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We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Nick Dimario, a key figure in the Panini Pete’s Hospitality Group, about his journey from football to the restaurant industry, and the valuable lessons he’s learned along the way. Join us as we delve into the world of Panini Pete’s group of restaurants and Nick’s inspiring story.

From Football to Food: Nick Dimario’s background is not what you’d expect for someone in the restaurant industry. He started as a walk-on football player at the University of Alabama, learning valuable skills like discipline, time management, and preparation that have translated well into his career. Although he initially aspired to be a pro athlete, fate led him down a different path.

Mentorship and Growth: Nick credits his success to the mentorship and guidance of Bob Baumhower, a fellow football player turned restaurateur, with whom he worked for 27 years. During that time, Nick learned the ins and outs of running a successful restaurant operation. Nine years ago, Nick partnered with Panini Pete, and they’ve been growing and learning together ever since.

The Waterfront Restaurant and Beyond: One of Nick’s most exciting ventures is the Old Lake Forest Yacht Club, now transformed into The Waterfront Restaurant. This 7,000 sq ft space on the bay offers the perfect setting for enjoying delicious food like Bushwackers, cheeseburgers, and fresh fish sandwiches while listening to live music. Nick and his team are always looking for ways to expand and innovate, as evidenced by their other projects like Parc Le Trailor, a food hall and event space that hosts a variety of culinary concepts.

A Commitment to Education and High Standards: Nick and his team at Panini Pete’s are dedicated to educating the next generation of culinary talent, creating videos for junior colleges and offering training opportunities. They’re committed to maintaining high standards and constantly pushing for improvement, both personally and professionally. They believe that together, they can achieve greatness.

Building a Supportive Team: Nick emphasizes the importance of finding and nurturing the right team members, from seniors to individuals with mental or physical disabilities. He believes in setting clear expectations and helping employees achieve their personal, professional, and financial goals.

The Importance of Mentorship and Learning: Great leadership is a continuous process, and Nick is always looking for opportunities to mentor others and learn from those around him. He credits his success to the people he’s surrounded himself with, including Caleb Helms, his marketing and training guru.

A Passion for Coaching and Connection: If he weren’t in the restaurant industry, Nick would have pursued a career as a coach, inspired by his brother’s friends who are all college football coaches. He cherishes memories of working at Baumhower’s and witnessing the coaches’ shows, as well as an emotional moment watching his brother play against Georgia in ’94.

A Culinary Gem at Squid Ink: When asked about an under-the-radar dish, Nick recommends the Squid on a Shingle at Squid Ink, a unique twist on the classic army dish featuring sautéed squid with olive oil and butter on toast, topped with a delectable sauce. Also, try two of their best selling appetizers on our LoDa Stroll Tour!

Nick Dimario’s journey with Panini Pete’s Hospitality Group has been fueled by hard work, mentorship, and a passion for the restaurant industry. His dedication to growth, education, and maintaining high standards has not only led to success but also created a lasting impact on the lives of those he now mentors in the Panini Pete group of restaurants.