Origin of the Name
The name of Artichoke Joe’s dates back to a wisecrack made by the founder in the 1920s, when San Bruno was still largely rural and was ringed by fields of artichokes and other crops. Joe was known to accept almost any wager, no matter how large. One day he was taking lots of bets on a particular horse. When someone asked him how he would pay off if he lost, Joe looked out the window at the farm fields and said, “In artichoke leaves.” He instantly became “Artichoke Joe” and was so known for the rest of his career in the Bay Area. In 1950 he retired and returned to Malta.
After the Second World War, Joe’s son, Joseph Sammut, Jr.—inevitably nicknamed “Artichoke Joe II”—took over the business, which evolved into a gaming establishment featuring draw and low-ball poker (legal games in California then and now) and offering bar, nightclub, and restaurant facilities in a Western-themed environment. In the 1950s the place became a legal California cardroom, which it remains to this day, and was renamed as Artichoke Joe’s. Third Generation: The business has remained in the family’s hands and has been run since 1975 by Dennis Sammut, son of “Joe II” and grandson of the original Giuseppe Sammut.