VENICE — The opening in the past few days of family operated restaurant continues the legacy of a little boy who grew into a man, Joey D, and despite sickness — lived for life which brought love and caring to his family.

His memory symbolizes life and now can be shared with the people of Venice.

“We have been absolutely slammed with customers since opening a few days ago,” said Anthony Santangelo, a partner with Jay Hixon and Tom Santangelo.

They opened Joey D’s Chicago Style Eatery at 750 U.S. 41 Bypass North in the Professional Plaza adjoining Bird Bay Golf Course next to the Legacy Trail overpass.

A continuation of 23 years’ service by the original family owners and operators this restaurant is the largest of the five they operate in Sarasota and Manatee counties. They have hired 50 local people and plan to have 60 employees.

This is only the second Joey D’s to have a full liquor service.

Joey D’s menu, Santangelo said, is good for all guests with American, Italian and Chicago food. Its specialty is the pure cauliflower pizza which is gluten free. There is seating for 198 diners and there are 28 televisions.

With the new, vibrant red exterior, the owners have renovated the former Pavilion into a traditional Chicago style eatery and pizzeria. The interior is decorated throughout with Chicago memorabilia.

Entering the building diners are immediately impressed at the stunning interior, typical of the company’s other locations. Large televisions placed around the restaurant enthrall sporting enthusiasts as they enjoy the extensive menu selections. Meals are prepared and served the way they would be in Chicago.

Joey D’s serves Chicago-style cuisine from the pre-game warm-up varieties of fries, cheese breads and homemade chips, to the sea with the Bada Bang Shrimp or fried calamari. Green Fees includes a range of salads, antipasto and fresca caprese.

It also offers award winning specialty pizzas, Philly steaks, burgers, subs, pastas to the original Chicago style hot dog, deserts, draft and bottled beers, wines and beverages. It symbolizes their warm and vibrant eateries which diners have enjoyed since 1994.

The Joey D story began when Joseph was born in 1967 to the parents of Bob and Maria who came from Chicago and Naples, Italy. He had a rare genetic disease and his life expectancy was 12 years.

Outliving the skeptics, he passed in 2000 at 32, the oldest known case. Joey D will live on with all the support from the patrons.

The family restaurant continues the passionate work ethic of Joey D’s two brothers.

“We knew we wanted to open a location further south,” said Joey D’s owner Anthony Santangelo. “There are a lot of Midwesterners coming to Venice and we had tons of people asking when would we open there, including some who live in Venice and have been traveling up to our Sarasota location.”

Joey D’s is open from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call 941-786-1300.

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