Two things Michael Chiappetta knows: Greenwich and chili. He’s been living in Greenwich since he was born 102 years ago. And he’s been eating chili nearly as long.
“He likes it hot [spicy], real hot,” says Dom Delfino, Chiappetta’s go-to guy for chili since Chiappetta discovered Delfino’s Cos Cob eatery, Joey B’s on River Road, two years ago. “I used to drive to this place in Port Chester, ’cause they made it good there, but not as good as this,” Michael notes. (Yes, he still drives.)
The first time Michael stopped at Joey B’s, he was so impressed he called Delfino from home to say he’d be back. He usually eats there once a week, sometimes with his great-grandsons Skylar and Hunter. “Where’re the French fries?” he asks when his chili dog arrives. When they come, the dog is already half-gone: “I eat ’em in a couple of minutes, maybe less.”
Chiappetta is beloved among Joey B’s regulars. Another longtime customer, Nate Tesei, still has the title sheet for a Pontiac Catalina Chiappetta sold him in 1968, when Chiappetta was a top salesman at Greenwich Car Company on Railroad Avenue. He was seventy-five when he retired. “Always a hard-working guy,” Tesei recalls. “I remember when he used to come to my house after World War II to sell my father tires for his truck.”
Chiappetta’s love of hot food doesn’t stop at chili. He makes his own long peppers, enough to fill eight to ten Mason jars at a time. He eats them whole with a sandwich and a glass of wine. “That’s what kills the germs in my body,” Chiappetta says. “Spicy food. That’s why I’m 102.”
What does his doctor say? “I got him doing the same thing,” he replies. “He comes over and helps me make the peppers.”