On this episode of “Hot off the Press,” Chef Pete broadcasts from Sunset Pointe at Fly Creek Marina where he sat down with two of the legends of the “Panini Pete’s” enterprise, director of operations and business partner, Nick Dimario, and longtime employee John Stewart.
Anyone who frequents downtown Fairhope on a regular basis knows or recognizes John Stewart. Known as the “king” of Fairhope’s French Quarter and the “sheriff” of Panini Pete’s, John has been around since its opening in 2006 when he first started bussing tables, making deliveries, and helping to keep the Panini Pete’s crew in line. Pete and John reminisced about some of their favorite moments over the years, including John’s private prom dinner at Panini Pete’s and the year he was chosen to carry the torch in the Special Olympics Games.
Business partner and director of operations, Nick Dimario, and Pete go all the way back to 1988 when they met at Capstone Grill in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and later worked together at Baumhower’s Wings Restaurant for Pete’s brother-in-law Bob Baumhower—who also played football for Coaches Paul “Bear” Bryant and Don Shula. The training during those years is what they both credit to preparing them for their future as professionals in the restaurant business. It’s where they learned that the key to success in the food industry is to take a team-oriented approach, always looking for the next up-and-coming “star” to join the business. And it’s also that shared vision that drives their passion to pour the knowledge they’ve gained over the years into young minds—to develop a new generation of food professionals who will work hard and have fun doing it, keeping in mind, as their motto goes, that at the end of the day “It’s not life and death…it’s lunch and dinner.”