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Joeseppi's Italian Ristorante

A packed house at Joe's place

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Joeseppi’s Italian Ristorante

Where: 2207 N. Pearl St., Tacoma, 253.761.5555
Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday Dinner noon to 8 p.m.
Menu: Standard Italian dishes — large portions catering to the average diner. Scene: Large deli space, open kitchen, standard green and red colors with lots of windows.
Drinkies: Full bar with fireside seating in the lounge.

ANNOUNCER: If you took a poll of the 50 most recognizable people in the South Sound, Joe Stortini would be on that list, and not just because he served as a Pierce County executive. After leaving public service, Stortini went into public eating — as the force behind the well-publicized Mama Stortini’s in University Place. That venture was followed up with another location in Puyallup, and then an eventual sale, etc. Now, as many people his age are retiring to the Sunbelt, Stortini has entered the fray once again with the establishment of Joeseppi’s Italian Ristorante on Pearl Street in North Tacoma.

JASON: Stortini bills the place as an Italian style New York deli, but frankly, he seems more gracious than New Yorkers are typically known for being. Stortini greets everyone who eats there with a personal stop at their tables.

JOSH: Stortini greeted us as well. It’s his personal touch that has Joeseppi’s packed every evening.

JASON: That and the medium pricing. There appears to be a purpose to keeping the prices affordable and the portions large.

JOSH: Yes, and a purpose toward garlic. The menu may not advertise it this way, but garlic is surely the main ingredient in everything Joeseppi’s serves. I wasn’t able to find it on the menu, but I feel certain that there was a garlic dessert in there somewhere too.

JASON: That’s Italian, brother, but yes, garlic is everywhere. In most cases that’s a good thing. But before the food, I will say that with everything going so well service is still a small bugaboo. I get the impression that Stortini hired his neighbors; there doesn’t appear to be strong restaurant experience here. I sat 20 minutes waiting for a server after I was seated. Twice a manager stopped by recognizing our wait, said he’d take care of it, and still nothing happened. On my first visit, I was put in the bar (overflow seating) and listened to two servers complain about the elderly man playing host. To keep them coming back, let’s hope this area improves. But, of course, the food tends to temper hard feelings.

JOSH: I had a similar experience with the service. Joeseppi’s offers a great breaded cheese stick appetizer (yes, complete with garlic and marinara sauce); however, we didn’t receive ours until well into our main course. Prior to even ordering, there were two waitresses who kept promising to take care of us; it didn’t seem clear which was assigned to our table.

JASON: I am sure they can get a handle on this. I am sure it’s due in part to how packed the place is. They may not have expected this overwhelming response. But let’s talk food. Before you even reach the dining room, the doors open to the deli counter. I made a pit stop there and ordered Bev’s Grilled Veggie Panino — a mix of grilled zucchini, sautéed bell peppers, provolone, Parmesan, and pesto-mayo on whole wheat bread. The sandwich was a two-fister with a nice clean finish. The veggies were fresh and the pesto homemade — a nice complement of flavors.

JOSH: I went straight to the tables to be served. I know — shocking, huh? I can’t stand a Caesar salad without flavor, and that certainly wasn’t an issue here. The salad was a good size, full of fresh lettuce, big croutons, lots of Parmesan cheese and served with a basket of fresh, warm garlic bread.

JASON: Amen. The chop chop salad was equally delicious. A large bowl packed — and I mean packed — with meat and cheese on crisp lettuce. After trying other menu items, this is the one I liked best. It filled me up while also providing an herb-burst-in-your-mouth type experience. The Italian meats were hearty with a nice Mediterranean spice to boot.

JOSH: Let’s be honest; salads for me are time fillers while I wait for the main course. I tried two of Joeseppi’s selections, both of which were great. I had the salmon with pasta, which was full of flavor and a pretty big helping for a lunch serving. A six-ounce serving of fresh Chinook salmon was served with the house pasta, which is really just spaghetti with red sauce, and accompanied by fresh green beans with, yep, garlic. The other dish I tried was the pasta trio, which I also enjoyed. It’s served with your choice of three sauces; however, my suggestion to the waitress was that it be served on a portioned plate for those who don’t like their marinara sauce swimming with their clam sauce.

JASON: And despite the large senior citizen patronage, the pasta is firm.

JOSH: Joeseppi’s also offers a selection of desserts that make it hard to choose just one. I would have liked to try the chocolate cake, but it’s not available by the slice, only by the whole cake. So, I recomposed myself and went with the suggested tiramisu. Layers of Vienna cakes, spirits, chocolate and cream — this was not disappointing. Once again, very flavorful and served big enough for two — though I didn’t share.

JASON: You never do.

This review originally ran in the print version of the Weekly Volcano March 2, 2006.

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