“This is my stage. I’m the conductor,” says Joe Massaglia, restaurateur, chef, and media personality. Rather than easing into retirement at 65 years of age, Massaglia is opening his fifth restaurant — Eat @ Joe’s in Egg Harbor Township. “This is what fuels me. I can’t let go. It’s the love of food. It’s the ability to make people happy,” he says.
A Lifelong Passion
Massaglia is from the Piedmont region of Italy. He was raised in Torino, where his parents owned the local trattoria. “In Italy, a trattoria is casual, homestyle-type dining,” Massaglia says. As a child, he grew up in the kitchen, there were no babysitters. “As far back as I can remember, I loved helping my mother,” Massaglia says. At just 13, he got his first official job in the restaurant business as a dish washer and spent the next five years working his way through the cultured kitchens of Portofino.
But Massaglia wanted to see more of the world and eventually took a position with a cruise ship. While at sea, he fell in love and followed his wife to Philadelphia. Once state-side, Massaglia took a position with the famed chef, Peter von Starck at his renowned restaurant La Panetiere. From Philly, Massaglia found his way to Atlantic City to work as a Maître D’ for Steve Wynn, where he cultivated his talent for entertaining. In 1988, Massaglia opened his first restaurant Mamma Mia’s Ristorante in Seaville. Still in operation after more than 30 years, it has become a South Jersey institution. Mamma Mia’s is temporarily closed as it is moves to a new location. It will reopen this spring.
Massaglia’s vast and varied experience has helped him to become uniquely gifted in his ability to craft a dining experience. It’s this experience that makes Eat @ Joe’s a one-of-a-kind restaurant.
The Casual Foodery
Eat @ Joe’s opened this past October and is a self-designated casual foodery. What exactly is a ‘casual foodery’? From the outside it looks like a traditional pizzeria and sub shop, but tucked a little further in is a small sit-down restaurant that can accommodate 30 to 35 guests. With brightly hued murals of Portofino paired with Massaglia’s welcoming personality, you are guaranteed an unforgettable meal.
“I specialize in multi-course meals,” Massaglia says. He recently had a group of 15 guys come in. Massaglia started them with an antipasta course, followed by fresh mozzarella, then came the salad, followed by the pasta, and then the main course, eventually finishing with a panetone pudding. “At the end of the meal, they asked how much do we owe you. I said, how much do you want to pay and before I knew it they were bidding up their meal,” Massaglia laughs. But it’s not about the money. “It’s all for the love of food,” Massaglia reaffirms.
For the Love of Food
Eat @ Joe’s offers everything from cold sandwiches to hot subs, paninis, wraps, gourmet burgers, specialty pizzas, pastas, flatbreads, salads, soups and family-style meals.
Sandwiches: “The selection of sandwiches we have is almost absurd,” Massaglia beams. The Brian ($9.50) features smoked, slow-roasted brisket topped with a sweet and tangy barbeque sauce, zesty cabbage slaw and house-made pickles while Mamma’s Meatball Sub ($9) uses homemade meatballs, sauce and provolone cheese. There’s also the Ed Hitzel Favorite ($9.50), a house-made, gourmet burger with brisket, chuck and short ribs topped with house-cured bacon, tomato jam, caramelized onions and crispy grilled cheese.
Pizza: The pizza dough is made fresh daily, sometimes twice a day. Eat @ Joe’s offers flatbreads, Chicago-style deep dish, calzone, stromboli and gourmet pizza. The Tikka Masala a la Nizam’s flatbread ($12) features chicken, fresh tomatoes, onions, butter and cream with Indian herbs and spices. There’s also the famous original Mama Bruschetta pizza ($13/sm; $19/lg) along with organic wheat and gluten-free options.
Dinners: Eat @ Joe’s features several dinner selections that come in single serving or family-style trays. “I was a pioneer of family take-out, I’ve been doing it for more than 30 years,” Massaglia says. The Chicken Cardinale is sautéed chicken in a white wine marsala sauce, topped with prosciutto, cherry tomatoes and provolone cheese ($18 single serving/ $30 for 2 to 3; $50 for 6 to 8; $90 for 12 to 15). The Tortellini Pavarotti ($22; $29; $45; $80) features tri-color tortellini folded in butter, thyme, sage, artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes in a white wine cream sauce. Fun fact: Massaglia prepared this dish for the one and only Luciano Pavarotti.
Joe’s Table for Two
Every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., you can catch Massaglia on WOND talking all things food, wine and travel. You will hear from industry experts and get cooking tips, recipes and recommendations. To catch up on past shows, get recipes and more go to JoesTableForTwo.com