JoJo’s Tavern and Resraurant has been in business since 1962 serving family-style dishes to many generations of the Trenton community. Joseph and Lena Scharibone started this legacy and since then, the family-style restaurant has been passed down through three generations. Joey Sharibone has taken the once “shot and beer place,” and made it into a neighborhood pub that he says, “revels in the sense of community”.
Heady Times had the opportunity to sit down and chat with owner Joey Scharibone to talk about JoJo’s success, and plans for the future.
Heady Times (HT): How did JoJo’s get its start?
Joey Scharibone (JS): My grandfather was in the taxi business in Trenton, and my grandmother was a happy stay-at-home mom. Together, they bravely decided to buy a business, knowing that they knew nothing about operating a bar or a packaged goods operation. At that time, Mercerville was being developed as a bedroom community alongside the factories which were thriving in Trenton. They stepped into what was known as a “shot and beer” place, opening up at 7AM to accommodate the workers who were coming home after the third shift, and closing at 2AM.
HT: How important is family to running your business?
JS: Over the years, we have remained a tightly knit family-owned and operated business. We don’t have any managers. Instead we have three generations of family. My cousin Justin Russomanno who has studied culinary arts is in the kitchen. Together we collaborate on new menu items and make improvements to our existing menu. We are always striving to stay current, follow new trends, and remain true to our basic premise – great food, moderately priced, always fresh, always cooked to order, and prepared with pride. We have a relationship with our patrons that you simply will not find in any other chain operation. We know everyone’s name, their likes and dislikes, their family, and in most cases, their pets. We are sincere in our genuine appreciation, gratitude and affection of the people who frequent our business. Look around on any given night and you will find patrons visiting tables and greeting their own friends or neighbors. Our single room operation is crowded, noisy, and lively and that’s how we like it.
HT: Why do you think JoJo’s has found success for so many years?
JS: Our pizza is unique to us and the recipe has never changed. Our customers may move away or retire out of state, but they come back to visit. We’re proud to say that the pizza is just as they remembered it. Just as we are generational operators, so are our customers. We have served children who came in with their parents who then became young adults and parents themselves. We are true to our roots and are most certainly a sports bar. There’s 13 TVs offering a variety of games – professional and college. If you want to watch your favorite team, we’ll put it on a screen.
HT: Have you made additions to your menu since the opening of the restaurant in 1962?
JS: Over the years the business has made some significant changes. We went from a pizza and sandwich operation to a full service restaurant, always adding and ever improving. We have expanded our kitchen in order to accommodate the increasing emphasis on food consumption. Our menu includes a variety of pasta dishes, 12-ounce pork chops, hand-cut steaks, fresh seafood, a variety of salads, and in house prepared soups. Our JoJo’s Chicken is a signature dish – pounded chicken breast, stuffed with fresh asparagus, prosciutto and provolone served in a white wine sauce.
HT: How has the beer industry impacted the restaurant?
JS: The craft beer trend has opened new horizons. People follow us on various sites. They stop in because they know we have a certain brew on one of our fifteen craft beer taps. We offer a “beer sampler” which is four 4-ounce craft beers. This allows our customers to be exposed to four new and different brews. From the sampler, their next order might be a pint of their favorite brew! Craft beers have offered us a new clientele of people who truly appreciate new, different, or unusual beers. We have many which are brewed local to us. On weekdays, our happy hour begins at 3:30 and ends at 6:00. There’s half-priced appetizers, $3.55 plain bar pies (an individual 9-inch pizza) along with discounted wine and beer. Additionally, the
same deals are offered during NFL Sunday, Monday, and Thursday night games.