BROOKSVILLE — Joe Giarratana has set a target of March 3 to reopen his Papa Joe’s Italian Restaurant on Spring Lake Highway.
The popular eatery, destroyed by fire last January, was something of a county landmark for 33 years, and it left a void in the community.
Giarratana said he has spent the last year keeping the Papa Joe’s name alive through his catering and the charity event he held last October.
He hopes to begin hiring about 45 people sometime after Thanksgiving and would welcome any of his old employees back.
Although the restaurant will look essentially the same, there will be some tweaks.
Instead of a deli section — which is going away — there will be a larger and more visible full-liquor bar. There might be a fountain for added effect.
To the left will be the small dining room, suitable for seating 60 people. This is where most customers will sit.
On the right will be a private room with 80-90 seats to be used for banquets and larger-party events.
Giarratana said there was a need to expand that area because of the large number of requests for birthdays, anniversaries and other party events.
From the outside, the new Papa Joe’s will resemble the former quite a bit. Giarratana plans to expand the sidewalk about 2 feet but the building itself will look similar, right down to familiar columns.
Joe and Donna Giarratana frequently held charitable events on-site, including an annual 99-cent spaghetti dinner every first Tuesday in October with proceeds donated to charities.
He said that won’t change when the building reopens. He even held one this past October and gave out meals — albeit cooked off-site — which were delivered to people to take with them.
Giarratana said he wants to thank the community for its support and cannot wait to start a new era.
“I want to thank them very deeply from my heart,” he said.