Joey Filosa (1956-2021)
By September 16, 2021 0 364•
When we first sought out a standard obituary on Joey Filosa, it could not be found. Turns out, the longtime Georgetowner was far more worthy of something beyond your standard newspaper obit. After a battle with lung cancer, Filosa passed away earlier this summer.
We spoke with Chris Murray, owner of Govinda Gallery (and a fellow longtime Georgetowner) who called Filosa his best friend.
Murray first met Filosa in Georgetown at the now closed Peter’s Flower Land at the corner of Wisconsin Ave. and O Street NW. Filosa gave Murray’s son David his first job at 10 years old, filling up buckets of water for flowers. It was there Murray and Filosa became close. Filosa worked 15 years there.
Filosa spent over 40 years working in Georgetown, beginning at Peter’s Flower Land, followed by Enzio’s Italian restaurant just north of Georgetown and ending as manager at Martin’s Tavern for 16 years.
Filosa’s first job when he arrived in D.C., however, was at a shoe store on Wisconsin Ave. near Commander Salamander. The Italian Filosa had grown up in Queens, New York and found himself in Georgetown. Murray instantly felt connected to him, especially given Murray’s own Bronx roots.
“Joey was a real New Yorker, he talked with a real New York accent and reminded me of the kids I went to parochial school with in the Bronx,” Murray said. “I didn’t know many people who were real New Yorkers here — people like Joey who were really salt of the Earth, New York City guys.”
At Martin’s, Filosa knew Billy Martin before Martin was the head of the restaurant. While Billy bartended at Martin’s, Joey would hang out with him. “A lot of us would hang out with Billy and Joey at Martin’s Tavern,” Murray said. “Those were the glory days of Georgetown in the ‘80s and ‘90s, it was wonderful.”
While working as manager, Filosa often served luminaries such as Chip Reed of CBS, writer Maureen Dowd and the prime minister of Ireland. “They all knew Joey and loved Joey, he was the epitome of the American character,” Murray added.
Filosa was a great connector of people. When Enda Kenny, former prime minister of Ireland, would visit D.C. for St. Patrick’s Day (per tradition), he would stop by Martin’s Tavern. One year, Filosa called Murray to get down to the restaurant and bring the photo book he wrote and edited on Bruce Springsteen. Kenny was an avid Springsteen fan and when Murray presented him with the book, he invited Murray and his wife Carlotta to sit and have dinner with them. And the same thing happened the next year with a book on Bob Dylan.
“Joey would do that kind of thing,” Murray said. “He knew the prime minister would enjoy the book and of course he did. Joey made that all happen.”
Filosa was also an avid sports afficionado. He called himself a big Yankees fan, and so is Murray. The duo would go on a pilgrimage every year to New York to see the team. Filosa would also get season tickets to see the Georgetown Hoyas basketball team.
He loved to travel as well. Filosa visited Ireland where Murray married (and has a summer home). Using his floral expertise, Filosa did the flowers for Murray’s wedding, going into the natural habitat of Ireland to create beautiful arrangements with country flowers.
“We had a running joke that Joey was more Irish than Billy was!” Murray said, referring to the fact that the Irish Martin hadn’t visited the country, but the Italian Filosa had visited at least a half dozen times. Sadly, he had been planning on another visit to Ireland this summer but passed away before he had the chance.
Filosa also visited Cuba with Murray when Govinda Gallery did a series of cultural exchanges with the National Photo Gallery in Havana.
“He was really a presence here for his whole adult life,” Murray said. “He will be truly missed.”
Filosa is survived by one brother, Peter, who currently lives in New York City.