Joe, Julie, and JoJo Mialki of Giuseppe's Steel City Pizza have worked hard for decades to finally construct a building of their dreams.
After 23 years, a Port Orange pizza business has flourished enough to finally transition into a building that its owners hope will help them better serve the community that has embraced them.
For Joe Mialki of Giuseppe's Steel City Pizza, having a hard work ethic is the center of his business. He believes that Giuseppe's is helping transform young adults into hard workers. He's been able to see that impact firsthand. One night, he had a kid come in and tell him he remembered his mom buying a pizza from Giuseppe's every week when he was 5 years old.
"I wanted to thank you for feeding my family," Mialki recalled the boy saying. "You fed us at our games at Atlantic High School, and you did our parties in Little League."
Mialki and his wife, Julie, grew up in a small town near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where everyone knew everyone, he said. They were high school sweethearts and married at the age of 19. When Joe was 15, he begged business owners Tony and Vinnie Molvoni from Naples, Italy, to work at their pizzeria in Pittsburgh as a dishwasher as an alternative to working in his mother’s business making Levi Jeans.
“[Joe] started in a dish room, but they taught him how to make the pizza, how to make the dough, and how to prep their menu,” Julie Mialki said.
Joe Mialki's father later suffered a massive heart attack that led him to move to the warmer climate of Florida. His mother missed her family, though, so she convinced the Mialkis to move. She told them that there was a pizzeria next door for sale, and Joe Mialki's parents helped them with a loan so they were able to buy it at 19 years old.
The mentorship of the Molvonis gave Joe Mialki the passion to start his own pizza shop.
Back to the beginning
The Mialkis opened up their first pizza shop in South Daytona, where they worked without any employees for more than a year. Joe Mialki's mother came over from Sicily and brought back recipes that were used for the sauces, lasagnas and cannolis.
“All of our Sicilian and southern Italian recipes are fourth- and fifth-generation recipes,” Joe Mialki said.
After moving around to several buildings over the next few years, they determined they didn’t like the "developed feeling" of South Daytona, so they changed their focus towards Port Orange.
“Our kids went to school here, they played sports here — Port Orange to me was more of a family community [than South Daytona],” Joe Mialki said.
Giuseppe’s Steel City Pizzeria was inspired by the city of Pittsburgh, and features décor centered around the Pittsburgh Steelers football team. Giuseppe’s has had a presence in the city since the 1990s.
“To us, this is the heart of Port Orange,” Joe Mialki said. “Our customers, our staff, are family.”
Their son, JoJo Mialki, has been working at Giuseppe's in Port Orange for 19 years, and has been running the business for 15 years.
“Whatever you’re intended to do, be the best at it," JoJo Mialki said. "Fish swim, birds fly, I do this. I can do a lot of other things, but I’m the best at this."
Out with the old
Joe and Julie almost didn’t buy the current building they operate out of. However, they wanted to stay in the city.
“The kitchen was never designed to do the volume of business we do here,” Julie Mialki said,
The Mialkis chose to start construction on a new building three years ago. They concluded that their current location is too small and outdated for their future goals. At the Mialkis' previous businesses, they had a six-tiered pizza oven; at Giuseppe’s in Port Orange, they only have a two-tiered oven with no room for another one.
“We wanted to do it for our customers," JoJo Mialki said. "If my customers want something, I’m going to give it to my customers. It’s become very hard to provide my customers with what they deserve out of this building."
Julie Mialki said the time had come. Though recently, the restaurant faced some challenges.
Giuseppe's was criticized on its Facebook page for having health violations that resulted in the restaurant shutting down for one day. A summary of the incident cited employees touching ready-to-eat food with bare hands, wiping cloth sanitizer solution exceeding the maximum concentration allowed, "small flying insects" in bar area and rodent droppings on the floor next to the mixer and in the back storage room.
Julie Mialki said they were shut down due to fruit flies.
"I can assure you we have a clean place," she said. "Fruit flies were our problem, and we have taken care of it."
Julie Mialki said that this was not a routine health inspection and that they were caught off guard. Their time has been consumed by transitioning to their new building.
"As we're moving from one building to the other, we have some things shuffled in the storage room as you can imagine," she said. "This is the first time this has happened in 40 years. We have very old plumbing and electric here, which is the reason we are building a new building."
In with the new
The Mialkis have been approached by their customers and the Port Orange community concerning the new building.
“The most worrisome comment we get about the new building is that it won’t feel like home,” Julie Mialki said.
In order for the Mialkis to maintain the same small-town feeling, JoJo used a computer-aided design software to design the new building from the ground up.
“We had direction, we had focus, and that was the biggest thing," JoJo Mialki said. "Our old building is dated and homey, our new building is homey and updated."
JoJo Mialki isn’t leaving the future of the building as an afterthought. He designed the building so that that there were no load-bearing walls throughout the interior of the building. This will allow his children to modify the building to suit their future business, should they not want to continue Giuseppe’s.
Giuseppe's will also be creating more than 30 jobs at their new location. The Mialkis experience through building this business has also been very impactful on their family.
“We have met so many people that I never thought I’d meet in my wildest dreams,” Joe Mialki said
Giuseppe's Steel City Pizza is opening their new location next door to their old location at 3658 S. Nova Road, Port Orange. They are expected to have their grand opening on March 1.