Edit ModuleShow Tags

Plus One: Joe and Lisa Busalacchi

Talking with San Diego's interesting twosomes


Published:

Residence: Mission Hills
Together: 35 years
Their story: I was looking for the yellow shoes. I’ve seen Joe Busalacchi around Little Italy sporting banana-hued shoes that match his bright yellow Ferrari. But on a recent rainy-afternoon tour through the construction site of his family’s newest restaurant, A Modo Mio, his accessories are much more industrial: sweatshirt, blueprints rolled up under one arm, a pencil behind his ear. Then “the boss” — Joe’s wife of 30 years, Lisa — joins us, with all kinds of style: black boots, layered sweaters, a wrist full of bangles, a hot-pink BlackBerry that buzzes and twitches several times during our tour.

After 20-plus years in the restaurant business, Lisa recently launched a new career as a real estate agent. But it’s clear she still pulls the strings in the family’s eatery empire, which includes Zia’s Bistro, Po Pazzo and Café Zucchero, among others on India Street.
Joe and Lisa met 35 years ago as teenagers at an all-ages club in La Mesa, when Joe was playing wingman to a friend who wanted to dance with Lisa’s friend. After graduating high school (he from San Diego High School, she from Crawford), the couple married five years later in a multidenominational ceremony — Lisa is Jewish and grew up attending Tifereth Synagogue in San Carlos; Joe is Catholic. They started their first restaurant not long after, and the family flagship, Busalacchi’s on Fifth, became a fine-dining institution in San Diego, as anyone who ever celebrated an anniversary or special occasion knows well.

After 25 years, Bussalachi’s closed last year to make room for A Modo Mio (“my way” in Italia), being constructed from the ground up with a large outdoor patio, lots of greenery, strung lights and a pizza oven. Joe promises a seasonal menu, “the kind I’ve always wanted to have.” No strawberries in the winter, no ice cream (no freezers at all in the building), plus ­sauces and entrées that change weekly, even daily, depending on which produce and protein are most fresh. They plan to make their own pasta and bread. And Joey Jr. (the youngest of the couple’s three children) is running the show.

During the tour, Joey Jr. hovers in the background as Joe Sr. and Lisa (but mainly Joe) talk about life and food and their 35-year relationship.

“We fight a lot,” cracks Lisa with an irreverent eye roll.

“But she’s the boss. She’s the center of our family,” says Joe.

“I need a reporter around more often,” she replies. And the timelessly tense, loving, real, back-and-forth bickering of their three-decade marriage continues from there.

The Busalacchis have had their share of challenges, the most difficult being a family member's battle with breast cancer.
“Things happen in life,” says Joe, “and it just makes you realize how important it is to band together and stay together as a family, despite the little things and little fights that seem tough.”

The pair look forward to a fresh new year, passing along a new restaurant, concept and menu to their son and their hungry San Diego following. And diehard fans needn’t fret. The new menu will contain a few old favorites, too: the same garlic bread, pesto sauce and tiramisu as the original Busalacchi’s. And, we assume, the same yellow Ferrari parked out front.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

North Park Local Stars in Discovery Channel Reality Show

A new survival show challenges contestants to master the wild

Garden Giveaway!

Armstrong Garden Centers is handing out five $50 gift cards and offering fun, free workshops

4 San Diego Group Bike Rides to Check Out

Take your cycling to the next level by riding in a pack
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. San Diego's Best Restaurants 2016
    From barbecue to vegan options, there’s a bit of manna for everyone in this year’s list of the city’s best
  2. What's It Like to Be the CEO of the Smartest Company in the World?
    We went to Illumina’s headquarters to find out
  3. The 12 Most Important People in Design Right Now
    See what they’re up to and working on in San Diego
  4. 54 Summer Travel Ideas
    Get out of town!
  5. Making a MasterChef
    MasterChef winner Claudia Sandoval on the life-changing ups and downs
  6. Win 1,000 Cash Back on Your Solar Install and 500 Cash
    Brought to you by Sullivan Solar Power
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.

More Than 1,300 Prizes are Ready to be Given Away

What are you waiting for? Buy your raffle ticket now

Not Your Grandma's Orthotics

New year, new – shoe? Staying on your feet for long hours at a time just got a whole lot more comfortable with Wiivv’s BASE custom insoles
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

Win 1,000 Cash Back on Your Solar Install and 500 Cash

Brought to you by Sullivan Solar Power

Win 2 tickets to Kenny Chesney at Sleep Train Ampitheatre!

Brought to you by Corona Light and Kenny Chesney

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags