Md. veteran helping servicemen with food truck

Posted at 7:11 PM, Sep 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-15 19:11:36-04

"Normally, our slices are thin crust New York style," Joey Vanoni explained to two customers, as he leaned out of the food truck window. 

When it comes to authentic pizza, Vanoni knows his stuff. 

"I've made one or two pizzas in my day," he said, smiling. 

He took his skills overseas and continued the pie making during six deployments throughout the Middle East and Southwest Asia. 

"When I was out in Afghanistan, they actually built me a small, coal fired brick oven and on Fridays I would bake my unit about 10 inch pies," he said. 

He mastered the pizza making techniques back in high school when he worked at a local pizzeria. He never imagined, after serving ten years in the Navy and returning home, that he would be back at it.

"Nothing was really panning out, and you can either sink or swim and I'm not one to sink," Vanoni said.

When his service ended, he had four jobs lined up. Facing the sequestration and government shutdown, Vanoni says his opportunities vanished. 

"I'm checking all the boxes that the military and society tells you that you need to check, right? Get your education, do your service, everything will pan out. And then it wasn't panning out," he explained. 

He attended veteran oriented career fairs, was studying to complete his Masters degree, and scrolled through online job searches every day. 

"Looking around and seeing some of my buddies in the same position, it was mind blowing." He said. 

It wasn't long before post-retirement plans of opening a pizzeria were now moved to the forefront. 

"That's why I call it a quantum leap, it's like a mental shift to say, 'Okay, I gotta move away from this and move toward something else,'" he said, of making the career move. 

Now, he puts on a different uniform, the uniform of Pizza di Joey, still proudly wearing an American flag patch on his sleeve. The company operates out of a food truck, and works to bring other service members on board. He opened shop about a year ago, and has since given four veterans a job. 

"I can make big pizzas, but you know, making big differences that takes a little bit longer," Vanoni said. 

According to a release, the unemployment rate for all veterans sits around 5 percent.