“I’ve been in the restaurant business since 1978″, Joe Farruggio starts off his rags-to-riches story. “Before owning my own business, I started by working in a pizzeria in New York in 1970, five days after I came from Italy with a ship called Michelangelo. My uncle lived in New York since 1953, and when he came back to Sicily around 1965, he asked my father if we wanted to come to America. He offered to sponsor us. My father decided to venture to America. He registered us with immigration. So, we went through the whole process and we came here. At that time I was only 16 and a half years old, and my aunt told me that if I want to do good, she recommended doing what all the Italians did when they come from Napoli, Calabria, Sicily, and that was to learn how to make pizza and then to open a pizzeria. Following her advice, I’ve started working in a pizzeria in New York.
New York at that time was like a candy store for me. I came from Sicily, a small little village of 5000 people, and I had this vision that America was gonna be like a candy store to me. My uncle did a good job describing America to me. So, when I came here, I loved it from day one, you know. And English was really easy to pick up.
I worked in many pizzerias in New York City. I saw, you know, how things work. And then, a job opportunity moved me to North Virginia. It was 1977. And I realized when I came to Virginia, that the Italian culture was scarce; there was nothing Italian in Northern Virginia, nothing in DC. I can tell you that you could not even get a cappuccino. The only place was here in Georgetown, it was called Cafe de Paris. You could not get anything Italian really,” Farruggio recalls.
In 2008, a friend he met at Joe’s Place said to him: “we have to do something together, we have to bring the Napolitan pizza to America.” Farruggio was not interested, but he agreed to go one summer to Napoli, Italy, and see his friend’s concept.
“You know, I really didn’t know anything about Neapolitan pizza at that time. I knew Pizza, New York style, well. But authentic and Neapolitan pizza, if you really pay attention to the flavors, is like switching from darkness to light. Pizza Napoletana is soft, tender and juicy. You can either eat with fork and knife or by folding it with your hands. When you eat it, you can taste the juicy sauce and the buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes. At Il Canale, we only use 00 organic flour, which enhances the favor when you eat it. And it’s also healthy.”
Then and there, Farruggio fell in love with Neapolitan pizza. “Even with Joe’s Place”, he says, “my commitment has always been to make the best pizza in the world. My philosophy has always been: if I am gonna do it, I want to do it with the best ingredients, the best organic flour and create the best quality. That was my original idea.”