MARENGO – The cooks at Joe’s Place in Marengo have to cut everything from roast beef and sausage to vegetables and cheese.
But for 20 years, owner Joe Miceli has vowed the one thing that has never been cut in his restaurant never will: corners.
After starting his restaurant at 22 years old, Miceli has grown his business to include an on-site butcher shop, banquet halls and off-site catering, but it his relentless commitment to consistency in using top-grade ingredients that’s his biggest point of pride.
Every potato must come from Idaho, mozzarella must be aged to certain specifications, and if he were to ever see a single smidge of margarine, he might shut the place down for a week. He only deals in Grade-A butter.
“That’s the way my relatives did it for years. I’m not going to change it to cheapen up the product,” Miceli said. “No matter the price.”
Consistency has been the key for Miceli as he prepares to celebrate 20 years of business in McHenry County. From the time he started peeling potatoes and washing dishes for his relatives’ restaurant in seventh grade, Miceli knew he was hooked.
He also knew the lessons he learned then of buying quality products and cooking with the best techniques – no matter how time-consuming or costly – would never change.
It became difficult to stick to those values for Miceli about four years ago when the economy was nosediving at the same time he was constructing a new three-story building at 19716 E. Grant Highway in Marengo.
“I can’t say that it hasn’t been challenging. When I was in the construction phase, that’s when the economy was really down,” he said. “Every day is still a challenge, but I think things are turning the corner.”
One main reason Miceli is seeing a return to booming business is because of his banquet hall additions. Miceli’s restaurant now has two banquet halls – a smaller option that seats about 75 people and a larger room that seats more than 200 and features a full bar, balcony view and hardwood dance floor.
He brought on local restaurant veteran and event coordinator Suzi Carmichael to help launch the new business venture and she said they are already seeing some success, especially in the form of class reunion bookings.
Miceli’s off-site catering business also has expanded each year, a main reason for constructing the new facility.
“Our business was busting at the seams,” he said. “Now we have heated and cooling trucks so we can do a lot more catering and delivery.”
After 20 years, Miceli said McHenry County and not just Marengo will always be home. From sponsoring reading programs and school pride programs throughout the area to catering school events, Miceli said he feels the whole county is his customer.
And he hopes it’s home for another 20 years.
“We’re that comfort casual family environment,” Miceli said. “People can just sit down and have a pizza or pitcher. It’s food people grew up with.”
Services: Dine in, carry out, butcher shop, banquet halls and catering
Where: 19716 E. Grant Highway in Marengo