Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Papa Joe's restaurant in Brooksville hosts Spaghetti Fest to thank patrons


Joe Giarratana had his stove fired up long before sunup Tuesday in preparation for what without a doubt would be his busiest day of the year. By the restaurant's 11 a.m. opening, about 150 gallons of tomato sauce and 500 pounds of pasta stood ready to serve to the 1,100 customers expected to drop by over the next 10 hours.

"It's one of the happiest things I get to do each year," said Giarratana. "We've been doing it so long that we're seeing the kids of the kids we used to see here all the time."

Throughout the day, a steady stream of patrons dropped by the annual Papa Joe's Spaghetti Fest for a helping or two of the 99-cent all-you-can-eat spaghetti special or just to visit.

For Giarratana and his wife, Donna, the annual birthday celebration serves as a heartfelt gift to the community that has kept on giving for the past 30 years. It's a day where they get to play host and hostess by offering a day of family fun to anyone who wants to join in.

"We know how fortunate we are," said Giarratana, 61, who along with his wife started the family-style restaurant 30 years ago. "We're reminded of that every day we walk through the door. People have been good to us."

That's the way it has always been for the couple. When they launched their business in 1981 in a former sandwich shop 6 miles east of Brooksville in a remote shopping plaza off Spring Lake Highway, they knew they would have to tough it out for a while.

"We would stand at the window and wonder if anyone would even notice we were here," Giarratana recalled.

In time, customers did notice, and Papa Joe's, with its from-scratch Italian cuisine and friendly staff, became one of Hernando County's most successful independent restaurants.

The Giarratanas have always eagerly shared the fruits of their success through philanthropic endeavors aimed at helping to raise money for charitable organizations.

Tuesday's Spaghetti Fest was the culmination of a weekend celebration that included a showcase of local bands and raffles, all of which benefited the Arc Nature Coast, a nonprofit organization that provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities.

"I've always felt that something like this helps bring the community together," said Donna Giarratana. "It's a fun time that also has a good purpose. I think people believe in those kinds of things."

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or

Papa Joe's restaurant in Brooksville hosts Spaghetti Fest to thank patrons 10/04/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 11:17am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Hooper: Hillsborough marks 100th anniversary of historic photo collection


    Everyone ends up with a favorite.

    Or two or three or 10.

    Rest assured, no one who adores Tampa Bay, appreciates art or cherishes history can explore the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection without storing at least one snapshot in the mental scrapbook.

    Part of the Burgert Brothers collection now featured through the Hillsborough Public Library shows a beer garden on Central Avenue in Tampa from July 1942. [Burgert Brothers collection]
  2. Report slams Pinellas construction licensing agency

    Local Government

    LARGO — The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board mismanaged its finances, lacked accountability and violated its own rules, according to a scathing report released Wednesday by the county's inspector general.

    Rodney Fischer, the executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, resigned in January.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. Tampa driver dies after swerving off Interstate 4 into canal


    PLANT CITY — A Tampa driver swerved off Interstate 4 Wednesday morning, plunging into a canal in a fatal crash, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.

  4. Editorial: Scott should keep demanding better for seniors in nursing homes


    The horrific story of elderly Floridians dying from the heat in a Broward County nursing home after surviving Hurricane Irma grows more outrageous. Even as a ninth death has been reported, the nursing home blames the state and has filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Rick Scott's move to prevent it from accepting new …

    Even as a ninth death has been reported, the nursing home blames the state and has filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Rick Scott’s move to prevent it from accepting new patients or Medicaid payments.
  5. DCF announces $133 million in federal aid for low-income families who lost food during Irma


    An additional $133 million is being distributed to Florida low-income families to help replace food destroyed by Hurricane Irma, the Florida Department of Children and Families announced today.

    The United States Department of Agriculture has made $133 million available to Florida low-income families to help them replace food damaged during Hurricane Irma