John Zozzaro’s journey from a Glen Cove native to a City Council member unfolded through the 51-year-old’s tapestry of community involvement, entrepreneurial spirit, and a deep connection to his Italian roots.
Zozzaro, a first-term council member, remained cautious on election night about his lead, saying until the Nassau County Board of Elections deemed the election official he would not be celebrating.
“I don’t want to be a politician. I want to do the right thing for people,” he said on Nov. 7. “It’s not a Democratic or Republican thing.”
He ended up receiving roughly 8 percent of the votes cinching the council seat.
Born and raised in Glen Cove, his story mirrors the classic American dream, enriched by the immigrant experience of his parents.
Zozzaro’s life unfolded against the backdrop of Glen Cove’s urban panorama. He ran the Downtown Cafe until 2022 while also managing Pizza Company 7, a food truck business with a Neapolitan wood-burning Pavesi pizza oven.
Last year, Zozzaro took part in “Tailgate Takedown,” an hour-long collaboration between the NFL and Food Network. The national spotlight showcased him and colleague Angelo Competiello from New Jersey, both of whom are avid food and sports enthusiasts.
Zozzaro and Competiello were selected as the episode’s winners by a rotating panel of Food Network judges after which they were rushed to the 50-yard line and received their own Yum-Bardi Trophy and grand prize of $300.
Zozzaro’s involvement with the Glen Cove Business Improvement District, a testament to his commitment, started during his restaurant days. He transitioned into the role of a City Council member, ready to contribute more to his beloved city.
His decision to run for City Council stemmed from an intimate understanding of Glen Cove and its ambition to improve foot-traffic downtown.
“I love when the downtown BID does their concert series. It shows Glen Cove is a vibrant community,” Zozzaro said. “It reminds me of when I was growing up in the 80s here and there was all this foot-traffic because not everyone’s going to Roosevelt Field Mall.”
Having been part of the Glen Cove Business Improvement District for several years, he observed the intricacies of the downtown area. It was after selling his restaurant, that he found himself with more time, making City Council involvement feasible.
His commitment to listening to the community, and improving the city one step at a time guided his political journey.
“My whole thing from the beginning is basically common sense. Implementing things and listening to what people want.” Zozzaro said. “Implementing simple things like more parking that would go a long way to help downtown businesses.”
After pursuing accounting at the New York Institute of Technology, he realized that a desk job wasn’t his calling. He began to explore various jobs, including working in pizzerias, before venturing into the restaurant business on his own.
Zozzaro’s deep connection to the community became evident through annual events like the St. Baldrick’s fundraiser, where participants have their head shaved to raise funds for children’s cancer research. His involvement with the Nicholas Perdone Foundation, which provides gift packages, entertainment and financial support for children with cancer, showcased his commitment to making a positive impact on his community as well as his involvement with the BID.
Zozzaro’s ties to Glen Cove go beyond politics and business; they are deeply rooted in family and tradition. Although his parents immigrated to Glen Cove from Sossano, Italy in the same year, they hadn’t met until they settled in Glen Cove. His father worked in local factories for over 30 years, while his mother, after raising her children, became a secretary at St. Rocco’s. Their love story, intertwined with Glen Cove, became a foundation for Zozzaro’s connection to the community.
As a board member of Sons of Italy and a volunteer at St. Rocco’s feasts, he continues to celebrate and preserve Italian traditions. He is proud of the diverse yet unified nature of Glen Cove, he said, where different cultures coalesce into a unique community identity.