But there was a problem.
“The kids want to retire. They don’t want to work no more,” John said. “Well, that’s okay. I didn’t want to deprive anyone.”
So, bowing to his children’s wishes at the generational North Pacific Beach family Italian pizzeria, the retail space at 711 Turquoise St. will now be leased out to a new restaurant. Pernicano’s will close for good Oct. 13.
“All I know about him is his name, Sergio, and that he owns a couple of restaurants downtown,” said John of his successor. “He will strip down Pernicano’s and build a Mexican breakfast place that may serve some Italian food.”
“How many people like me have been here 65 years, and the family with four kids for 50 years?” asked John of his family's legacy of restaurants, that once numbered 10.
A military veteran, John immigrated from Sicily to the States with his family in 1906. John and his brothers moved to San Diego from Detroit in 1946. John and his late brother George began working for a Hillcrest bar. “They needed food, so my brother figured, ‘We’ll put pizza in the place, just a little oven.’”
John and his 10 siblings all ended up working there. “Four guys making pizzas, can you imagine?” John asked. “Then each brother got their own location and opened up their own place.”
John said there was very little housing or other development in north PB/La Jolla post-World War II when he built Pernicano’s at 711 Turquoise St.
Back then, All Hallows Catholic Church held their religious services for a time in Pernicano’s while the Mt. Soledad church was under construction. “The altar was where the pizza counter is now,” said John.
What has been key to his success?
“Being positive,” answered John. “And this is the best pizza you’ll get anywhere,” he said of his homegrown family pizza recipe, which early on served four people and cost $1.25.
Of the reason for his longevity, John replied: “This is a family restaurant. Everybody’s kids in La Jolla and PB were raised here.”
A musician since a teen, John will truly miss playing piano/keyboards for the customers who graced his place.
“Everybody’s been raised with me,” he said. “They’ve had their birthday parties here. I played Santa Claus. It was a tradition because I loved these kids. Little kids would play the piano with me and sing. That’s what’s kept me here 65 years.”
A committed PB Kiwanian, John intends to continue his longtime community service work once retired. “You gotta be busy,” he counseled.
Pernicano daughters Marlene and Debra agreed their customers is what they’ll miss most.
“It’s like their second home,” said Debra.
“Everybody loves the background music, it’s old school,” noted Marlene.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Debra of Pernicano’s impending closing. “We’ve seen them (patrons) all grow up. But everything needs to be redone because it’s old, like us.”
What are the Pernicano “kids” going to do now?
“Enjoy life,” said Marlene.
“It’s just been a wonderful life,” concluded John Pernicano who quipped, “I’ve partied every night.”