Gulf Shores' Nick DiMario, Fairhope's Pete Blohme among 7 Baldwin residents awarded in Alabama hospitality

By Allison Marlow and Melanie LeCroy
Posted 11/30/22

Seven Baldwin County residents were among those named as the top of their industry at the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association's annual awards.Winners of the group's 2022 Stars of the …

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Gulf Shores' Nick DiMario, Fairhope's Pete Blohme among 7 Baldwin residents awarded in Alabama hospitality


Seven Baldwin County residents were among those named as the top of their industry at the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association's annual awards.

Winners of the group's 2022 Stars of the Industry Awards were announced Monday, Nov. 14 in Auburn. The Stars of the Industry is the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association's (ARHA) annual awards dinner honoring the restaurant, lodging and tourism industry.

Topping the list was Nick Dimario, of Gulf Shores, who was named Restaurateur of the Year.

When asked what it meant to receive the Restaurateur of the Year award, Dimario said, "It is a collective effort of so many people that helped me achieve the 'we,' and the journey that got me there was not just me. It was all these people in the last 25 years that have done all the little things. It is a 'we' award."

Two weeks after receiving the award, the emotions are still running high.

"The emotion, even when I talk about it now, was pretty overwhelming, but it was a lifetime of doing work," Dimario said.

The award just pushes him more to help the next generation.

"It just said to me, OK, what do we do next to help all the other 'we'? I have to restart myself and make sure that I don't overlook just the smallest of people that are working for us," Dimario said. "Sometimes it is even making the tough calls and going, 'Put your hat on straight,' because we influence these things that are going to stay with these people, old and new that are going to be with them forever. I was lucky enough to have people influence me then and even now."

Winners are nominated by their peers and voted on by a committee and ARHA's board of directors. There were a record 140 nominations submitted this year.

The following were the winners from Baldwin County.

Restaurateur of the Year

Nick Dimario - PP Hospitality Group, Mobile
Dimario is the operating partner and co-owner of PP Hospitality Group. Along with "Panini" Pete Blohme, he owns and operates Ed's Seafood Shed, in Spanish Fort, Panini Pete's of Fairhope, Squid Ink, in Mobile, and Sunset Pointe, in Fairhope. In Gulf Shores DiMario owns and operates Peace, Love & Taco. Since his partnership with Blohme began in September of 2013, he has established a systems-based operational structure within all of the restaurants. He also recently established a strong relationship and internship program with the University of South Alabama and Auburn University offering fall or spring restaurant accounting/operational internships, which have led to actual jobs within the company. Dimario's goal is to inspire more people to work in the restaurant industry and to that end has been an active guest speaker for the hospitality department at the University of South Alabama. He is currently an active participant in setting up a culinary exchange program with the University of Ecuador and the University of South Alabama. Nick recently spoke at ARHA's Fall Educator Workshop.

Back of the House Restaurant Award

John King - Panini Pete's, Fairhope

John King was hired as a part-time slicer at Panini Pete's in 2010. When he was a teenager, King sustained a head injury in a car accident that caused him to go blind in one eye, limiting his ability to switch positions and see properly. His slicing duties allow him to commit constant attention and focus to the task at hand. King is also helping to prep the new concept Panini Pete's Pizza and Pasta.

Front of the House Hospitality Award

Brittany Roberston - Perdido Beach Resort, Orange Beach
Brittany joined Perdido Beach Resort in 2013 and quickly grew to love events management. With her attention to detail, commitment to deadlines and a positive attitude, she eventually took on the role as an event manager and was later promoted to senior event manager. She is responsible for some of the hotel's most complicated groups and functions.

Front of the House Restaurant Award

Jesse McKinney - Sunset Pointe, Fairhope
Jesse McKinney joined the staff at Sunset Pointe in 2017 as a server. After building his knowledge both on the job and with outside courses he was promoted to lead bartender/ mixologist. McKinney is the go-to contact for special events and catering at Sunset Pointe and competes in bartending and mixology contests throughout the state.

Restaurant Manager of the Year Award

Michael Goana - Perdido Beach Resort, Orange Beach
Michael Goana joined the staff 2019 as an outlet manager and since then has been involved in all aspects of the hotel's food and beverage outlet. Goana focuses heavily on negotiating better pricing from vendors to increase company revenue. One of his most significant accomplishments has been growing the wine program. He has increased the number of wines available by over 100 varieties and he has increased sales by 95% during that same period of time. He has also implemented wine training with all staff members in Voyagers to ensure the staff is knowledgeable and able to discuss with guests the perfect wine to accompany their meals.

Humanitarian Award

Pete Blohme - PP Hospitality Group, Mobile
He's known as Panini Pete, owner of several Gulf Coast restaurants, including Panini Pete's in Fairhope, but Pete Blohme is also a person who enjoys giving back and serving his community. He's a founding member of The Messlords, a non-profit organization of celebrity chefs dedicated to boosting morale of United States military service members through culinary training and of course, eating. The Messlords travel to military bases, aircraft carriers and submarines all over the world. He's also a co-founder of The PR Foundation, an organization focusing on helping military charities, special needs organizations and no-kill animal shelters. Blohme also helps those with special needs by offering them jobs that are tailored to their individual abilities. This year his Home Sweet Home project with the PR Foundation has raised close to $100,000 from the community and from his restaurants by donating a portion of sales to the construction of a home for a 15-year employee of Panini Pete's.

Spirit Award

Johnny Stewart - Panini Pete's, Fairhope
Johnny Stewart was born with a developmental disability and grew up in Fairhope very close to Panini Pete's. When the restaurant first opened, he would come by daily after school. The staff all got to know him, and he became part of their restaurant family. His father was a double amputee, and Vietnam War veteran who suffered severe mental challenges. His mother was also developmentally disabled. Stewart had to learn how to take care of himself and his parents until both passed away. After he graduated high school, Panini Pete's offered Stewart a job as a basket cleaner and busser. He then started making local deliveries to businesses and has worked for Panini Pete's since 2010. Part of his routine is to go to each local business and tell them what the specials are for the day. Recently Stewart took over organizing the restaurant's weekly food truck delivery. The PR Foundation is currently helping Stewart and his wife build a home in Fairhope.