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Who's Touching Your Food? The Guy in Charge

Dominic Paladino (photo by Jill Greenberg)

Meet Dominic Paladino, the man who makes Bada Bing a family affair

You can’t miss him. Amongst the glow of a dozen plasma screen televisions spilling out sports, the clinking of beer bottles, and the chatter of patrons, Dominic Paladino is omnipresent.

Paladino, or Bunz, as he is better known to his paisans, is the driving force behind the growing success of Bada Bing Bar and Grill (115 West Chippewa).

First quoted by James Caan in The Godfather and later made famous by the hit series The Sopranos, the phrase “bada bing” is as Italian as sauce on Sunday.

And Sunday sauce is exactly where Paladino started.

Born on Buffalo’s West Side to Dominic and Joanne Paladino, he credits the majority of his culinary know-how to those unsung heroes, home cooks. Both his father and his Gramma Minnie played a huge role in his basic beginnings as a budding chef, businessman, and restaurateur.

“I really absorbed a lot from my family,” he says.

Throughout his teenage years and early 20s, he found himself gainfully employed by some of Buffalo’s best pizzerias.

His first job at Just Pizza is where he crossed paths with Mark Campanella. At that time, Campanella was the general manager at the pizzeria. Campanella, he says, provided him with his most formal food training.

“I was in charge of grabbing the cheese and washing the dishes,” he jokes of his initial position at the pizzeria.

Within a few years he had taken on the role of a general manager and was overseeing multiple locations.

“Every job there was to do, I did,” says Paladino.

A Cherry on Top

Intoxicatingly Sweet

How to finish a meal with a sweet shot (or two) of alcohol

While there are many sweet and saucy ways to finish a meal—Irish coffee is one easy answer—they don’t necessarily have to come in a glass.

One of the most well known alcohol-infused desserts, and one of the easiest to locate in the local restaurant scene, is tiramisu. This classic Italian dessert has many variations, but all of the best ones seem to contain liquor.

Mascarpone, ladyfinger cookies, espresso, and cocoa are the generally accepted ingredients, but bakers can get creative when splashing in the spirits. The sponge-like cookies are soaked in espresso (or coffee) along with the booze of choice. The litany of liquors is nearly endless. Coffee-flavored liqueurs top the list but cognac, brandy, marsala, dark rum, whiskey, and amaretto have also found their way into this moist cake.

Adding some Guinness to the standard chocolate cake recipe is a sure way to guarantee the Irish baker a kiss; sneak some Bailey’s into the butter cream icing and the baker might really get lucky!

If home baking is beyond the realm of reality, David Simpson, owner of Dolci Bakery (205 Grant Street) is ready to provide his customers with a vast selection of sauced-up sweetness. Dolci offers, among other treats, a cassata cake doused with its fair share of rum. Simpson also gets creative with his signature gelati, the most recent of which contained a shot or two of bourbon.

Perhaps the best balance between dessert and liquor can be found in the Tom and Jerry. Drunk from a mug but completed with an egg batter that’s eaten with a spoon, this liquid food is close to perfect: equal parts of brandy and rum mixed with egg batter, sugar, and hot water to create the quintessential alcoholic dessert.

Generally this treat is only available when the snow falls. But for one day only, in honor of our Irish heritage, Kenny Moriarty, barkeep and owner of The Place (229 Lexington Avenue), will be serving up his $6 dessert on Saturday, March 12.

-jennifer mogensen

A graduate of Performing Arts high school, Paladino followed the initial path of his father and entered into vocational training that led him to work for the Buffalo Housing Authority. Although he toggled between restaurant jobs and the Housing Authority, his passion was most obviously people and food.

The sauce was in his blood.

In his mid-20s, tired of taking orders from others, he ventured into the kitchen on his own. Paladino took a leap of faith and leased the kitchen of the now defunct Mac City Bar on Hertel Avenue.

“I gave pub grub an Italian twist,” he says of his creations from that tiny little kitchen.

It was during this first solo venture that Paladino created his culinary piece de resistance: the sangwich.

Not a misspelling but his own creation, Paladino smiles when asked to describe his masterpiece. “It’s like a sub with a suit on,” he explains. “It always comes on garlic bread with grated cheese and tons of flavor.”

With just a year under his belt, the seemingly endless construction on Hertel Avenue caused him to move his business south. He rented a small storefront near the corner of Main and Minnesota. He aptly named his new enterprise The Sangwich Co.

He ran his specialty sandwich shop for nearly two years. He thoroughly enjoyed his job and his success, which he shared with family members who were always present in his kitchen and his business.

“I can call on my family for anything,” he says.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond his control, his sangwich empire was forced to close its doors.

Paladino felt discouraged but wasn’t about to give in.

Keeping with the mantra, “It’s not what you know but whom you know,” he found himself working as a bouncer for the D’Aloisio family at Bada Bing.

The first Bada Bing was a local college bar located on Forest Avenue. They catered to fraternity boys and severed keg after keg of draft beer. That Bada Bing of the past is a far cry from what Paladino has helped to develop today.

When the D’Aloisio family decided to make their move from Forest Avenue to Chippewa, Paladino was in tow.

More than that: He was the anchor.

There were many business models tossed about when it came to re-inventing the Bada Bing, and Paladino made sure his voice was heard. “I told them, ‘You know I am the best at what I do,’” he says of a conversation he had with his boss, Andy.

In July 2006, Bada Bing opened its doors as one of Buffalo’s biggest and best sports bars.

The job was a huge undertaking for both the D’Aloisio family and Paladino. He had to call in reinforcements.

Paladino has always been able to rely on his family, so when it came to staffing his kitchen with the best sangwich makers in town, he turned to his cousin, Roseanne Francoforte. They had shared kitchen space before at The Sangwich Co.

In addition to relying on Francoforte, he hired Doug Lukasiewicz and Mike Okonzak, who both had been chefs at Billy Ogdens. He wanted a strong kitchen staff, and that is exactly what he assembled.

His menus feature the usual sports bar food and pay homage to his famous sangwich, which comes with names that sound like characters from Goodfellas: The Antonio, The Don, and The Billy C will certainly satisfy.

It’s not just about the sangwich, though. The Bing adds a big dose of Italian fare by pouring on the gravy—red sauce, for the non-Italian readers.

The Bada Bing has a second menu geared toward the Italian in everyone. From pasta and meatballs to chicken Parmesan, many of these recipes certainly found their footing in the kitchen of Gramma Minnie.

“The Bada Bing is now a restaurant bar, not a bar restaurant,” Paladino says.

He takes pride in what he has helped to create. He is also more than happy to honor all meal requests and cook for you personally.

“Just ask for me,” he says. “If I’m not already at your table talking to you!”

With a wide demographic that welcomes sports fanatics and families alike, he greets all of his guests with a smile.

“We treat all of our customers like family and we know most of them by name,” he says.

Paladino has found his niche: When Bunz is around, everyone is family.

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