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About Chef

Joe cares about food like Michelangelo cared about painting. A painter himself, he has special appreciation for artists. Joe painted his whole life with his love of art and food, which has brought him earned media attention. Joe has a lifetime of experience in the restaurant industry. With SA ZA, he is presenting his patrons a menu which reflects his own humble beginnings featuring the peasant Italian food he grew up cooking and eating.

The newest SA ZA is located in the heart of the South in downtown Montgomery, Alabama. Talk to Joe for an hour, and you can’t help but see the great passion he has for the historic capitol city.

In fact, so fervent is his belief in Montgomery that Joe has moved the global corporate offices of SA ZA there. He is energized not just by what Montgomery is, but what it is becoming. His perception before moving was only a preconceived idea, but he believes after moving there, that it is a great city with huge potential.

The journey that ultimately led Joe to Montgomery is extraordinary. His choice of vocation began in his formative years. He experienced a sort of dual citizenship growing up, spending six months a year in New York, and six months in Italy. While abroad, he gained his first exposure to the restaurant business. He vividly recalls being nine years old and watching the chef for the Hotel Biaggi. The chef cleaned himself up, walked out the front door, and got into a brand new Ferrari. From that moment on he knew what he wanted to do.

As a young man, Joe quickly gained a reputation for his brilliant, innovative culinary creations. He began his career at his family’s hotel Biaggiâ in Bologna, Italy. It is here where Joe started washing pots and pans, until Chef Piero took notice of Joe trying to carve vegetables and saw the passion in him that would eventually help him grow into the accomplished Chef he is today. For 5 years Joe worked as apprentice under Chef Piero studying the art & science of food and cuisine.

Joe studied under acclaimed master Chef & Michelin Star recipient Jacque Maximan at the Hotel Negresco in Nice, France in 1979, and at the Hotel Les Palmiers in Saint-Raphael Beach for 2 years. He has also studied in Austria, Belgium and Japan, under Tokyo’s famous Chef Kumagai Kihachi.

In 1981 Joe joined Culinary Design Associates in Rome under the guidance of Bruno Taglia, Mario Penne and Aldo Del Bianco. His career soared while designing restaurants, menus and kitchens throughout Europe, the Middle East, China and Japan.

In 1991 Joe spent the summer in Florence, Italy where an event would change his life. While in a restaurant with a magical atmosphere overlooking Florence, he and other patrons watched 3 artists painting the skyline of the city. It was at this moment Joe decided to build a restaurant that would feature his passion of Food AND Art. In 1995 he opened the Wet Paint Caf in Toronto, Canada. It featured live artists who painted on the walls, floors, ceilings and furniture. It became the place to be seen and was voted one of the Top Ten Restaurants in Canada.

Joe has had more than 400 articles written about him and his restaurants in publications around the world. Other notable experiences include numerous appearances on television programs, cooking for numerous A-List celebrities as well as U.S. ambassadors to Japan, England, Belgium, Germany and Austria.

Joe was the Chef Spokesman for the Florida Department of Citrus from 1993 to 1998 where he educated countries throughout the world on the use of citrus in the cooking process for healthier cuisine. He also participated in the $40 million Food & Beverage expansion of Viejas Casino in Southern California.

It is here with Creative Culinary Design that he designed five new restaurants and the 25,000 square foot kitchen. Chef then stayed on staff for 2 years as the Corporate Chef and VP of Food and Beverage at the Viejas Casino.

In 2001, Joe founded and worked as CEO and Chairman of Food Innovations; a direct supplier of high end perishable food with over 5,000 exclusive items. These products are delivered from the boat, farm and ranch directly to chefs in America’s finest restaurants all within 24 hours of an order. He secured a five-year contract with the second largest food provider in America, US Foodservice. Chef Joe left in July 2006 to work full time on developing SA ZA.

Chef Joe DiMaggio, Jr. has been hailed as a visionary in developing restaurant themes, concepts and design. He has made his career in designing, opening and consulting restaurants around the globe. He is frequently called upon wanting new concepts in dining. His focus and work ethic translates into great culinary representations. He is known to expand his diner’s consciousness of what is healthy, flavorful cuisine.