Since its opening in 2015, Joe’s World Famous Pizzeria, located on Hwy 72 across from Chick-fil-a in Athens, has become a fixture in our community. The pizzeria has become “famous” for everything from whole pies that sport the cheese topping faces of soon-to-be-President Donald Trump as well as NFL great Tim Tebow, to Valentina, its 4,000 pound custom built brick oven named after the daughter of the owner, Joe Carlucci.
This past summer, Joe was able to purchase a second oven, also named Valentina, which is mobile, runs on oak, and is perfect for street fairs and catered events. The interior of the shop was redone with a retro diner vibe, complete with red booths and a juke box, and the walls display Joe’s bevy of awards, articles, media events, and certificates, all of which are plentiful.
However, as legendary as Joe Carlucci is in the pizza world, he wanted the focus of this article to be one of gratitude for everyone and everything from God, to Athens, to his faithful crew, specifically Dayana Rodriguez and Tessa Colwell. “It takes a team to be successful,” Joe said, “and I am blessed by God to have young adults who have dedication, who work hard, and care about Joe’s. I have people that I trust, and the ones who have been here for a long time, and have stuck by me, they have made all the difference.”
I got a chance to hear the stories of these young women, and while one wouldn’t expect running a pizzeria to be particularly inspirational at first blush, I left the shop feeling full in my heart, and so happy for all the blessings that have come Joe’s way.
Dayana, (pronounced Diana) has worked at Joe’s for about a year and a half, and has come to the place where Joe says, “Anything in the place, she can do it all.” Joe is well known for burning the candle from both ends, and on Christmas Day, Dayana ran everything. They worked together as great team until midnight, busy to the last. Dayana told me how she had applied many places and landed here. She had no prior experience, but was teachable, and is so grateful for all that she has learned. She is taking business classes at Calhoun, is heading toward getting a business degree, and feels that everything she has learned from working for Joe’s will one day be used when she is an entrepreneur herself, perhaps as a clothing store owner. She loves the training she has received, and she loves to make people happy. I asked her why, when I have “pizza choices” in the area that range from big box to those that are locally owned, should I choose Joe’s when I am in the mood for pizza? She said, “He makes each pizza to please the people, and thinks about the customer.” She smiled and said, “The pizzas are thoughtful,” meaning, thoughtfully made. Dayana likes the fact that Joe is now able to spend more time on recipes, and she can focus on doing everything else.
Unlike Dayana, Tessa Colwell “knew” pizza, as she had worked for a national chain. She was born and raised in Ardmore, and her family moved to Georgia. That’s where she learned a trade that she basically had to un-learn and start from scratch when she started working for Joe. For one thing, the use of a brick oven is not something you see very often, and getting good at baking pizza in it takes some real skill. “The whole thing is different,” says Tessa. I asked her if she had learned how to toss pizza dough in the air, and she laughed as she told me about the first time she tried and it literally hit the ceiling. “I have developed my own style,” she said. Tessa is also very artistic, and is getting close to making her first “picture pizza.” I asked her who she is going to use for her subject, and she said, “Scooby-doo. And, Leonardo the Ninja Turtle because he loves pizza.”
I asked Tessa why I should come there for pizza, and she said, “It has a family feeling. The sauce is the best I have ever had. The cheese is fresh, and we’re faster than anybody. We can get a pizza baked in 2-3 minutes.” She went on to tell me more about how they remember the names of their customers, and want people to feel comfortable. She also mentioned that she is hoping they’ll be able to do more catering and weddings. I asked her, “What would you like to say to the people who read Athens Now?” She said, “We hope you have a blessed year.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner