At the tender age of 77, Vince Termini Sr. has amassed many memories involving pleasant exchanges over food. The lion’s share of those occasions has come among his relatives, and it is that emphasis on enjoying a familial feel that drives the proceedings at Mr. Joe’s Café, 1514 S. Eighth St.
“Meeting people and offering them these meals are activities that really delight me,” the Montgomery County inhabitant said of what motivates him to operate the Passyunk Square establishment with wife Barbara. “I believe in bonding over food, and I love making everything from scratch to make that possible.”
The former Girard Estate resident had already won locals’ reverence for his second-generation status as the upholder of the baked goods legacy at Termini Bros., 1523 S. Eighth St. and 1538 Packer Ave., when he decided to revamp the space that had served as the original location for his father and uncle’s baking brainchild. As his patriarch, the namesake of the dining destination, chose not to discard mementos, the businessman elected to have the cafe serve as a museum and an homage to the family’s Italian ancestry.
“My father’s spirit is still in here,” Termini said as patrons in the 35-seat space sated themselves on selections from the 16-options-strong menu, not including ample specials, with panini and pasta creations coming with a complimentary glass of wine, a small salad, and a dessert. “There’s a lot of friendliness in here, and I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to have a nice presence here.”
Set this year to celebrate the site’s 10th anniversary and his 50th wedding anniversary, he never lets his appreciation for his blessings sag one bit and finds that the more he works, the stronger he grows. Such is the case with the fare at the cafe, whose provisions he cooks across the street at the bakery that sons Joseph and Vince Jr. helm. Heading the menu’s pasta offerings is Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi, the recipe for which he chose to share.
“It’s definitely our top item,” he said of the $20 delight. “I take pride in making it, so since making your own pasta is becoming a popular practice, I like the idea of letting people know how it happens here.”
A three-pound can of ricotta cheese
3 whole eggs
2 cups of grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup of semolina
1 cup of unbleached white flour
1 bunch of fresh basil, finely chopped
A pinch of salt
Mix the ricotta, and add the eggs. Mix the grated cheese, and combine it, the basil, the semolina, and the flour with the first two components. Make sure that the united ingredients are moist enough since you will be rolling them out to make ropes. If they are not, use more flour. Cut the ropes to your desired size.
Place in a freezer. Add the items to a pot, and boil until the water reaches the top. Scoop out the contents, and apply marinara or pesto sauce. ■
Mr. Joe’s Cafe
Owners: Vince Termini Sr. and Barbara Termini
Opened: May 2006
1514 S. Eighth St.
Employee Anna-Maria DiGregorio and owner Vince Termini Sr.
Photos by Tina Garceau