Who's Touching Your Food? The Guy in Charge
by Jennifer Mogensen
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 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.blog comments powered by Disqus
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