Joe leaves impression on county

Published 11:35 am Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When we at the Shelby County Reporter got the news that Giuseppe Bertolone, better known as Joe’s Italian’s “Papa Joe,” was fighting for his life during the night of March 6, we all hoped and prayed he would make it through.

Later that night, when we received word that he had passed away, every one of us was saddened. Papa Joe had touched all of our hearts, just as he had done with so many of our readers.

With his family, Papa Joe brought one of the best-known and most-loved local businesses, Joe’s Italian, to Shelby County. Every day, he brought love to Joe’s and its customers, speaking to everyone and sharing his joy for cooking and zest for life.

Our Facebook page shows what an impact he made, as many people shared our story on his passing and commented on how “wonderful” and “happy” he was.

His life story was an amazing one, as he traveled from his birthplace of Sicily, Italy to England, learning the art of cooking at a restaurant in London’s famous Piccadilly Circus.

He met his soon-to-be wife, Elvira, on a trip back to Italy, and together the two embarked on a lifetime together, moving from Italy to California and opening their first Joe’s Italian in Gilroy, Calif. in 1981.

After 27 years, Papa Joe and Elvira, also known as Mamma, retired and moved to be closer to their family in Alabama. Soon, the two became part of a new incarnation of Joe’s Italian, as their children opened the location in Alabaster.

Joe’s Italian has become an indelible part of Shelby County, and Papa Joe was a huge reason for that. He always made an impression, and we’re glad he was able to live his life doing what he loved — and we are so grateful he spent some of his life enriching Shelby County for the rest of us.

The We Say is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.