JOSEPHINE’S COZY CORNER LOUNGE
Where: 2201 Pierce St.
When: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday
* * *
Like any good neighborhood spot, Josephine’s Cozy Corner Lounge has been around a while.
Owner Frank Rizzuto began helping out at the bar when he was 18. He’s now 49.
Josephine’s isn’t in a nightlife district. If you don’t live or work near the bar, chances are you’ve never seen it. The lounge is on the corner of 22nd and Pierce Streets in a mostly residential neighborhood.
Walk in the front door and you’ll enter a winding corridor and be greeted with a case full of trophies and medals, showcasing Rizzuto’s time with the Huskers as well as his achievements in wrestling, swimming and diving.
His uncle went to the 1948 Olympics and won a bronze medal. The case was built for him. But when Frank took over, Frank’s brother put all of Frank’s athletic memorabilia in it.
When you turn the corner, you’ll be greeted by a small, dimly lit, intimate room. It feels like walking into your uncle’s nicely decorated basement. On our visit, Christmas lights and garland were still up, even though it was late January. The walls are covered with silver wallpaper that glints in the dim light of the bar.
Tables for small groups are tucked in one corner, and a small bar with a mirror behind it is in the other. A pool table keeps some guests busy, while a new-school, TouchTunes jukebox plays tunes from the 1970s and ’80s.
The bar doesn’t do any signature drinks, save for the Sweet Tart, which Rizzuto said he created by accident one day. It tastes as billed: fruity, sweet and a little sour. You’ll have to fight him for the recipe, though — he doesn’t share it.
“I don’t want other people making it,” he said.
Rizzuto said he makes lots of martinis, and the bar is stocked with plenty of liqueurs. Craft beer fans may be disappointed, though; the bar had only two beers on tap when we were there: Coors and Boulevard.
If you bring a date (which I did), you can hide out in the corner and sip some drinks and have quiet conversation. It’s a good place to head before an event or even before heading home after a night out. At the end of our stay, Rizzuto gave us a hand-written receipt with five drinks on it, totaling $25.
Like any good dive bar, the space is filled with a random assortment of items, including a collection of dolls and doll heads hanging out sort of creepily by a pool table. Rizzuto said sometimes people will take them down and pose for pictures with them.
Though Frank has been in business for several decades, the space of the bar has been in the family much longer.
When Rizzuto’s grandparents, Josephine and Fred Scarpello, bought the spot in 1911, it was a house. The couple added on to it and opened a grocery store, called the Cozy Corner. The Scarpellos then tried a restaurant and an ice cream parlor in the space.
After Rizzuto’s grandfather’s death, the family transformed it into a bar and grill, called Scarpello’s Club 22. The basement, where Josephine’s Cozy Corner is today, was transformed into a dance hall called the Argento Room. The family later added a bar.
Rizzuto’s parents bought the building from Frank’s grandma, Josephine, and reopened the space in 1980 with its current name, Josephine’s Cozy Corner Lounge.
This longtime family business has a bit of a family feel. During our visit, Rizzuto chatted with customers who ate takeout at the bar in front of a large TV. The banter was comfortable and friendly but didn’t overwhelm the bar. The space wasn’t packed nor unfriendly, as many bars on the divier side can be.
It’s a dive bar you can take your grandma, your boss or a first date to comfortably, without the worries of a pricey tab or wild goings-on. Decidedly, Josephine’s delivers on what its name promises: a cozy spot to tuck into and imbibe.