In Aledo, everyone knows Joe or at least his pizza.
“My name is Nazareno Vitale,” said the founder of Joe’s Trattoria located at 602 SE 3rd St. “It’s a very, very common name in Italy. Not so much in Aledo.”
That’s why you probably know him better as Joe — the name he started going by after he immigrated to the United States from Sicily in 1968.
He was looking for a job. What he found was a career, family and a new home.
“Once I did land in Chicago, I put a foot down in the land of America … and I said to myself, ‘Now you got to make it,'” Joe said.
With a pizza recipe from his brother, he set out to find a small town in need of authentic Sicilian cuisine.
“I feel like I was lucky to get Aledo,” Joe said.
Joe opened his first restaurant in 1969 — just one year after coming to the states.
Both Joe and his pizza stood out.
“I was very busy in my restaurant because everybody want[ed] to come and look at the foreigner. What’s he look like? What’s he talk like?,” Joe said. “I loved it because I was making a lot of money.”
It wasn’t long before a local man brought his daughter to the restaurant and told Joe she needed a job.
“In my mind I did say, ‘You will get a job and a husband also,'” Joe said. “And so I married her,” Joe said.
That girl was Patti Vitale.
“I never dreamed I’d marry a Sicilian,” Patti said. “[The business] has really grown from what it was when we first started.”
The couple has been married 50 years.
“[A] wonderful 50 years, really,” Joe said. “If it wasn’t for her, I would not have been successful.”
But the pizza played a part in it, too.
“My pizza crust … sauce … the ingredients you could find anywhere, but you got to know how to put them in,” Joe said. “Then when you pizza get out of the oven, they’ve all been cooked equally.”
Three kids and six restaurants later, Joe has taken a step back from the business.
His daughter runs it now, so he can focus on the important things like his growing family.
“Seven grandchildren. You believe that?” Joe said. “Seven. That make[s] me feel like old.”
He may not be old, but he is proud.
“There’s been a lot of restaurants come and go. Lots of them, but because of my persistence … I got to make it,” Joe said. “With my wife’s help and the people of Aledo’s help, I am who I am. I don’t know what I am, but I’m proud of what I am.”
For more information about Joe’s Trattoria click here.