One night in mid-July, Giovanni Sanfratello felt touched by a lost-pet posting on a local-news Facebook page, so he put up a Facebook post of his own. He offered to tape lost-pet flyers to the pizza boxes at Angelo’s Pizza, his family-owned restaurant in Matawan, New Jersey, a town of about 8,800 residents.
Sanfratello RC’90, understood the anguish of having a pet go missing, and he thought the restaurant could lend a hand to its Central Jersey neighbors. “We’ve always been community oriented at Angelo’s,” he adds.
The next day, he logged back on and saw, to his astonishment, that his post had been viewed more than 50,000 times. “As I’m looking at it, the numbers were just going up,” says Sanfratello, who is also known as John. “They’re changing in front of my eyes.”
Since then, Sanfratello’s off-the-cuff suggestion has been featured on news outlets near and far, from Good Morning America to Yahoo News Australia. And business has ticked up at Angelo’s, which Sanfratello’s father bought in the early 1970s. More important, since the pets-on-pizza-boxes initiative began, it may have helped reunite a lost Pomeranian-Husky mix named Skye with its grateful owner.
Three or four other pets featured on flyers taped to Angelo’s boxes remain missing, but Sanfratello’s sister, Rosalia DiFede, has adopted the lost-pets-on-boxes idea at her two restaurants in Florida, as have cousins who own cupcake stores in New York.
Sanfratello, who was 3 years old when he and his parents emigrated from Sicily to the United States, helped out in the family business while growing up, doing everything from assembling boxes to making pizzas. After graduating from Rutgers, he worked in finance but in 1998 took over the pizza business from his ailing father. He’s not expecting any of his three children to follow him into the industry, however.
“It’s too many hours. It’s not an easy life.” he says.
As for why his flyers-on-boxes idea went viral, Sanfratello—whose family adores their own two cats, Max and Morris—can only speculate. “It’s a unifying, universal thing,” he says. “Everyone loves their pet. It’s not politics.”