When getting to know the 2022 Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association’s Restaurateur of the Year, Nick DiMario, a few things are clear. He loves his family, his work and training up the …
When getting to know the 2022 Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association’s Restaurateur of the Year, Nick DiMario, a few things are clear. He loves his family, his work and training up the next generation of restaurant industry professionals.
DiMario and his wife, Amy, moved to Gulf Shores over 11 years ago with their daughters, Sofia, Gabby and Mia, for his job as director of operations for Bob Baumhower’s Aloha Hospitality. After nearly 23 years, he left the company to join “Panini” Pete Blohme as operating partner of the PP Hospitality Group. Together they opened Sunset Pointe in Fairhope. PP Hospitality has rapidly grown and now includes Panini Pete’s, Sunset Pointe and Fairhope Squeeze in Fairhope and Squid Ink and Mob Town Proper barbershop in Mobile. They also have several projects underway, including reopening Ed’s Seafood Shed in a new location in Spanish Fort, The Waterfront in Daphne and a food hall in the RSA Bank Trust Building in Mobile called Parc Le Tralour.
As a project separate from PP Hospitality, for which this statewide award was focused, DiMario also owns Peace, Love & Taco in Gulf Shores, a casual joint across from Rouses he opened for his daughters.
Just listing the many projects DiMario oversees is exhausting, but he loves his work. His passion and excitement are palpable. It is no surprise that his idea of fun is working, and he credits his wife for making it possible.
“The important part of business to me is having a great foundation and family. My wife has put up with me for 25 years, but she has always let me do what I do and supported me,” DiMario said. “Pete’s wife, Jodi, is the same. They let us do what we do, and that is probably the reason that I am where I am because they allowed me to paint.”
While DiMario works six and a half days a week and sometimes seven, Sundays are family days.
“We do a buffet and fill up the stove in the morning and usually for dinner. We typically are not alone with family. We usually pick up a minimum of one visitor,” he said.
DiMario’s favorite home meals include Conecuh or turkey bacon and lots of coffee for breakfast. For dinner, he likes grilling salmon, a burger, thigh meat and corn or a five-bean chili with corn.
He may oversee the operation of several kitchens, but at home he shares the cooking duties with Amy. He laughed when he admitted they are both messy cooks. So messy, in fact, that neither wants to be the sous chef and do the cleanup.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
DiMario was born and raised in South Philadelphia. He came from humble beginnings and learned from his immediate and extended family as the son of a police officer and grandson of a master butcher.
“I have always had a strong work ethic. Even when people were smarter than me, I would outwork them and show up. First there and last to leave,” DiMario said. “I think what Baumhower saw in me was that I had an unbelievable work ethic.”
That work ethic took him from his first job in a Philadelphia restaurant at 14 years old to the football field to being vice president of operations at Aloha Hospitality, running a $40 million company. The same work ethic gave him the hustle to walk away to join Blohme and create something of his own.
Where he comes from and the people who have given him the knowledge sticks with him. He credits Baumhower for teaching him the foundation and credits Blohme for showing him he is a superstar.
“As my partner, Pete has taught me I am a superstar and with the assets I have he allowed me to paint my own pictures,” DiMario said.
The pictures he has painted over the years in his partnership with Blohme range from growing their brand and systems, establishing internship programs and relationships with several high school and college culinary programs and thinking outside the box in the kitchen.
DiMario and Blohme are certainly seeing their share of success in terms of getting noticed. Seven Baldwin County residents were named as the top of their industry at the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association’s annual awards, including Blohme, who was given a humanitarian award, and two employees from Panini Pete’s.
Training up the next generation and seeing them succeed is something DiMario is passionate about.
“Everywhere I drive now I see opportunities, and when I see opportunities I see money, and when I see money, I see people that I can help and pull with me because I am not going to do it alone,” DiMario said. “I have gotten to a point where I have done the right things to move forward with my life and taking care of my family. It is my duty now to put hooks in people and reach back and pull them forward.”
DiMario visits different properties each day and takes time to speak with at least three team members about their personal, professional and financial goals. On the day of this interview, he was speaking with a team member worried about their credit score. DiMario said he told the person to put a plan in place and take certain steps, and then he checks in periodically to see if they are progressing toward their goal.
“A mentor is not there to give you rainbows and unicorns. They are there to push you and tell you when you are not working out or your car is dirty,” DiMario said.
At 55 years old, DiMario shows no signs of slowing down. Rather, he is accelerating and continuing to learn. He said he is at a point where he is looking for mentors who have done what he has not, and he is spending time listening to a lot of audiobooks by those who inspire him.
“I am crazy, but I want to use my minutes wisely every day. I put a notepad in my car and write my goals and make sure I am centered,” Dimario explained. “You can be inspired about what you are doing and have fun. I don’t know it all, and I am looking for a mentor.”
DiMario and Blohme have a lot of irons in the fire with three restaurants scheduled to open in 2023, but they are always thinking, dreaming and grinding.
“Success leaves footprints,” he said, “so I want to be able to do what people did for me.”