It is a sad goodbye – a final one – for a beloved restaurant in Castle Hill.
Joe & Joe, an Italian-style pub that was a fixture on Castle Hill Avenue at Bruckner Blvd. and fed local businesspeople and families for 64 years, closed its doors in 2004.
Many had hoped it would be resurrected to its old fame as a popular restaurant. Intead, the old building was recently torn down.
According to a well-placed source, a new apartment building, and possibly a new restaurant on the ground level, may soon rise at the location.
But the demolition brought back memories for many who enjoyed family dining at once was an iconic east Bronx destination.
It used to host community groups like the Morris Park Kiwanis and Parkchester Kiwanis, the Bronx Lions Club, and the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, said Joseph Longobardo, the son of Joe & Joe’s last owner. Longobardo is also a grandson of one of the original founders.
The site of Joe & Joe, although not the structure of the building, was the location of the Bailer Family Hotel and Restaurant, which opened in 1854.
In 1940, Giuseppe Perrotta and Giuseppe Bevilacqua, purchased Bailer’s, and that was the birth of Joe & Joe.
Tony Perrotta and Tony Longobardo took over the resturant in 1960 after the two founders retired, and ran it together until Perrotta’s untimely passing in the late 1960s. Apparently the experience of Longobardo and its staff was as special as those who remember going there as patrons.
“It started out as a little tavern with a small kitchen that served spaghetti and meatballs,” said Longobardo, whose father Tony Longobardo was the final owner.
From there it grew into a place that became known far and wide for great food, and festive atmosphere around the holidays with parties and events.
“We had a nice long bar,” said Longobardo. “It was like an Italian pub style place that was like an Irish pub but only that it was Italian food. We had a great lunch crowd. All of the businessmen from Hunts Point were there.”
Longobardo brought the two chefs who were at Joe & Joe when it closed in 2004 up to a second Joe & Joe that he opened in 2000 in Pearl River, N.Y.
Tommy Messina, who was a waiter at Joe & Joe in the 1990s, recalled the experience as working in a first-class restaurant in the heart of the Bronx. “The owner was Tony Longobardo, who was a great host and really treated people like family,” said Messina. “He was the consummate host and made everyone feel comfortable. People who went there always went back to that place, The food was second to none.”
To this day, Messina said he has never tasted a better mozzarella carrozza than he had at Joe & Joe.
Waitress Loretta “Chickie” Giardino, remembers that the restaurant had a family-style atmosphere where the staff literally “grew-up” together. Some stayed for 10 or 15 or 25 years, and she worked there for 36 years. “We had steady customers who would come in every week,” she said. “When we worked, we worked as a team. But after work, the manager would make us relax, have a drink, and enjoy the rest of the night.”
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393