What it means to be a DiRoNA Awardee.
As a longstanding member of DiRoNA, it’s my pleasure to offer you a little insight into how much the association means to me and the positive relationship I have with many of the members.
It was 1977; I had just married my wife and had been working in my parents’ restaurant since high school. Because my father thought it was time for me to meet other people in our industry, I attended my first Travel/Holiday Awards Banquet. My wife and I went to Toronto, Canada, on a Sunday afternoon and, naturally, the plane was late. We didn’t have the opportunity to meet anyone in the group that day, but upon check-in were presented a packet and told not to be late for breakfast at 8:00 a.m.
Early on Monday, we rushed to get up and meet all of the other award winners. Stepping out of the elevator I immediately recognized the legendary Vince Bommarito from Tony’s Restaurant in St. Louis, Mo., talking on a pay phone in the corner. Being 22 years old, I was a bit intimidated to introduce myself. I told my wife I would just say a quick hello when he got off of the phone.
As luck would have it, Mr. Bommarito finished his phone call and, walking up to me, said, “Aren’t you Jasper’s son”? When I replied yes, he continued, “I recognize you from eating at his restaurant since you were a little guy.”
From that moment on he literally took me (and my wife) by the hand and introduced us to almost everyone in the room—before we even sat down to breakfast. Needless to say, I met some of the greatest restaurateurs in the business at that time, which I personally would never have met if it weren’t for my friend, Vince Bommarito.
Twenty years later, in 1997, I was allowed to sit at a Board meeting with the Directors of DiRoNA. At that point, I had known everyone at that table for years. During that meeting, I was elected to the Board of Directors, again, if it wasn’t for Vince Bommarito taking me around that room that very first morning in Toronto, I’m certain that wouldn’t have happened, nor would I have become such good friends with all of the restaurateurs in North America. I would never have gone on remarkable trips to France and Italy. The different cities we visited during our annual May meetings outside of Chicago—New York, Palm Beach, Seattle, New Orleans, Toronto, Montreal, Hilton Head, Monterey, Cozumel, just to name a few.
Such memories we have!
It’s so nice to know all of these extraordinary and generous people in our industry that experience the same challenges. For example, I was amazed the first time I heard someone from New York tell me he had trouble in hiring dishwashers. Here I am in Kansas City with the same problem. Whodathunkit?
There’s absolutely nothing like the association of people that walk in your shoes. They have done it all, just like you. They have advice, suggestions, best practices that have helped me grow as a professional restaurateur and evolve the product and service we so proudly offer our customers.
And now, in 2017, the fact that I can pick up the phone and call anyone in the DiRoNA book and ask that they take care of a friend of mine that will be dining with them in their city next week is priceless. It’s invaluable to offer that to my guests.
I want to sincerely thank DiRoNA for all of that, but most of all, for Vincent Bommarito who took the hand of a young newlywed from Kansas City that morning in Toronto.
Thank you, Leonard, for your kind letter. The Mirabile Family has played a large role in the success of DiRoNA. Your Father became a very deserving Hall of Fame Member and we are grateful for all of the assistance that you and your brother Jasper provide the DiRoNA Advisory Committee. We look forward to our continued friendship and providing recognition for Jasper’s as one of North America’s finest restaurants.