Joe Caliguire is open, warm, chatty and charming. His restaurant is a direct reflection of his gregarious personality. When we sat down, his son Joey, was there, too. The apple, as they say, doesn’t fall that far from the tree. Sarafino’s, tucked back in the Crafton neighborhood, is committed to keeping the ‘family’ in family restaurant.
When did you open Sarafino’s?
I started 18 years ago. When I was growing up, my grandmother had a pizza shop, right there on route 60, called Sarafino’s. Before this, I had a pizza shop in the Strip, back when the Strip was the Strip. I used to sell slices out the window until 4 a.m., right across from Primanti’s. They could either get a slice or a sandwich. It was crazy.
Then we decided we wanted to open a neighborhood place, where someone could go get a pasta, pizza, sandwich, without getting beat over the head for it [in terms of price]. That was our concept, and we’ve stuck to it. We do specials now, crab cakes and that fun stuff, but you can get away with a family of four with less than 40 bucks, 50 bucks if you want to.
We’ve barely changed the prices since we’ve opened. We really just wanted a nice family place. My mom and dad always used to go out and say, we’re going out for a sandwich, but they were really going out for a beer or something. People like to go out. When they do go out and get a sandwich and a bite to eat, we wanted it to be a place where people can go to eat twice a week, instead of waiting for a special occasion. It worked out in this little alley in Crafton.
You were on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel. What was that like, and do you get people who come here just because of that?
People come from all over to eat here. We get West Virginia, Ohio, all over. Always have. At the beginning of the day you’ll see all the locals, and by the end of the day you’ll see all the different cars come in. It’s been good. It’s been real good.
It was Bizarre Foods Pittsburgh, so they picked the destination and then did research, and they were looking at greens and beans and all the good reviews we had, and they called me. My mother said ‘why would you serve that? That’s a weed. Nobody’s going to eat that, it’s a weed.”
We still get people that say hey, I saw you on Bizarre Foods. I invited all the Italians from the Strip. My cousin owns La Prima, down in the Strip, so we invited everyone up for the taping.
When it aired, we had a big viewing party, TVs in every room, I had a big screen outside. It was wild.