Joseph’s Italian Bistro
A pairing of elegance and warmth tucked away in South Harbor.
STORY BY: REBECCA JONES
At Joseph’s Italian Bistro the menu matches the breathtaking views of the harbor. It is the baby of husband and wife team, Joe and Debra Borsuk.
While this is Joe and Deb’s first restaurant together, they in their own rights are no strangers to the restaurant biz. Joe has been working in restaurants since he was eleven, from washing dishes to being a busboy; waiter- bartender- kitchen manager- all of it. He started in his Aunt and Uncle’s Italian Restaurant A’Zarro’s in California, worked at The Krebs in Skaneateles, NY, The Bridge Tender in Wilmington before being invited to help develop the new restaurant, Fish Factory, in the then relatively new development on the mainland side of the Oak Island Bridge, South Harbor. Restaurants- “its all Joe’s ever known,” confides Deb. Her restaurant background came later after leaving a corporate career and Raleigh, with the opening of the Village Market and Deli in South Harbor. By this time in the early 2000’s the couple had joined talents and gone from dating to marriage and dreaming of an Italian restaurant, to creating one: Joseph’s Italian Bistro- opening September 18, 2003. They’ve been busy ever since with their family. Together they have five kids and five grandkids. They have been busy building Joseph’s Italian Bistro’s stellar reputation.
“Consistency” is key, emphasizes Deb, “ we get repeat customers that order the same thing every time. We strive to deliver that dish so that it’s as good as it was the first time.”
“The menu itself is the original menu since day one. We’ve added a few like the mussels and Mama Rosa’s meatballs. Joe’s Mom’s recipe taught to her by her mother”, says Deb, “and we run specials. We are creating something that is consistent, time and time again. Bringing people back. We never want people to bring their guests and feel as if a dish isn’t the same.”
Some of the dishes that Joseph’s is known for are the pan seared grouper in a lemon buerre blanc and the soft shell crab lasagna, or the Shrimp Scampi “Joseph’s Style” sautéed in fresh garlic, shallots and herbs with a light “sherry” wine sauce served over linguine. In addition to the popular Seafood dishes Joseph’s offers pastas, like the Linguine Ala Carbonara. It is a classic sauce that combines the flavors of smoked bacon, onions, Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper; as well as chicken, steaks, rack of lamb and veal, like the Veal Picatta; veal sautéed, served with a lemon caper sauce and a side of linguine marinara.
“Joe comes in everyday and prepares the sauces”, says Deb, emphasizing again the importance of consistency. “They are Joe’s recipes. They are the foundation for the meals. The marinara, the Alfredo, the clam sauce and veal stock for the bases [are all prepared the same way every time].”
Consistency also has been a theme with the staff at Joseph’s. Bobby Wright, Head Line Cook was actually with Deb at The Village Market and Deli. Sous Chef Ryan Johnson and Manager Chris Major have been with Joseph’s for years. “We couldn’t do it without them,” stresses Deb, “they are like family.” And it does feel like a family affair, “all of our kids have worked here at some point or another,” says Deb. Joe and Deb’s youngest son, Trey, is attending culinary school, and finds his way back to the Joseph’s kitchen when in town.
Deb relies heavily on the wait staff, as well. Many of them have worked at Joseph’s for years. “We want the servers to be able to know what goes well with what and to feel confidant in their recommendations,” says Deb, giving an example, “what would go better with a particular dish- a Cabernet or Chianti?”
And the wine list is extensive with Italian wines and Californian wines, “We try and carry small vineyard wines, wines that are not mass produced”, says Deb, “We do wine pairing dinners by reservations. We create a menu paired with wines.” The wine paring dinners include four courses; appetizer, salad, entree and dessert, paired with four different wines.
The restaurant is more spacious than its outside appearance. There are two private rooms that hold eight to twelve guests that can be held by reservations for larger parties or specialty events. These are the rooms where the wine pairings are hosted. The fully stocked bar has seating and high tables that look out over the harbor. The dining area boasts more views of the inter-coastal waterway. The outdoor area has recently been enclosed for comfortable outdoor seating year round with neutral colors and rustic warm wood, highlighted by soft sparkling lights. Joe and Deb have created in Joseph’s a consistent pairing that, like good food and good wine, is both cozy and elegant.