Shift Drinks: Jo-Anne “JoJo” Tantimonico, The Smokehouse

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With Memorial Day Weekend here and a string of nice weather forecasted for the next few days, it finally feels like summer has made its way to Newport.  After a long winter and a grey, overcast spring season, the Vitamin D will be welcomed with open arms. A few of my favorite things once the weather warms up are beach days, harbor cruises, scooter rides and visiting JoJo Tantimonico at Smokehouse.  A local legend and one of the warmest, most genuine people I know, JoJo is a staple each summer behind the pine at the downtown favorite barbeque joint.

Jo-Anne “JoJo” Tantimonico was born and raised here in Newport.  Each Summer, JoJo and her husband of 23 years, Greg Tantimonico, come back to Newport for the season after spending their fall season in Maine on the St. Croix River and winter season in Jupiter, Florida.  Talk about living the life! This past year, they purchased an RV which will allow them to take their home with them wherever they may go! JoJo has a stepson, Andy and a daughter, Lilli, who worked previous summers at The Lobster Bar and is now starting her career after graduating from Bryant last year.

JoJo started working in hospitality when she was hired as a bus girl at The Mooring in 1985.  Thirty-three years later, she still works more on than off for The Newport Harbor Corporation and hopes to do so for years to come!

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of spending time with JoJo, you know how special of a person she is.  Always warm, welcoming and smiling, she’s someone I admire for her genuine love of life and the desire to experience all that it has to offer! If you’re ever having a bad day, go visit her and I guarantee that’ll change.  If you’re having a good day, go visit her to make it even better. Yesterday, a group of us finished up a round of golf at Jamestown and unanimously said, let’s go see JoJo at Smokehouse; After seeing our scorecards, we knew we could use a pick-me-up!  Next time you’re downtown, be sure to stop by and say hello to Newport’s favorite daughter, Jo-Anne Tantimonico!

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Current Occupation? Bartender at The Smokehouse.

What do you want to be when you grow up? I’m doing it! My husband, Greg and I live on our boat in Newport for the summer, travel to Maine for the fall and Florida for the winter, it’s a pretty amazing life!

The best thing you ever drank? Frozen mudslide on my boat on the way to the Folk Fest

The worst thing you ever drank? Anything with gin

What are you most looking forward to this year? Living on our new/old boat full time this summer

Proudest accomplishment in life? Definitely my family, we really like being around each other!

Favorite superhero? Wonder women

You’re offered a shot, what are you shooting? Tequila

Most embarrassing moment? Not really sure but I’d bet a tumble was involved

Place you’d like to visit the most? Italy

Netflix recommendation? Grace and Frankie

Favorite ice cream flavor? Cookie dough

Favorite bar in town? Surf Club

Favorite bar out of town? The square grouper in Jupiter, Florida

Last book you’ve read or recommend? The Alchemist

If you could be on any game show, what would it be? Price Is Right

Favorite movie? Shawshank Redemption

If you had to listen to one album on loop for the rest of your life, what would it be? This is so hard for me. I love so many different types of music. I’ll go with Harvest by Neil Young

What’s a hobby you’ve had or currently have? Playing tennis

Ideal Newport meal? I’d start off with oysters at Midtown followed up with an uptown salad from The Mooring and finish things off with a snowball in hell at the Cooke House.  I’d wash all that back with a senor sage cocktail from Smokehouse!

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not working? Beaching, boating, and tennis!

Best meal you’ve ever had? My husband Greg’s traditional clambake. It’s incredible watching the process from picking the seaweed, heating the rocks in the fire, to the unveiling of the food…nothing beats it!

If you didn’t live in Rhode Island, where would you be? Maine and Florida

Preferred hangover regime? Get up and move, laying around just prolongs the agony

Biggest pet-peeve while working? Changing kegs

If you had to drink only one alcoholic beverage for the rest of your life what would it be? Rose

Last meal? Chopped salad and fried chicken from Smokehouse

Favorite place on Aquidneck Island? Newport Harbor

If you could change one thing about Newport, what would it be? Parking.

Weirdest request you’ve ever been asked while working? To watch someone’s child while they went to put more money in a parking meter!

If you had one superpower what would it be? The ability to fly

What’s your spirit animal? Bear

If you could have dinner with 3 people, dead or alive, who would they be? My grandmother Mem, my mother and my daughter. I’d love for them to meet and see how great Lilli and I are doing!

Two words that describe you? Loyal and honest

What do you know now that you wish you’d known ten years ago? Slow down and stop worrying

If you rented a billboard for a day, what would be on it? It’s nice to be nice! 🙂

Shift Drinks is a new weekly column on WhatsUpNewp that hopes to highlight local hospitality professionals around town.  With so many unique, talented and passionate individuals working in the service industry, this series aims to introduce some new faces, feature some familiar ones and give you an insight into their lives outside the workplace. To see more in this series, visit http://whatsupnewp.com/category/shift-drinks/.


Tyler Bernadyn
Tyler Bernadyn at Midtown Oyster Bar

Tyler Bernadyn is a local hospitality professional, bartending at Midtown Oyster Bar Wednesday through Sunday nights on the Burgee Bar and at Caleb&Broad on Monday nights for their award-winning $10 entree dinner special.

Tyler is a graduate of Providence College and a true Rhode Islander, born and bred.

Email him at TylerBernadyn@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram at @tylerbernadyn.

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