H.A. Hang: Jo Piazza

The coolest part of our business has always been our clients. We’re amazed by all they do: CEOs and business owners, world travelers, authors, inventors, healers, entrepreneurs, newscasters, artists, pro athletes, musicians, caretakers, and philanthropists.

We launched this series to share the stories of our clients and form connections within the H.A. community. Enjoy!


Home Appétit: You just published your twelfth book, "The Sicilian Inheritance." This one takes readers from Philly to Italy. Are you from here originally?
Jo Piazza: I’m from Bucks County originally and now live in Fitler Square. I lived in New York and San Francisco before that. My husband is from Milwaukee.

Was it hard to convince him to move to Philly?
We met on a travel assignment—we're both writers. We were on a tiny boat in the Galapagos and got engaged three months later. I thought I’d stay in New York forever, but as I got older and started settling down, Philly just made sense. Plus, it’s the greatest city on the planet. I love Center City. It’s so walkable and a great place to raise kids. A ton of my friends from college all moved to the same neighborhood and we have kids the same age. It’s awesome.

How did you start your writing career?
After graduate school, pretty much the only job I could get was as a gossip columnist assistant for the New York Daily News. I didn’t know anything about celebs or socialites. I had to make flash cards. It was really about power in the city, so I was covering everything from fundraising benefits to political conventions to red carpet movie premieres. This was before all the celebrity magazines.

Which celebrity era was this?
Paris Hilton.

Say no more. What was that job like?
I was working the phones all day and then at events every night—sometimes there were two or three events and I was getting changed into red carpet attire in the back of taxis. It was like living out this very Carrie Bradshaw life without the nice apartment or the clothing budget. But it taught me to be a great reporter and quick writer. It’s a muscle I built. I’m perfectly adequately talented, but I can write fast.

 What came next?
I moved into magazines and eventually worked for Yahoo. They were launching all of these digital magazines, including travel. I knew that it would probably implode, but they had so much money. They sent me to 32 countries in three years. I met my husband on one of those trips. The company fell apart right after that.

Your newest book involves the character traveling to Sicily. What do you love about traveling?
I love doing a deep dive into a place and inspiring other people. Sicily has my family’s roots and it’s just a place that I love. I wanted to write about this very beautiful and sometimes broken place. The reviewer from The New York Times wrote that—that she stopped in the middle of reading the book and started searching for flights. That was the best phrase for me to read. Sicily has main character energy but Philly does, too. In my head, there's a sequel which is much more set in South Philadelphia.

Food plays a big role in this book. Why?
I was writing this book during the pandemic when I wanted out of my house. I think all of us wanted to escape. I couldn't eat any of that delicious food, but I could write about it, and I could cook some of it. Finally, just before I had to turn the book in, I was able to take my whole family and we ate every single dish that was in the book. I had my laptop out and made all the food scenes even yummier.

You travel with your young kids a lot. What’s that like?
Travel is one of the best ways to expand your empathy and your knowledge. Even though they mostly will not remember it, my kids will have family memories. We make photo albums from everywhere we go and we go back and look at them a lot. The kids are starting to get a real appreciation for it and, you know, for the wonderful stories that happen when you're traveling around the world. And it’s hard sometimes. But being at home with them is hard sometimes, too.

How did you pivot from reporting to books?
It really started when I was at the Daily News. I wanted to do something totally different from what other gossip columnists were doing, so I wrote a book called “Celebrity Inc.: How Famous People Make Money.” It was the early days of social media—I had something about the first Tweet that a celeb ever got paid for, which was Charlie Sheen, by the way. I loved doing it, wrote some more nonfiction and tried my hand at fiction. I take my reporting into my fiction—I report the hell out of these fiction books, too. And when I started having kids it became so much easier just to make shit up.

I know selling books is as hard as writing books. What have you learned?
It's another job which does fall mostly on authors. We're our best advocates and we love our books more than anyone else does. But also, there’s just so much content out there. I’ve been hustling for this book for six months—making sure it’s in all the bookstores, reaching out to journalists, reaching out to influencers. I Zoom into a book club almost every night to talk to actual readers. I've been having one or two in-person book events every weekend. I hate social media, but it’s also where all the eyeballs are, so I have been building my following. I also have a podcast called “Under the Influence” which is about social media.

Not to be creepy, but where can we find you hanging in Philly?
Friday, Saturday, Sunday is my favorite restaurant, which is right around the corner from my house. We get there right at 5pm because I’m an early bird eater and because I like to be in bed by 8pm. We get a seat at the bar. They make the best cocktails. I also love Bok Bar and Irwin’s, which people say has the only true Sicilian food in Philly. We hang at Sister Cities Park a lot. You can throw a blanket down and order Vetri pizza and your kids can run around in the water. I like to shout from the rooftops how much I love Philly. I want to set all my books here from now on.

Well, I understand why you would love Sicily, then. It has similar qualities to Philly, right?
Yes. There's the food. But also the gritty people that act like bad asses but have hearts of gold.

Order "The Sicilian Inheritance" here, follow her (very entertaining) Instagram account here, listen to her podcast here, and learn more about her, here