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‘Little Joe’s’ founder, restaurateur dies at 74

A local business owner and founding church member passed away June 12 at age 74.

Joseph Arico, born in 1935 in Italy, was the owner of Little Joe’s Pizza, the landmark restaurant in Dixie Lee Junction.

He also was a founding member of St. John Neumann Catholic Church.

Arico was born in Rome, Italy, Dec. 8, 1935. He immigrated to the U.S. with his mother, Virginia, in 1949. He lived in New York and Chicago before joining the U.S. Army.

He met Mabel Nevon Bishop in Baltimore, Md.; the two were married Dec. 21, 1957, and settled in Chicago. The two had four children — two daughters and two sons. Arico learned engineering drafting while in the army and pursued that career after his tour of duty.

But Arico always loved the restaurant business.

He opened Italia Pizzeria in Chicago with friends in the late 1950s. When Chicago was troubled with civic unrest in the 1960s, Arico and his family moved to Tennessee, settling first in Newport, where Arico operated the Holiday Inn restaurant.

He also continued his engineering career and joined Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon, then TVA. In 1973, the Aricos moved to Farragut.

“I think it reminded him of where he grew up in Rome — the mountains and the climate,” son, Rick, said.

Arico opened Dender’s Drive-In at Dixie Lee, but quickly changed the business to a Chicago-style pizzeria. The restaurant officially became Little Joe’s Pizza in 1974.

Arico’s obituary stated, “Joe used Little Joe’s as a platform to help young people, pointing many of them toward a career in engineering.” 

All four of Arico’s children earned civil engineering degrees from The University of Tennessee while working for the family business. Several other employees of Little Joe’s also worked their way through engineering school.

“He had a great work ethic,” Rick said.

Also important to Arico, Rick said, was patriotism. “He became a U.S. citizen in every way. He loved America and that was really important to him.”

Arico was preceded in death by his mother, Virginia, and son, Joseph Anthony Arico. He is survived by his wife, Mabel Bishop Arico; son, Richard Joseph Arico; daughters, Gina Marie Inklebarger and Laura Lynn Presley and their spouses Randy Inklebarger, Travis Presley and Andrea Brumante.

He also is survived by grandchildren (and spouses) Christ-opher and Bridget Guerin Inklebarger, Anthony Inklebar-ger, Aleena Arico, Jacob and Anna Presley; sister-in-laws (and spouses) Norma and Gerald McAlister, Della Ingrando, Ella Irvine, Meg Chaillow; brother-in-laws, George Bishop and Kenny Bishop and several nieces and nephews.

The funeral service was held at St. John Neumann at 9:30 a.m., Thursday, June 17, with Father G. Patrick Garrity officiating. Burial was at Edgewood Cemetery with full military honors, presented by Volunteer State Veterans Honor Guard. 

Memorial donations may be made to: St. John Neumann Catholic Church Building Fund, 645 St. John Court, Farragut, TN 37934.


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