Joeys’ Pizza Original Shop Sold; A Slice of History

Ship Bottom, Manahawkin Will Continue
Apr 17, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

The Joeys’ Pizza and Pasta building in Beach Haven Crest stood up to the 1962 Storm, resurfaced after Superstorm Sandy, and as the well-known sign joked, served “occasional waterfront dining” in hungry high tides. But all eras end. That location is closing.

Owner Joe Rulli’s first property has been sold to Long Beach Township. The two newer Joeys’ Pizza locations, in Ship Bottom and on Route 72 West in Manahawkin, will keep on cooking.

The transaction was due to no lack of commerce “dough” – neighbors and summer guests are on social media lamenting the loss of what they and Rulli are both calling “a landmark.”

The owner of 29 years said he and his wife, Lori, are “really overwhelmed” by the number of well-wishes.

“People put on Facebook that they had their first slice of pizza in there,” he said this week.

The one-story masonry structure dating back into the 1950s is not distinctive in looks, but the pizza is popular, and the customers are “family.”

Occasional flooding of the low-lying bayside lot seems to have added to the personality.

“I didn’t realize what it meant to everybody,” Rulli said of the pizzeria. “There was a night when three or four inches of water were in there and we were going to close, and people were looking to come in to eat.”

The last six years there in Beach Haven Crest have been a testament to rebuilding. When Superstorm Sandy crashed the doors in 2012, the damage was total, but the inside was rebuilt.

“I’m a little shy of 6 feet tall, and the water was up to my eyeballs,” Rulli recalled. “There wasn’t a spoon left; it was a total loss. When we emptied it, we emptied it.”

Still, the majority of days the lot was dry. “We didn’t leave because of the flooding; we certainly didn’t leave because of lack of business,” Rulli said. “It was just at the point where there was an offer there that might not be there somewhere down the road.”

It’s fitting that the township will be using the lot for flood control purposes. Plus, it is only a block away from the public works yard. Long Beach Township Mayor Joseph Mancini said the lot will become the site of a small – likely 8 by 10 feet  – pump station to help combat flooding in the area.

“We plan to put three pumps in, and this will be Pump 1. It'll be kind of a pilot,” he stated. “We have to start addressing the flooding on the roadways and try to pump the water from the roads back into the bay.”

As Mancini added, the township will “put some lipstick” on the lot as well, he is imagining with a grassy stretch and benches.

The municipality also plans to raise the surrounding roadways to an extent that will help alleviate the propensity for severe flooding in that section of the township, the mayor said.

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Wanting to quell “a couple of rumors going around” about the sale, Rulli told The SandPaper that it was “strictly a business decision” among the three busy locations and ... “it got to the point where we had to get down to two restaurants for a bunch of reasons.”

Rulli said that to keep the Beach Haven Crest building for the future would have meant the unwieldy and impractical task of raising it about 10 feet. “We did some research, and the logistics of it just didn’t work.

“It’s an old masonry building and we probably weren’t going to get too many more years out of it without major renovation or teardown, and to raise it 10 feet we’d probably have to put in 11 or 12 steps. Putting a building up that high isn’t conducive to people picking up takeout food, and that was probably the bulk of our business there,” Rulli said.

The building could not remain at ground level forever due to flood elevation requirements. “Since Sandy, flood insurance rates are going through the roof and there is no end in sight to it,” Rulli said of cases like his especially. “I was put into a category that they call ‘repetitive loss.’”

For the positive news, Joeys’ Pizza and Pasta is still very much on the culinary map.

The Ship Bottom location at 2201 Long Beach Blvd. will start this season on April 18 with what Rulli calls “a tremendous kitchen renovation to ready ourselves for what we expect will be an influx of business with the other store closing down.” Son and heir Joey, 27, will manage the location that has been there since 2008. More seats will be added later.

The Manahawkin site, spun off in 1994 at 1340 Route 72 West, will involve daughter Gabriella as partner in an adjoining coffee house/ice cream shop next door.

Asked about the secret to his pizza all these years, Rulli fired back, “it’s a secret,” then laughed and said, “We just stay with what works; we don’t try and reinvent the wheel.”

He added, “The secret to the business is this: pizza – some is better than others, but the bottom line is treat your customers like family. You get to know them, you talk to them.”

Once again thanking everyone for their kind words and for their business at the original location, Rulli concluded that the family is looking forward to the comfort that “at night when it’s pouring, we don’t have to worry.”

“We’re not going anywhere; we’re 58 blocks away in Ship Bottom.”

— Maria Scandale

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