There is a Moonstruck romanticism about Joe Spinelli's story, with the Italian ritual of celebrating life around a table running through it. Joe's Grandpa Gattozzi was a restaurateur, with a business on the ground floor of an East Cleveland apartment building. Joe was bussing tables by age eleven, and taking in the comforts and joys of being part of a restaurant community. He remembers that there was always a customer or two joining the family for holiday meals at home, as his Grandpa knew who had nowhere to go. Observing his Grandpa pulling up chairs and perching on bar stools to enjoy the camaraderie of customers shaped Joe's sense of hospitality and seeded his ambition to someday have his own restaurant. A four year stint in the trenches at McDonalds as a teenager equipped him with operations expertise, and confirmation that he enjoyed working with the public. Afraid he might be passing up opportunities that a broader experience might provide, Joe did graduate from Capital University with a degree in social work, and was active in the early years of AIDS awareness and education. One of his job titles was "Condom Guy" but that's a story for another blog!
Having forged a friendship with Bill Ward, an accomplished fellow with 20 years of successful banking experience and leadership/management roles, Joe saw that together they had a terrific skill set and a like-mindedness that would serve them as business partners. The two attended the International Franchise Expo and bought into a bagel chain, opening a store in Victorian Village and Reynoldsburg. The Reynoldsburg location never caught on and didn't last long, but the Victorian Village location attracted the community. What became a rub was the desire to respond to customer requests and tastes, and the box that being in a franchise placed them in. The Bagel chain didn't offer salads and wouldn't tolerate any variance from the menu. The partners took a year to develop plans for opening under their own banner, soliciting customer input, exploring the marketplace, and even organizing a naming contest for the new venture.
In 2000 the bagel sign came down, and Spinelli's Deli was opened for business, with a complimenting catering effort launched at the same time. The diversity of the customer base is huge...from the senior citizens living at the retirement complex next door, to the free spirits who have claimed Victorian Village as their neighborhood, but the loyalty is across the board. The offer of affordably priced fresh food, combined with the true blue spirit of generosity, community activism, and service have created an authentic community hub that is an embodiment of all of the aspirations of Dine Originals. Joe's keen attention to food and menu trends, developments in the fast casual market and restaurant design, paired with Bill's expertise in finance, management, and personnel have kept the Spinelli's operation fresh all these years.
There are the bestselling classics: the Jalapeño Joe sandwich, homemade soups, fresh baked cookies every day, but there is always something new to try when the mood strikes. The catering business may well be a bridge from Joe's work in social services to the hospitality industry. Spinelli's team views the service as an opportunity to solve problems. You have a last minute group coming in for a lunch presentation? They will work it into the day's deliveries. Having a party at a tough location? The food cart can pull up, dispense anything from tacos to sliders, and be gone in no time. They serve sandwiches with solutions on the side!
Stop in; you will feel the spirit of Grandpa Gatttozzi and be a bit richer for it.
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Joe Spinelli & Bill Ward