In today's installment, we
depose discuss the significance of Johnny's birthday, the World Series and the movie Stand By Me. And we also learn that he is the ultimate multitasker. Read our interview with Johnny Younesi of Johnny's Real New York Pizza, Part One. And now, on to Part Two. . . .
How did you get into the restaurant business? As a lawyer I represented many clients in the business. When I would visit their establishments, I was always struck by the smiles and celebratory feeling in the restaurants. People were enjoying themselves. They were happy. As a lawyer, always surrounded by grimaces and stress, I yearned for that type of happy atmosphere. It was a no-brainer. I needed to open up a restaurant. So, your other profession is a lawyer? Yes, I always had some relatively strong oratory skills-- especially when I was trying to talk my way out of trouble. Going to law school seemed like a natural thing to do. After New York, I became a UCLA Bruin, then went on to law school and worked for some of the larger firms in the country. I had the honor of working with very high level lawyers and politicians including Caspar Weinberger, William Casey, William Clark, James Kindel and John Anderson.
I have been able to sharpen my life skills through my practice of law. I have met many good people, and have done my best to make it a rewarding practice. Practicing the law has opened a lot of doors for me.
Last song playing on your radio: Superman's Song by the Crash Test Dummies. It's powerful and happy.
When you're not working, what are you doing? My day job is a lawyer. I am usually in front of a judge and/or a jury-- little bit of stress. I workout, run, box, lift quite a bit and spend as much time as I can with my son, Sam, and daughter, Jacqueline. I enjoy traveling, and between business and personal, I am gone to far away places quite regularly.
Tell us about growing up in Queens. It was truly the best. The New York school system is based on the Regents System. Learning was advanced in New York. I read Dickens, Chaucer, Orwell, Bronte and Hemingway between fourth and sixth grades. I played tackle football in the mud and snow. I played stick ball every day, even in 30-degree weather.
I became very well-rounded as an adolescent. I made the best friends that one could ever make growing up in Queens. The movie Stand By Me took the essence of growing up from the Queens experience. The last line of the movie says something like, "You never have the friends later in life, than the ones you had when you were twelve." Those guys are still my best friends. There is no loyalty like New York loyalty.
When is your birthday? My birthday is August 25. It is on the cusp-- Leo and Virgo. I feel that I am driven by equity. I want to believe that life is fair. To the extent I can control it, I make it such. I also think that my birth date has pushed me hard to conclude that "excellence is in the details" and that "consistency is the hallmark of excellence." I teach both of these philosophies to the people I care about most. Striving towards both will make you a stronger, better and more productive person.
Last thing you looked up online: I was watching the Red Sox and Cardinals game #2 of the World Series on a Thursday night with my son, Sam, who is a high school baseball player-- a catcher. The subject of a"change-up," "breaking-ball," "off-speed" pitch came up. Broadcasters often use the terms interchangeably, but to a baseball purist like Sam, there are both significant and fine distinctions in the definitions. It was an interesting exercise. Forget about it when we got into the "circle change" realm, "splitters," "fork-balls". Quite an online journey. We also looked up what the tattoos meant on Yadier Molilna's neck.
What would you be doing if you weren't in either business? I believe I would be a commissioner, or other high-ranking official in a major professional sport, either baseball or basketball. I have been involved in professional sports as a lawyer/agent and team and league owner. I have often thought that what I have learned over the years in the business would all me to be effective in one of those positions. Coupled with my legal background, and some people skills, I think I would have given some people out there a run for their money.
What's your favorite childhood memory? Skipping school at P.S 144 and taking the subway with my buddies to Flushing to watch a Mets game at Shea Stadium. We would make a day out of it. We were only 11, but we felt and acted like grown-ups. Even looking back on it now, it seems surreal. I would never have allowed my son to do what I did-- travel on the New York subways at age 11. It was a different, simpler time. It was the best.
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Do you have any skills that we haven't discussed? I've produced a couple of movies over the years. While I had a few opportunities, I never played a role in any of the films. Some people tell me that I have good acting skills. I tell them, "I am not acting." You never know what the future holds.
Hardest lesson you've learned: I've learned that you need to live for the day and never expect that life is fair. You have to work relentlessly to deserve to ask a "higher being" to help you during your toughest times. If you've truly given something your all, then maybe your prayers will be considered.
Johnny's Real New York Pizza has two locations in Corona del Mar and Newport Beach. To learn more, visit www.johnnysrealnypizza.com.