Joseph A. Ansara, who was a co-owner of the former Joey's Supper Club on North Detroit Avenue - first with a cousin and later with a brother - died Wednesday in a Mesa, Ariz., hospital. He was 68.
The family did not know the cause of death.
He was a co-owner of an Italian restaurant in Mesa, with his son, Joseph, and son-in-law, Alex Dergal. Mr. Ansara collapsed Wednesday after making a delivery at a local business, nephew Kameel Ansara said.
Mr. Ansara in the late 1960s became business partners with his cousin, Alma Cicerella, in her restaurant, Joey's Supper Club. The restaurant was named for her grandson.
Mr. Ansara greeted customers. His brother, Maurice, became chef and prepared the restaurant's signature steaks and its slow-roasted, grease-free duck.
“The thing both of them liked the most was satisfying the people who were there,” said nephew Kameel, who owned the former Board Room restaurant in downtown Toledo.
Both men learned about hospitality and food preparation from their elder brother, Michel, who was executive chef at Haddad's Bungalow Restaurant.
Joseph and Maurice left the supper club in 1976 to buy a restaurant in Phoenix. They returned in 1981 to buy Joey's from their cousin. Joseph continued as before, making patrons comfortable and teasingly asking them whether his brother's food was all right. “Joe would always say, `I eat it,'” nephew Kameel recalled.
Mr. Ansara and his wife, Sylvia, moved to Arizona in 1989 because of his arthritis. Maurice and his wife, Malake, continued to operate Joey's until February, 1996.
Mr. Ansara in Arizona owned a parcel shipping business for several years, his nephew said. The restaurant venture began about five years ago. He greeted customers, helped train staff, and tweaked the menu, his nephew said.
“They're really setting the world on fire out here,” his nephew said.
Born in Aitha, Lebanon, Mr. Ansara moved to Lowell, Mass., in 1956. He was an Army veteran. His brother Michel, who also had moved to the United States, was on his way to California when he stopped in Toledo to visit his grandmother. Michel stayed, and other family members, including Joseph and Maurice, settled in Toledo too.
Surviving are his wife of 32 years, Sylvia; daughters, Wendy Dergal and Yasmeen Ansara; son, Joseph; brothers, John and Maurice Ansara; sisters, Mariam Cassis and Yvette Ansara, and two grandchildren.
Services will be at 10 a.m. today in St. Ignatius Orthodox Mission in Mesa. Arrangements are by the Mesa Heritage Mortuary.
The family requests tributes to St. Ignatius.