Flavor, family and faithful customers have kept the oldest pizzeria in Palm Coast running since 2004.
What makes a pizza a New York pizza?
The owner of Joe’s NY Pizza & Pasta in Palm Coast, Michael Bennici, said, “a thin, airy, crispy crust, a well-seasoned pizza sauce, topped with whole milk mozzarella. ... Fat is flavor. That’s what you want.”
For 15 years, Michael Bennici has been dishing out authentic pies with all the fixings. He and his brother, Joe Bennici Jr., opened the family restaurant in April 2, 2004, at 1070 Palm Coast Parkway NW.
Their father, Joe Bennici Sr. was from Sicily, Italy. Their family grew up in Yonkers, New York, where Bennici Sr. ran a gas station business. After moving to Palm Coast in 1993 and graduating from Flagler Palm Coast High School in 1999, Michael Bennici partnered with his brother to open Joe’s Pizza, in honor of their father.
“He was back of the house; I was front of the house,” Michael Bennici said about his brother. “We kind of were good cop, bad cop. I was the bad cop, he was always the good guy. We had nicknames, like I was called the Shark, he was called the Manatee, so it was good because it was a balance of both. But since then, I kind of have to be both, so I’m not so hard anymore.”
Michael Bennici has been carrying on the business since Joe Bennici Jr. died in January 2016.
Joe’s is the oldest running pizzeria in Palm Coast, with 15 years of service, no name changes or ownership shifts, Michael Bennici said. It has stayed a family business even beyond his blood relatives.
“We pride ourselves on being one big family,” he said. “Restaurant business is crazy; it could be a dysfunctional family at times, but we’re still a family.”
A few of the current employees have worked there for 10 plus years, including front of house manager Ashley Smith and manager Alex Stephens, who creates pizzas in the kitchen.
“We’re consistent,” Stephens said. “We put out a good product people care about. I care about it.”
Almost hidden from street view, Joe’s isn’t a place you just stumble into, Michael Bennici said.
“If you pull in this parking lot, you’re coming here,” he said. “And if you blink, you’ll pass it.”
Still, word-of-mouth advertising has kept them thriving for 15 years, Michael Bennici said.
“They just find us,” he said. “You know the old saying, ‘Build it and they’ll come?’ Well, we did that and they come.”
In the next few weeks, Michael Bennici and Stephens will be opening Bronx House Pizza in Ormond Beach, with sights set on a few other locations between St. John’s and Volusia Counties after that.
“I didn’t want to open another Joe’s without my brother, and this place is not going anywhere,” Michael Bennici said. “I’ll be here for as long as I can — hopefully another 25 to 30 years.”