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Mr. Joe’s Cafe, the Termini family’s restaurant, will become a pastry shop called Nonna & Pop’s

The Terminis are going back to their original location across South Eighth Street for this shop, which will honor their father.

Mr. Joe's Cafe, as seen in 2018, is on the site of the original Termini Bros. bakery at 1514 S. Eighth St. in Philadelphia.
Mr. Joe's Cafe, as seen in 2018, is on the site of the original Termini Bros. bakery at 1514 S. Eighth St. in Philadelphia.Read moreMICHAEL KLEIN / Staff

“I will retire when I die,” baker Joseph Termini told an interviewer when he was 87.

And Mr. Joe, as everyone knew him, made good on that vow, working seven days a week on Eighth Street in South Philadelphia until he passed in 1994 at age 95 or 96, depending on whom you asked.

His son, Vincent Termini Sr., now in good health at 83, decided not to follow in his father’s footsteps. As the pandemic took hold in 2020, the patriarch backed away from his family’s storied South Philadelphia bakery, which was closed for most of the year.

By extension, Vince Termini also closed Mr. Joe’s Cafe, the homespun luncheonette he opened in 2006 as a passion project in Termini Bros.’ original location across the street.

Mr. Vince, who travels, gardens, and cooks in his retirement, is lending inspiration to Nonna & Pop’s, a pastry shop and cafe that his sons, Vincent Jr. and Joseph, plan to open in the Mr. Joe’s space in early 2022. The “Nonna” is matriarch Barbara Termini, who met her husband when she got a sales clerk job at the bakery.

Just as Mr. Joe’s was a tribute to Vincent Termini Sr.’s father, Nonna & Pop’s is Vinny and Joey’s tribute to their father. The typically modest Vince Sr. didn’t want “Vince” in the name, but agreed to his daughter Maria Termini-Romano’s suggestion of “Nonna & Pop’s.” Vince and Barbara Termini dote on their six grandchildren.

» READ MORE: Termini Bros.: A brief history

Nonna & Pop’s will have a homey atmosphere and a few tables, and will do its own baking, separate from the work done across the street, said Vinny Termini. It also will give visitors a place to enjoy pastries; the cafe menu’s specialties were the bold, savory dishes that Vince grew up cooking, such as tripe, braciole, gnocchi, and one of the city’s finest roast pork sandwiches. (Vince Sr. consulted on the opening menu at Giuseppe & Sons, a Michael Schulson-owned restaurant in Rittenhouse, during a brief partnership.)

Nonna & Pop’s will feature “lobster tails” and sfogliatelle — the cream-filled Italian pastries that ideally are baked, filled, and consumed on the same day — as well as pizzelles, pignoli and amaretti cookies, elephant ears, and filled-to-order cannoli, of course. The shop will sell La Colombe coffee and Bassetts ice cream; the brothers are working with Bassetts on a signature spumoni. “This is special to us because my grandfather and his brother served spumoni in this very location 100 years ago,” Vinny Termini said. “It was a true passion of theirs. What better way to celebrate them.”

Giuseppe Termini and his older brother, Gaetano, who emigrated from the Sicilian village of Enna, opened in that space in 1921, sleeping on the floor in the early years. In 1938, they moved to the much larger building across the street and sold the original building to Pete Barbaro, aka Pete the Barber, whose widow sold it back to the Terminis in the 1990s. The Terminis have a parking lot next door, a precious commodity in the brick rowhouse neighborhood.

“It’s admirable to say that his life was his business,” Vinny Termini said of his grandfather. “It’s also sad to say this.” Vinny said he and his brother don’t expect their father to work the counter at Nonna & Pop’s. “We’ll throw him the keys and say, ‘We got this. You can come and go as you please.’”