Joseph Felix Graziano worked at his uncle Tony Graziano's restaurant as a teenager and in his gym where he sparred and helped out wherever he could. His uncle taught him to cook at one place and to fight and train boxers at the other.
After high school he entered the Army, where he worked for the Army Intelligence Agency in Europe and Africa. In Germany he joined a military boxing club and found himself game but generally out matched in what would prove to be an end to his career as a fighter. His love for the sport would always remain.
When he returned to Utica he worked a few jobs but longed to explore is second passion, cooking. He found a small bar and kitchen for sale in Lisbon. Graziano's Casa Mia Restaurant was born. The first few years it was open as Joe's Place, as it had come to be known. It was a rough joint. It was filled mostly with rowdy mill workers looking for a fight. He slowly transformed this rough and tumble saloon into a quaint family restaurant. That was a completed task he was extremely proud of.
Ask most first-timers visiting Joe's what they initially noticed about the eatery was its decor. Joe decided that if he were not to be a fighter he would show his love for the sport by filling the walls with antique photographs of boxers and other pugilistic memorabilia. By the mid seventies Joe's restaurant had truly become "Joe's Home". An extension of the man himself, in this building he would be your host, he would cook for you and he would talk boxing with you, but most of all, he would be your friend.
By 1983 he had purchased several more adjoining buildings and properties just to keep up with the growth. Through it all he continued to collect boxing memorabilia and turn his business into a sort of museum. Customers and well wishers would donate pictures of their fathers and grandfathers in boxing trunks and gloves. Local fighters, old and young would bring in photographs. While his business was demanding, Joe still found time to visit the Lewiston gym, sponsor a team, umpire for little league baseball, play tennis, golf, hunt, fish and generally support athletics in his surrounding communities.
During the 1990's Joe spent time on the state's Boxing Commission eventually becoming the Athletic Commissioner for the State of Maine. He was proud of his work for the state and enjoyed being involved with boxing again after so long. The contacts that he made and people he met as a restaurateur had served him well during his tenure as Commish. He resigned his post in 1998 to devote more time to his restaurant and grandchildren.
Joe succumbed to colon cancer in July of 2000 leaving a strong legacy, a proud family and thousands of friends. His children had since grown and assumed day-to-day operations of Casa Mia Inc. vowing to keep the spirit of Joe Graziano alive through his restaurant which will stand as a testament to the man's skill, tenacity, kindheartedness, and of course, his love for the sport of boxing.
Maine Sports Hall of Fame
P.O. Box 2
Cumberland, ME 04021
Phone (207) 807-7666
The Maine Sports Hall of Fame was established in 1972 for the purpose of: 1) appointing and bestowing recognition awards and scholarships to outstanding Maine high school scholar-athletes; and, 2) to formally honor and memorialize Maine athletes and sports figures who have brought distinction and honor to the state of Maine.