By Sheryl Oswalt
Main Street, Vicksburg was deserted; just short of tumbleweeds rolling down the street on the night we dined at Jaspare’s Pizza. Had we not driven by the football stadium to see that Vicksburg was playing rival Plainwell, we would have wondered where everyone was. Orders trickled in while we ate but nothing compared to when the rain began to trickle down, the game was called off early and suddenly the place was hopping.
After perusing the menu we went with the recommended “Sweet Memphis” – a pizza with a BBQ sauce base, grilled chicken, ham, bacon, pineapple & mozzarella. I won’t lie – if you are looking for fast and cheap – there are other places in town for that. But if you are looking for a filling meal made with quality ingredients; all fried, chopped, sliced, or grated on site fresh daily then you need to look no further than Jaspare’s. My husband and I joked but agreed that we felt that the best way to describe our pizza was an explosion of flavor. I was also surprised to find our medium pizza so filling that we took half of it home; something we never do with “fast food” pizza. I might also add I was very disappointed to come home the next day, craving my left-over pizza only to find that my family had also found it irresistible; and it was all gone!
Not having the experience of growing up in Vicksburg, I wanted to know – why Jaspare? I’m told that the original site of the Italian eatery owned by Jaspare Matranga was at the corner of Prairie and Main. They outgrew that location (after all as legend has it – it was only 8’ x 50’) and purchased the current location in 1979. Matranga sold to his cousin, Gaspare Scavone in 1983. Todd Glenn, a Vicksburg native, worked for Gaspare in high school and stayed in contact throughout college; helping out when he could. He purchased the business in 2006 and today, Glenn and his wife, Manal, are owners of the Vicksburg location. To this day, Gaspare can be found consulting and working with Todd. There are a total of six locations; the other locations are operated by franchise owners. I’m told that while Mr. Scavone’s real name is Gaspare – he is commonly referred to as Jaspare; perhaps a mistake people made for so many years that it just stuck with him.
All employees of Jaspare’s are asked to sign a confidentiality agreement. This shows you the commitment to keeping the family secrets within the Jaspare family of restaurants. Some of their recipes originated in Italy. Everything is made on sight. Meats are all cooked and sliced or chopped for their salads, subs and pizzas. I have it on good authority that the subs are a great value for lunch and are fresh, flavorful and filling as well.
Like I’ve found with other locally owned food establishments in Vicksburg, Jaspare’s prides itself on giving back to the community. Everything from teacher appreciation dinners to Boy Scout events, Rocket football, softball, peal it cards for school fundraisers and the Library Summer Reading Program; you’ll find Jaspare’s on the list of donors and supporters.
Perhaps the most exciting news for Jaspare’s is the new addition they are working on that will expand their place into the former home of several businesses, including the Vicksburg Commercial-Express. Glenn hopes to keep intact many of the historic features of the building including the hardwood floors. Construction of the addition has already begun and will seat approximately 60 additional diners. For those looking to have an adult beverage with their pizza, he hopes to be clearing the hurdles that will allow him to serve beer and wine. For the young and old alike, he’s excited to say they will have the first Coca Cola Freestyle© machine in Vicksburg. For those that haven’t experienced that yet – you can mix over 100 beverages to make your own individual drink – the possibilities are endless. I am certainly looking forward to a return visit to see their new addition and a repeat on the pizza; hopefully with a cold adult beverage. I’ll guarantee you – if there are left-overs; they won’t be left unattended!