Mixologist Johnny Santiago of Jo's - Biography

New York, NY

January 2011

Brooklyn born and raised, Johnny Santiago has over 20 years of experience working in the hospitality industry. His love of the restaurant world began modestly, while he was working at Bennigan’s Restaurants in New Jersey while majoring in finance at Rutgers University. Santiago went on to refine his knowledge of both front- and back-of-house operations, working with several of the country’s top restaurateurs and restaurant groups, including Anthony Bourdain, Brian McNally, Josh Pickard, Ark Restaurant Corporation, and BR Guest Restaurants.

In 1997, Santiago decided to put everything he learned about hospitality into his own operation. He designed and then opened Torch on Ludlow Street with his friend and business partner, Jim Chu. This 1940s-style supper club was one of the Lower East Side’s fine-dining pioneers, and it quickly became one of the top restaurants in the then underdeveloped part of New York City. Torch would close a few years later due to a building fire, and Santiago moved to the West Coast for a change of scenery and to set-up a restaurant consulting business in Los Angeles.

What Santiago’s time in LA taught him was how much he missed New York, and when he spoke with Jim Chu about the possibility of opening a new restaurant back East, he immediately came home. Jo’s is a literal labor of love for Santiago. The name is inspired by his mother, Josephine, and he has designed nearly every aspect of the restaurant, from the white marble bar to the embossed wallpaper, lighting, and banquette seating. At Jo’s, Santiago is looking forward to offering guests an accessible, comfortable, classic, and engaging restaurant experience. He knows that there’s much more to a restaurant than just the food and hopes that between the service, music and overall vibe of the place, Jo’s will become a “neighborhood joint” for more than just the neighborhood.