Joseph A. Italiano, 80, restaurateur

Joseph A. Italiano
Joseph A. Italiano
Posted: July 09, 2014

In a 2008 review of Joe Italiano's Maplewood II in Mays Landing, N.J., Inquirer restaurant critic Craig LaBan wrote that after dining there, "I'm craving another trip down the Black Horse Pike right about now."

Mr. Italiano's father, also Joseph, opened the original Maplewood Inn in Hammonton, N.J., in 1946.

"The Italian immigrants who settled in that agricultural town were 'home-style cooking people,' " LaBan wrote.

"So when they came into my restaurant, I felt honored," Mr. Italiano told LaBan.

And, LaBan wrote, Mr. Italiano "has rewarded those patrons with a commitment to home cooking that is unheard of at this modest price point."

On Saturday, July 5, Joseph A. Italiano, 80, of Hammonton, owner of Joe Italiano's Maplewood Inn there and Joe Italiano's Maplewood II in Mays Landing, died of heart problems at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, his wife, Eleanor, said.

"By all appearances, it is essentially a bare-bones Italian diner," LaBan wrote of the Mays Landing location. "But Joe Italiano's turned out to be full of pleasant surprises."

For instance, LaBan wrote, "the pastas and raviolis are still made in a cellar by Italiano's sister, Angelus Esposito, and are never precooked.

"Every beefy meatball is seared to order in a cast iron frying pan before getting dunked in red gravy that simmers daily for at least five hours."

But it was not only the typical fare done remarkably well that impressed the critic.

"The most notable specialties, though, are the 'natural juice' white seafood sauces that Joe Italiano was among the first to popularize in South Jersey," LaBan wrote.

Born in Hammonton, Mr. Italiano graduated from Hammonton High School in 1951 and went to work in the family business.

"Our children now own" both Maplewoods, Mrs. Italiano said, but her husband "never retired; he's constantly been working, working and cooking until six months ago," at the Mays Landing location.

As a longtime pool player, Mr. Italiano was a member of Billiards on the Green in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., and a member of the American Pool Association and TAP, the national pool league.

Besides his wife of 57 years and his sister, Mr. Italiano is survived by sons Jimmy and Tommy; a daughter, Linda; eight grandchildren; three step-grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

A viewing was set from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 9, and from 10 a.m. Thursday, July 10, both at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 285 Route 206, Hammonton, before a Funeral Mass there at 11 a.m. Thursday, with interment in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Hammonton.

Condolences may be offered to the family at

610-313-8134 @WNaedele

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