When people think about Joeseppi's Italian restaurant in Tacoma, many think of the non-profit organization take-overs he provides, which raise lots of money for worthy charities and various groups. Other people think of Mama Stortini's spaghetti sauce and the fund raisers for Joe Stortini when he was in politics and on his way to Pierce County Executive. But the restaurant is all that and more.
Joeseppi's is still a great gathering place for food and ideas. With a banquet room that can easily accommodate thirty or more people, it's a great location for a family reunion, community gathering, or special "thank you" affair. But Peg and I like the low-key restaurant for lunch and dinner. Dinner sometimes has lots of people, but lunch is usually quieter. Most of the lunch items are the same as the dinner menu, but a little less . . . in both food and costs.
We like both lunch and dinner (nightly specials). On this particular day, we didn't want to bother fixing lunch, so we turned to Joeseppi's. Joe greeted us when we walked in. Even if he doesn't know you, you'll feel welcome. We sat in bar. It's comfortable and they have TVs on the wall to watch if you're interested. Joe has been a coach almost all his life AND his senior team won their last championship only a year or two ago.
The salad at Joeseppi's is plentiful and good with fresh tomatoes, grated Parmesan cheese, and crunchy croûtons. I like a combination of their Italian dressing and bleu cheese.
There are generally two kids of soup at Joeseppi's: tortellini and Sicilian Sausage. Peg orders the tortellini, while I order the sausage. You have your choice of soup or salad. This time around I ordered a salad and Peg ordered the soup. Both come with a tasty bread stick. I ate mine in several quick bites. If I had ordered soup I would have dunked mine. We're peasants.
We don't like the normal bread that is served at Joeseppi's . . . it's too "white-bready." No tooth. We like chewy bread. Good chewy bread and hearty soup is a great combination. Good chewy bread is also great with meals. And it can become an ingredient in follow-up dishes as well.
When we went to Tuscany a few years ago we dined on a traditional peasant salad of fresh tomatoes, olive oil, basil, and stale bread. It's coarsely chopped up and so thick you could eat it with a fork. However, you can add a little broth and it becomes "pappa al pomodoro" or Tuscan Bread and Tomato Soup. There are so many ways you can cook Italian food, but other there they don't like innovation. We had our hands slapped for asking for a plate or extra cheese or even a different drink. Nobody cares at Joeseppi's. Just tell them what you want and they'll cook it that way.
For our main course, Peg ordered salmon, while I ordered a steak. Peg asked for her salmon to be undercooked. The waiter understood. I ordered medium rare. Menus suggest you are on your own when you do this, but so what. We're Americans. We want our food the way we like it. There is a big round fellow who cooks at Joeseppi's. When he's not cooking he comes out of the kitchen and stands behind the counter (where it's cooler) surveying the restaurant and the people. When we leave we usually walk by him and let him know how much we appreciated our salmon and steak . . . or prime rib. Chef's need approval, too.
Quite often Peg and I forget to ask for whole wheat spaghetti. Regular is okay, but we prefer the taste and texture of the whole wheat. A side of spaghetti comes with both the salmon and the steak. When we get served, there is usually a large glob of butter on top of the steak and the spaghetti. You can scrape it off if you like, but we like it like that. Steak houses usually hide the butter by placing the steak on top of it, but butter gives a really rich taste.
The Joeseppi's meat sauce is good. Taste of course is a personal measure. Peg and I prefer the sauce from the old Bimbo's Italian restaurant in downtown Tacoma. Joeseppi's Sicilian Sausage soup is the closest I can think to match it. Two of our kids hated the Bimbo's sauce.
When I think of Joeseppi's I think of family. When my aunt and uncle come down to Tacoma to visit, Uncle James always asks, "Are you talking us out to Joeseppi's?" The answer is usually, "Of course!"