Giuseppe (Joe) DiFronzo, a native of the San Fernando Valley, grew up in the food business.
When he was 10 years old, he began working for his uncles who owned Italian delis and bakeries. His first job: growing basil for them and stocking shelves.
He moved to the Central Coast in 1985 to attend Cal Poly on a football scholarship.
“My first restaurant, which opened in the Landmark Hotel in Pismo Beach, was also my senior project at Poly,’’ he said. “I financed it by experiencing firsthand the “Deadliest Catch” — crab fishing in Alaska. What an adventure!”
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DiFronzo now employs more than 100 people at his two restaurants, including two of his three children who are highly involved. “That’s amore,’’ he said.
Q. What are your favorite paella ingredients?
A. Whole Mediterranean shrimp (heads on) and Santa Barbara-farmed Mediterranean mussels. Both have sweet flavor, indicative of the bounty of the Mediterranean Sea that people have eaten for millennia.
Q. What is your recipe for success?
A. Simply to try to always be the best at what I do, with passion. Never settle for a B+.
Q. What’s your favorite dish on your restaurant’s menu — and the story behind it?
A. Anything with seafood — the Linguine ai Frutti di Mare, or the local fresh fish of the day. They all remind me of my childhood and trips to Italy, where freshness and quality are everywhere and great food is always shared with family and friends.
Q. Who is the most interesting person you’ve shared a glass of wine with?
A. Steven Spielberg came into my pizzeria in Pismo one time. He bought a slice of pizza and a beer, and we talked about food and wine. Very nice guy, really down to earth.
Q. What is your favorite pairing?
A. Pizza Margherita with anchovies, and a Peroni beer.
Q. When you’re at home, what’s your favorite meal to cook?
A. I love to make simple pasta with fresh ingredients — sweet cherry tomatoes, basil and garlic fresh from my garden. My kids love my pasta carbonara with fresh eggs, laid that day by our chickens. It’s hard to beat food that’s local, simple, tasty and on point.