By Vicki Moses
In 2011, when a 16-year-old boy went with his dad to pick up pizzas for dinner at the original Formaggio’s Italian Restaurant in Lithia, little did he realize that this was the beginning of a dream and a career path for him.
As he reached out to carry the multiple large pizza boxes for his dad, a woman nearby overheard the boy say, “Let me take those for you, Dad,” as he simultaneously held open the door for him.
As he headed for the parking lot, the woman stopped him, told him that she was an owner of the restaurant and said, “You seem like a really nice, responsible kid. Would you like to learn how to make pizza?”
The boy said, “Sure.”
That was on a Friday evening, and on Sunday, Jordan Moses became employed at Formaggio’s and started learning the art of pizza making.
His parents weren’t totally surprised that he chose to work in the restaurant industry to earn some extra money. At the age of 8, one evening he donned a tuxedo he’d worn in a wedding, had his family sit down at the dinner table and handed them a hand-written menu that he had created for them—complete with different kinds of sandwiches, condiments and chips to choose from, and cookies for dessert. His restaurant’s name was ‘Subjay’ (sorry Subway). He wrote down his family’s orders on his notepad and off he went to make their dinner. The food was surprisingly good, and he even cleaned up afterwards.
A junior at Joe E. Newsome High School when he began his career with Formaggio’s, Moses quickly learned how to do restaurant prep work as well as make hand-tossed pizzas, and other Italian foods soon followed. He became such a good cook and dependable employee that when the owners of Formaggio’s decided to open an Express location in Lithia Crossing a year later in 2012, Moses moved to the new location, where he became a head pizza maker and cook, all while continuing with his high school studies, graduating from Newsome High School that same year and starting his undergraduate degree at the University of South Florida (USF) that fall.
The next few years would bring changes. Formaggio’s closed its original dine-in location, moved its Express location from Lithia Crossing to River Hills—where it is located today—and the owners who had given Moses the chance to learn a craft sold Formaggio’s Express. Still, Moses continued on with Formaggio’s and proved himself to the new owner, who encouraged him to pursue a certification in food management—which he did. Pizza making and cooking became more and more of a passion for Moses, so much so that he found himself taking on more hours to cook and spend time in the restaurant and less hours to finish his degree at USF. So, in 2017, after working for Formaggio’s for almost seven years, he made the decision to devote himself to school full time, graduating with a degree in political science in 2019.
Why political science? Always one who loved a good debate (much to his parents’ chagrin), Moses had planned on going to law school, but his heart wasn’t in it anymore—he had a passion for cooking, specifically pizza making and Italian food, and he couldn’t shake it. And then, COVID-19 changed everything—for everybody. He was at a loss on how to move forward and thought that maybe his best option was to take a corporate job. So, he began working remotely for USAA as a licensed insurance professional. But he longed to go back to his days as a pizza maker and a cook, and he dreamed of one day having his own pizzeria and becoming his own boss.
Some people may not believe in fate, but Moses is definitely a believer. Just as he was contemplating leaving the corporate world and trying to get a job as a pizza maker, he was contacted by the owner of Formaggio’s, who was interested in selling the pizzeria and was looking for a buyer, and he thought of Moses, his loyal former employee. For Jordan, it was like his dream had dropped out of the sky and into his lap. He had come full circle and there was nothing more that he wanted than to become the new owner of Formaggio’s and share his pizza making and cooking talent with the community he’d been a part of his entire life.
Elated, scared, nervous and excited all at the same time, Moses discussed the venture with his family. Did they believe he could do this? After all, he’s 28, and he’s never run a business of his own. He was a chief pizza maker and cook at Formaggio’s for years and customers complimented him on his food, but would they remember him, still love his food and remain patrons of Formaggio’s? His family didn’t doubt him for a second, and they didn’t have to think twice—they immediately offered their support. Anyone who knows Moses knows that he puts his heart and soul—his all—into everything he undertakes, especially his pizza.
Moses forged ahead with his dream, and on April 30, 2021, his dream came true when he became the new owner of Formaggio’s Pizzeria in Valrico. In 10 years, he went from a teenage boy who didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life to owning his own restaurant and doing what he loves: making hand-tossed pizzas, cooking Italian dishes and serving his community. Not too bad.
While he kept the menu pretty much the same with homemade sauces, homemade dough and fresh ingredients, Jordan has made a few changes by adding online ordering for customers’ convenience, which can be found on Formaggio’s new website at www.formaggios.com; putting in a new POS system to push through orders more quickly; and enhancing the menu with some new additions and tasty surprises.
Down to earth, a hometown boy born and raised in Brandon and a loyal Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lightning and Rays fan through and through—stop by Formaggio’s, located at 4356 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. in Valrico (across from River Hills) or call 689-1744, and say hello to the new owner, Moses. And try a homemade pizza while you’re at it.