Thank you to Amy Riolo for this wonderful blog post contribution.
Did you know that pizza is the world’s most popular food? Believe it or not, we also eat more pizza per capita in the United States than in Italy! The concept of pizza restaurants was introduced to America by Italians, and are now a thriving part of our American economy. In 2021, pizzerias alone generated around 45.59 billion U.S. dollars in sales. This month, we are featuring a prominent Italian American who made his American dreams come true through pizza making.
Award-winning restaurateur, pizzaiolo, and owner of Washington DC’s legendary Il Canale, 90 Second Pizza, and A Modo Mio, Joe Farruggio, was born in Sicily and began his career as a teenage dishwasher in New York City in 1970, just five days after he came from Italy on a ship called Michelangelo with his family. “When I started working as a dishwasher, I was making $90 a week, working 60 hours. At another job, I was paid $120, working 60 hours. In the Village, I was making $215, and then I went to work at Queen Pizza for $250, working less hours. Shortly after that, I got a better offer to go work in Brighton Beach,” he stated in his recently released memoir, My Name is Joe And I Am a Pizza Man, An American Story.
In 1977 he moved to Virginia and noticed that the presence of the Italian culture and authentic cuisine was scarce in the nation’s capital, he says in My Name is Joe And I am a Pizza Man, An American Story (Fourth Lloyd Productions, 2022). The memoir, now available on Amazon, is co-written with award-winning, best-selling author Thierry Sagnier and offers valuable lessons for anyone searching to make their dreams come true. My Name Is Joe And I Am A Pizza Man, An American Story is the quintessential immigrant story, an entrepreneur’s tale of rags to riches, demonstrating that with courage, intelligence and instinct, anything is possible.
Mr. Farruggio’s award-winning restaurant, Il Canale is the only restaurant in D.C. to receive the top culinary honor from the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce and the National Institute of Tourism. Il Canale was named “One of the 70 Best Italian Restaurants and Pizzerias in the World” and one of Yelp’s “Top 100 Places to Eat” 2022. It also holds the coveted Gambero Rosso title for being a “Top Italian Restaurant” In Washington, DC, and many other distinguished honors. Within a few years of opening, Il Canale became a celebrity hot spot in the heart of DC’s Georgetown neighborhood.
“If I can do it, they can do it,” says Joe Farruggio, when discussing anyone who has a goal to be met, with a smile. He firmly believes that the extraordinary situations and challenges which he overcame will provide hope to those facing their own difficulties or who would like to transform perceived limitations. Equally inspirational and thought evoking, Mr. Farruggio’s biography motivates readers to follow their passions while increasing their profits.
One of Joe Farruggio’s favorite activities is sharing his life and business lessons with students and entrepreneurs of all ages. For this reason, he was awarded the prestigious Premio Eccellenza Italiana award for Lifetime Achievement just a few days ago on October 14. In a ceremony conducted simultaneously between the Casa Italiana in Washington, DC and The Vatican in Rome, Italy, Mr. Farruggio accepted the honor and vowed to continue giving back to both the Italian and the American cultures which have enabled him to realize his full potential.