Joe Bennici Jr. hadn’t turned the door key to the Joe’s NY Pizza in Flagler Regional Plaza in nearly 20 years, so when he first walked back into the building, he immediately took a trip down memory lane.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy,’” Bennici said. “It was 20 years ago when we put the hoods up over the oven and the stove in the back, so it’s kind of hard to describe the feeling.”
Joe and Michael Bennici, owners of Joe’s NY Pizza & Pasta at 1070 Palm Coast Parkway NW, have opened up a second pizzeria at Joe’s original location at 119A Flagler Plaza Drive (behind Woodys Bar-B-Q).
Joe Jr., Michael and their parents, Eileen and Joe Bennici, moved to Palm Coast and opened up the pizzeria in 1995, but after Joe Sr. became sick, the family decided to sell the restaurant in 2001.
“It was very hard for us to sell it, but we couldn’t keep the place, as my husband got sick,” Eileen Bennici said. “Now, I’m happy we got it back. I worked day and night in this place back then, and it has a lot of memories of my husband.”
Joe Bennici Sr. died a year after the Bennici family parted ways with the first restaurant, and the brothers, Michael and Joe, left the restaurant business.
A few years later, the brothers linked back up and decided to open Mike and Joe’s NY Pizza & Pasta in 2004, at the Palm Coast Parkway location.
“We just stood there with tears in our eyes,” Joe Bennici said. “It was something we had done on our own, without our father’s help.”
Before the brothers opened their restaurant, Michael Bennici decided to remove his name from the title, so they could honor their late father.
“I thought it would be nice to just have the name ‘Joe’ for our father on the place,” he said. “Although he wasn’t much of a pizza guy or a cook, he taught us everything we know about business.”
Michael Bennici says that the greatest advice his father gave them was to always treat customers like family because “they are the only true bosses; they can fire everyone.”
The Bennici’s have served Palm Coast with that mentality and have maxed out their capacity at the Palm Coast Parkway location.
“We have tripled our goal that we set in 2004,” Michael Bennici said. “We have been blown away by the reception and customer loyalty we have in Palm Coast. We know most of our most of our customers on a first-name basis, and we know what they eat and when, and I think that’s what separates us from most of the other places.”
The Bennici brothers have always wanted to return to their original location in memory of their father, and now that they are back, they don’t plan on leaving.
“We’re here to stay in Palm Coast at both locations,” Michael Bennici added. “There have been a lot of different pizzerias that have come and gone, but we have put our blood, sweat and tears into this place because we know we’re not going anywhere. We got our baby back and a piece of our dad back.”