style, with no screws or nails or shortcuts. During his half-dozen years at the shop, many things changed. Computers began to make their mark on that industry, even then. Prefabricated furniture was already being sought by some, as it cost less and was available faster. The young man decided to travel. He wandered Europe, and he lingered in Germany and Switzerland. He found people there that still did the work he loved, by hand, and he learned more.
When he was twenty years old he returned to Sicily to report for mandatory military service. As fortune would have it, he was stationed on the island of Sardinia: with family and childhood friends there, it was almost like going home. He became the quartermaster of the kitchen on the military base. Here he managed the rigorous supply and demand of a kitchen that fed two hundred hungry young men, and here he stayed for his required year of service. At twenty-one, the young man returned to Carini to open a wood shop of his own.
But love of a craft does not mean good business sense. While the young man never lacked for work – he had plenty, and worked day and night! – his competition was mass-production facilities. After a few years, it became clear that the craft he loved had changed, and he was forced to close the doors on his shop. In order to pay the outstanding debts on his investment, the young man determined to follow in the footsteps of some of his childhood friends. He traveled to the United States, alone but for his determination and a plan to work hard and make good on what money he owed.
When he arrived, the young man called the one phone number he had and was soon employed at a pizza shop in Bensalem, PA. As with the wood shop in his boyhood, he remained hungry for more. Over the course of a year, he worked sixteen hour days, seven days a week. He went from dishwasher and janitor to cook. First he learned to make dough and bread, then how to use the kitchen equipment. Still, the young man thirsted for more knowledge. He learned English from conversation with coworkers and patrons, from pop music and a dictionary he studied at night.
One secret remained: pizza making. The young man watched his employer as he went about his duties. He studied the rolling and tossing, the spread of sauce and cheese, the best way to slip the pie into and out of the oven. Finally the young man asked to be taught, but his employer refused. He asked again, and promised that if he couldn’t learn at that shop, he would learn at another. Again, he was refused, and the next day the young man didn’t report to work. His employer called, worried, because the young man was such a reliable employee: when he learned that the young man intended to keep his promise and leave, the employer relented and began to teach him the coveted art of pizza making.
In time the young man became a man. As he had in Europe, the man began to travel, always moving on from place to place on good terms, with new knowledge, new skills and new friends. The time in family kitchens in his boyhood came back to him as he began to study the making of full dinners in a restaurant environment. He befriended and began learning from a pastry chef who apprenticed in Pisa, Italy, and they remain friends to this day. All the same dedication, passion and love he’d once shown woodworking was now focused on a new pursuit: the art of the restauranteur.
Finally, in 1990, the man settled in south-central Pennsylvania. Together with a childhood friend, he opened a pizza shop on Route 22 in Skyline View, PA, just outside the state capital of Harrisburg. For two years the two men worked together, and the man’s friend mentored him further in the art of running a successful business. In 1992, the man bought out his friend’s share in their venture, and became the proud, dedicated owner of his own pizza shop.
Time passed, as time does. Over the years, the man hired employees and passed on to them the same skills and knowledge he’d worked so hard to obtain. His honesty, his ethics and his complete dedication to the mastery of his craft remained with him and helped his business to grow. The man’s blessings expanded to include children: he had even more incentive now to succeed, wishing to provide for all his family’s needs. The man’s hard work, dedication and integrity were rewarded. His pizza shop remained successful and had steady growth.
The original JoJo’s building was demolished in the fall of 2010, and the new JoJo’s on 22 building opened in the spring of 2011. A greatly expanded kitchen allowed even more culinary options, and the fine dining room gave customers a more formal alternative to the casual atmosphere of the pizzeria. The man’s dedication to his customer’s enjoyment of not only amazing food but great atmosphere continued, and together with friends and family – among them his son, now a young man himself – the man built an outdoor dining area in the spring and summer of 2012. Focused on open air, classic masonry and old-world aesthetics, this area of the restaurant hearkens back to the man’s youth in Sardinia and Carini. Friends and family gather here on sunny afternoons and cool nights, enjoying a relaxed atmosphere paired with all the amenities of fine dining.
Today, JoJo’s on 22 provides our customers with three distinct but equally enjoyable dining experiences: the casual atmosphere of the pizzeria, the more formal environs of the dining room and the relaxed outdoor bistro. But a successful restaurant requires more than just amazing ambiance and incredible wait staff. Our talented culinary team is proud to be able to please the palate of any patron, with offerings from caprese to cannoli, stromboli to spaghetti, pizza to pasta pescatore. The fully stocked bar features a wide variety of domestic and imported beers, liquors and wines, such that we can offer the perfect pairing to any dish, in addition to creations that stand on their own.
Come, join us. Relax, and savor delicious food and drink prepared and provided by professionals focused on providing only the best, in any of our unique, enjoyable atmospheres. Experience the culmination of five decades of commitment to pride in craftsmanship.
Reward your dedication to excellence by joining us to enjoy ours.