Saying cio

Published 10:03 pm Tuesday, December 2, 2008

FRANKLIN—Nunzio Misseri was the picture of the American dream when he came to the United States to open an Italian restaurant with his brother, married and raised a family here and became a business success story.

He’s living an extension of that dream now: retirement.

Misseri, part owner of Joe’s Pizza & Pasta Palace just over the border in Isle of Wight County, has sold his part of the business to his brother, Giuseppe, also known as Joe. He takes with him into retirement his wife of 25 years, Sandra, who helped run the business alongside him.

“My brother wanted to have his own restaurant,” Nunzio told The Tidewater News. “After 20 years of a good relationship, good business, last year I decided to sell my shares.”

The Palermo, Sicily, native said he mostly managed the restaurant, though he did have a hand in some of the recipes that came from the kitchen, too.

“I think his input was to get people to try new things, try to expand a little of what we offered in the area,” his wife, Sandra, said.

The Misseris said part of the business model at Joe’s is to bring in as many fresh ingredients as possible.

“We have homemade breads and sauces,” Nunzio said. “We try not to buy anything that’s pre-made.”

“It’s the real thing,” Sandra said about the Italian food’s authenticity.

That tradition will continue under Joe’s leadership, they promised.

When the Misseri family first came to the Franklin area, they owned two restaurants — Three Guys No. 1 and Three Guys No. 2, the latter of which was housed in the shopping center behind Ace Hardware.

Today, Three Guys No. 1 is Joe’s and No. 2 moved to its Armory Drive location and dropped the number. It is run by Misseri’s relatives.

Both Sandra and Nunzio said it wasn’t easy starting a restaurant, much less two.

“There was a time where we were short on staff and we worked a lot,” Nunzio said. “It’s a tough business, but it has been very rewarding. We have done well all these years.”

They say they will miss seeing their customers, as well as the kitchen and wait staffs.

“They have been very great people,” Nunzio said. “We will miss them a lot.”

“The people who came to the restaurant, they were more than customers,” Sandra added, “they were our friends.”

As for what they plan to do next, managing rental properties keeps them busy, but rest is No. 1 on the agenda.

“I’m going to take a little time off and kind of wind down from 20 years of hard work,” Sandra said with a laugh.

“I will take a month off and then I will see,” Nunzio said. “I will do some work around the house.”

Sandra and Nunzio have two grown children. Filippo, 24, works at Franklin Automotive and has a 3-week-old daughter named Isabella. Daniel, 21, works with Charter Communications.