Joe is a veritable legend in international “Pizza-dom.” There is an Olympic competition for pizza, and he has won multiple Golds. He is a 3-time world pizza champion, and has won several other awards he doesn’t bother mentioning. He is the Guinness Book of World Record holder for the highest pizza toss, (over two stories straight up,) and in 2010, Joe’s was voted The Best Pizza in America. In 2012, he won the award in Naples, Italy, for being the World’s Fastest Pizza Maker. He has a certificate from the Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli, which loosely translated, means, “Professional Pizza School.”
His media exposure has been extensive. Besides being featured in newspapers here and abroad, he has been seen on CNN, ESPN, The Food Network, Martha Stewart, and the Today Show. Last fall during football season, Joe made a pizza that looked like football legend Tim Tebow, and this past March he made another that featured an amazing likeness of Donald Trump.
While I was in Joe’s shop for this edition, I met a 4 year old little girl who had come to know Joe well in this last year. Her name is Tinley Romine. She was with her grandma, Teresa Gibbs, and every time they come in, Joe gives Tinley a little bit of dough to play with. In return she gives Joe a hug, and it was a joy to watch her with her “play dough.” Tinley is a bit older than Joe’s little girl, Valentina, who is the light of his life.
Speaking of Valentina, Joe named the oven that makes his shop “pop” after his daughter, and he has exciting news: he has purchased a second oven made by Marra Forni, with whom Joe has worked for years, and the wood fired mobile unit has been mounted to a trailer. So, what’s the plan? To take “Valentina” to festivals, corporate events, wedding receptions, parties of all kinds, and to bring Joe’s World Famous Pizza to people “anywhere, anytime, and anyplace,” he told me.
“Valentina bakes at 800 to 900 degrees,” he said. “We can make 250 pizzas an hour, and it takes 90 seconds.” “What? That’s like a natural microwave” I said, and added, “and much better for you.” He smiled. The mobile Valentina is usually fired by oak, and Joe gets his wood from Ricky Adams, of Adams and Son, here in Athens. It takes a crew of 3-4 to work a festival, and it takes around 3 ½ hours to get the fire just right for baking. So far, Valentina has been to Whistlestop in Huntsville, Blue Pants Microbrewery in Madison, Do Dah Day, and will be appearing at our very own Athens Grease Festival, as well as the Florence Arts Alive Festival. He is going to go on the road for events in Florida, and Ocean City, MD. I asked him, “Are you going to make special pizzas for Grease?” “Yes,” he said, but I knew he was not about to say any more, and based on personal experience, I am sure it will be a glorious surprise. While Joe is at the festivals, Chris Miller, his assistant chef, will hold down the Athens fort.
There are a number of things Joe would like us to know after his first year in our fair town. “I am very thankful to the community of Athens for how they have welcomed me, and supported me,” he said. He went on to tell me about his crew. “I am thankful for my staff,” he said. “They stuck by me, and became a small family. I am losing some high school seniors who will be irreplaceable because of their work ethic.” He finished up our time with saying, “I thank God for everything I have.”
Good word, Carlucci, and may there be many more anniversaries to celebrate at Joe’s World Famous Pizza.
Joe’s World Famous Pizzeria
1260 Hwy 72 Athens, AL 35611
Hours: Mon-Wed, 10:30-8, Thur-Sat, 10:30-9:30
Facebook: Joe’s World Famous Pizzeria
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner