Joseph A. Paglianite, 96, of Dallas, PA, died at home on Wednesday, May 11th. He was predeceased by his wife, the former Erma Bettelli, sisters Catherine Martini and Anna Mascioli and brother Frank Paglianite as well as their spouses Angelo, Corso, and Sara, respectively.
Joseph was born on October 13, 1925. His father, Antonio, immigrated from Calabria, Italy and worked in the Pennsylvania mines for forty-five years. His mother, Mary, raised four children in their Wyoming, Pennsylvania home.
After graduating Wyoming High School, Joe initially worked in the aircraft manufacturing industry, where he served as a wielder and an inspector. However, it was his Uncle Dominic Paglianite—a pizzeria owner—who inspired Joe to get started in what would be his ultimate calling: pizza. Joe worked first at the Forte Café and then the Octagon in Plymouth until opening his own restaurant in Plymouth in 1951.
However, it was the founding of Joe's Pizza in 1953 at Harveys Lake, for which he is most remembered. Using the family recipe for pizza and with the encouragement and help of his wife Mary Jean and his brother-in-law Dominick Pulieri, Joe's Pizza eventually grew into what we now know as Grotto Pizza with the opening of a location in Delaware in 1960.
In 1977, Joe and his daughter Lisa suffered the loss of Mary Jean, who had been a driving force in the success of Grotto Pizza in both Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Joe's legacy as a successful restaurateur is matched by his reputation for community service and philanthropy. He was a past president and the longest serving member of the Plymouth Rotary and was named a Paul Harris fellow (the most prestigious award given by the Rotary International). He was a member of the Big Band Society of Wyoming Valley, the Italian Association of Luzerne County, a member of the Italian American National Foundation in Washington, D.C., a member of Gate of Heaven Roman Catholic Church, Dallas and a supporter of the Boy Scouts of America.
In 2010, he contributed to Luzerne County Community College to help create the Joseph A. Paglianite Culinary Institute. This state-of-the-art facility is committed to training the next generation of chefs, restaurant managers, and food service professionals. In addition, Joe's commitment to education includes the Grotto Pizza Culinary Arts scholarship at LCCC as well as various scholarships at Misericordia University in the name of his sisters Anna and Catherine.
2016 saw the creation of the Joseph and Erma Paglianite Charitable Foundation, an organization devoted to supporting charitable organizations in greater northeast Pennsylvania. To date, the foundation has donated more than $200,000 to worthy causes including the dozens of charities that participate every year in the annual Grotto Pizza Parade of Trees.
Joe is survived by his daughter Lisa Williamson, granddaughters Megan Jean Mastroff and Joanna Catherine Williamson and her spouse Ryan Gruver, and great grandchildren Laurel and Joshua Mastroff as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be held privately at the convenience of the family. Arrangements are under the direction of The Richard H. Disque Funeral Home, 2940 Memorial Highway, Dallas, Pa. Online condolences may be sent to Disquefuneralhome.com. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to The Joseph and Erma Paglianite Charitable Foundation, c/o 575 Pierce Street, Suite 400, Kingston, Pa. 18704.