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Joe DiPasquale: Curator of Maryland's Italian Oasis

Posted by on in May 2016 Editions
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Since DiPasquale’s opening in 1914 the DiPasquale family has provided Baltimore with an authentic Italian market that has metamorphosized into what it is today. Currently the store features a full deli, brick oven, homemade pastas, oils, fine wine and spirits, and more. 

Affectionately, third generation owner Joe DiPasquale struggled to define the store saying, "This is insane. I can't cookie-cutter what this place is."

DiPasquale's is not a Deli. It is not a fresh Italian marketplace and convenience shop. This is not a fine wine and spirits destination, and not a restaurant. Instead, DiPasquale's is all of the above and one of the best at each. 

Joe describes the original store as something difficult to imagine seeing in downtown Baltimore. "We made our own bleach and we had live animals. We sold goats and they were tied to the light pole out front. We sold everything from soap to tomatoes. It was a convenience store for Italians. A little oasis in a German neighborhood."

The current restaurant still occupies the same street corner that it always has just off Conkling and Gough streets, although the look is quite different.

Over 25 years ago, one customer wanted to sit down and eat a sandwich, which forever changed the layout of the store. The amount of tables has multiplied and so has the amount of business. 

After being featured on “Diner's, Drive-ins, and Dives” on The Food Network in 2008, they can add neighborhood landmark to the list.

Early in the 1980's Joe visited Italy to experience the culture as his younger and late-older brothers revamped the store. He exuberantly described his feelings upon returning, "I was recharged about what Italian really is and what we could do."

With a renewed idea of what his heritage entailed, Joe was able to bring home and instill the Italian pride that clearly defines what he still does today. 

"It must be in our blood somehow. In high school I didn't think I would be here. I caught a bug with the local immigrants and it went on from there."

More often than not you can find Joe behind the deli counter; specifically during lunch hours. His attention to detail and direct interaction with customers results in a constant drive toward improvement.

"I change things because of a customer's input. I make it better. I'm here and there's no complaint box. I'm who they go to. I take their ideas and run with it." He continued, "I love the appreciation of the customer. It never gets old and it drives you to get even better."

Sitting at one of the twenty-or-so tables provided an example of the work ethic Joe says he learned from his parents. "I'm sitting here right now and looking around there's some things I'm going to change. You know, I don't always have this angle. I drive everyone nuts because when we go out I try to absorb everything."

When the doors shut and he and his wife Sabrina make their way home the simple pleasures of homemade Italian food prevail, "We get home and we cook for the family. I enjoy that because it's very unwinding. Cooking a simple dish and just taking it easy. That's what I look forward to."

From the first to last question it was obvious that family is the fundamental reason behind every driving force, "I'm always thinking of them and doing everything for them. We work for the kids. That's what we're doing."

As for whether or not DiPasquale's will remain in the family? "Hopefully, I'm creating a lot of options for the kids. It just so happens my son is in college for international food. It would be nice, but it's not the do or die situation. If the children want it, it's certainly open for them. I'm going to build them a foundation and if they want to take it they'll have it."

With plans to open a second location in Harborview, Joe has no plans of slowing down. "It's a smaller scale. Little bit of groceries, brick-oven pizza, sandwiches and salads. A little more seafood oriented since the water is right there."

The effort, dedication, and quality of Joe DiPasquale and DiPasquale’s staff is difficult to rival. The commitment to his local and everyday customers provides immediate feedback that has made the restaurant/deli/marketplace into the Maryland favorite that it is. This same commitment to the consumer has, and is sure to keep “DiPasq” on top.

Joe's Favorite Movie:  “The Godfather, of course.”

Person Joe Would most like to serve: “My Grandfather, who started it all. I never met him. He died the year
my mom was carrying me.”

Something no one knows about Joe: “I’m a softie ... but a strong family guy.”

Career Joe wanted to have:
“I always had fantasies of being a hotel manager after reading the book Hotel. I wanted to be that prestigious manager, speaking five languages, dealing with all the dignitaries. That was always one of my fantasies.”

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Doug is a graduate of Albright College with a Bachelor of Arts in both Psychology as well as Sociology.  He is also a talented bartender/server and enjoys writing about the licensed beverage industry.