Pub Italia - Joe

Pub Italia - Joe

Pub Italia

Owner: Joe Cotroneo, Bar & Restaurant Owner
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
434 Preston Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 4N4

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born and raised on Preston St. in Little Italy. I went to St. Anthony’s school and church. Before opening the pub, I was an electrical contractor.

Tell us about your neighborhood. 

The neighbourhood has always been known as Little Italy. In the 50’s and 60’s there was a large residential Italian population. The city expropriated and divided the Italian community. The result was Preston St. becoming the commercial Italian strip.

Photography  @rothbauerphoto

Photography @rothbauerphoto

What role does Pub Italia play in the community and what drew you to it?

Pub Italia spent 22 years as a member of the Preston Street Business Association spearheading many projects like the archway, the mural projects, the bambinos at Gladstone, and our streetscape. I wanted to make a lasting contribution in preserving the colourful ambiance of Italy. Which in turn enriches the cultural life of Ottawa. 

Tell us about your background—how have your experiences shaped who you are today?

I was born into an Italian immigrant family who came to Canada from Italy in 1949. We were always told how important it was to work and contribute to society, and that the family unit was very important. 


What inspired Pub Italia's interior/ style? 

I was trying to identify an Italian pub to give it its own identity. My wife Rosemary, being of Irish background, and myself being of Italian background. Both cultures are big on religion so I started to renovate to give a religious look. Also started specializing in Belgian beers so it was a perfect fit as monasteries are still brewing their own beer. Pub Italia first opened it's doors August 18th, 1994.


Do you remember the first thing someone ordered on the menu?

We were one of the first to start selling thin crust pizzas, so I know it was a pizza.
What passion drove you to your business? - Working in the construction business, I knew I couldn’t keep working outside in 20 below zero weather. My idea of developing an Italian pub inspired me.

How has the business grown from day one until now?

The pub first started strictly on what is now the bar side and grew into what is now the abbey (which used to be a bakery), followed by a full patio across the front and into the courtyard. When I first started, one side I was roasting my own coffee, and the other side was the pub. The two ideas weren’t blending together very well so I changed it all over to the pub after about 2 years.


Have you tried every beer in the bible?

I’m really not a big beer drinker but I do sample all the beers that come in. I do love my Chartreuse.

What do you love most about living in Ottawa?Favourite place in the city? 

It’s a big enough city but you’re pretty much 20 minutes from anywhere you want to go. You’re close to great parks like Gatineau, the Ottawa river parkway, and Dows Lake my favourite place.

If you could serve your favourite beer to one celebrity, who would that be and what would you serve? :)

Frank Zappa (because everyone thinks I look like him) and I would serve him a Delirium. It’s a good strong beer and he would appreciate the good jolt.


How do you unwind at the end of the day?

I have a car and motorcycle hobby. I own 25 Italian cars and 75 Italian motorcycles. Hoping someday to open a museum. 

Victoire - Katie & Régine

Victoire - Katie & Régine