Joe Campisi Lives On in the Virtual Realm, Promoting His Family's Pizza

One of Dallas' oldest restaurants has found a very modern way to promote its pizzas and pastas.

Campisi's recently contracted with Brad Williamson, who bills himself as The Virtual Biographer, to create an online identity for restaurant founder Joe Campisi, who died in 1990. To the surprise of some longtime customers, "Joe Campisi" began tweeting, e-mailing and Facebooking this week.

"It's real confusing," Campisi's grandson and current owner David Campisi concedes. "Like, Monday night, we had 20 people come down because they thought we were going to bring out a black book and tell stories."

But Campisi is confident the campaign will resonate with Dallasites, many of whom he fears have forgotten the legends associated with the 64-year-old local institution.

"It's such an emotional thing," Campisi says. "What I don't like is you get on Facebook, and you just send information. We're trying to create stories and teach lessons and interact the customers. Do you not think it's a neat idea?"

Williamson familiarized himself with Joe Campisi's voice by reading his testimony to the Warren Commission -- "as negative as that report was, it was a tool," David Campisi says -- and now bases his story installments on ideas Campisi sends him via voice mail. Campisi says he's monitoring the text to make sure the storyline is "PG", but suggests that's a boundary the campaign might cross.

"We're going to stretch limits just to get some controversial stories, build some buzz," he says.

Campisi claims he means no disrespect by allowing an Internet entrepreneur to put words like "I just submitted our offer for Lebron to come play for @Campisis. I's keep you posted on any developments as they occur" in his late grandfather's mouth.

"It's a tribute to my grandfather, him being in heaven and looking down," Campisi says. "I've had a few people say, 'Let him rest in peace' and I'm like, 'Man, have an open mind'."

Campisi says he plans to maintain the campaign, which marks an atypical foray into promotion for a restaurant that doesn't purchase print advertising. "Joe Campisi" will keep telling old stories, and will soon add games and giveaways to his repertoire.

"We're in the early stages of this," Campisi says. "We're going to have a lot of fun with it."

In case you're wondering what Joe Campisi had to do with the Warren Commission, we've attached a brief snippet of his testimony below.


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Hanna Raskin
Contact: Hanna Raskin