|Keep an eye on 14 North Grand Avenue. Padrino is about to open with a grab-and-go service.|
By Robin Gee
Fort Thomas residents can get a taste of a new and eagerly awaited, family-style eatery within the coming week.
Owner and Fort Thomas resident Hunter Thomas, has announced that his restaurant, Padrino Italian, located at 14 North Grand Avenue, will start out with a grab-and-go-style service offering frozen pizza, salads and other menu items, favorites from his popular Padrino restaurant location in Milford, Ohio.
The service will run out of the original garage of the building, the spot that will eventually be occupied by a full-service kitchen once health and safety guidelines allow for the business to open full swing. Customers will be able to stop by and select from what is available, or they can order for pick up the next day.
A slow opening was in the plans, but no one expected a pandemic
Thomas announced plans for the restaurant in September 2019. In January this year, he requested and was granted a zoning ordinance change that would allow him to add outdoor seating when he opened. Everything seemed set.
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Then, of course, came COVID-19. The middle of a pandemic is perhaps not the best time to open a new business, especially a restaurant, but Thomas already had plans to take his time and open slowly as he made adjustments and improvements to the building.
He needed first to devote his attention to his two other businesses in Milford — 20 Brix, an upscale bistro and wine shop, and the original Padrino, a full-service family-style Italian restaurant and pizzeria.
"It was frightening for awhile," he said, "but it became clear everyone still wanted to go and get food. And, fortunately, I had no disruption of supplies."
As the crisis developed and health and safety guidelines required shut down of in-dining services, Thomas moved his two Milford businesses into a carry out and delivery operation. He began offering frozen pizzas customers could take home and bake themselves. He added other popular menu items including cocktails sold in Mason jars as well as salads, pasta and other menu items.
He had a brisk in-store and curbside pickup operation going, and delivered many frozen pizzas himself, later partnering with delivery services Door Dash and Grub Hub. It has been a struggle, but he was even able to add back some employees to his skeleton crew.
Now he is in the process of preparing for a partial opening for Padrino in Fort Thomas.
The first phase in Fort Thomas is on its way
Thomas is working on plans for the interior of his new location to be ready once health and safety guidelines permit, but for now he will start with a retail food service featuring food cooked at his other location. He has installed two industrial-sized freezer units and refrigeration in the building’s garage space and will offer frozen pizza and other dinners, salads and other cold items to be picked up from the selection or ordered ahead.
He will start with limited hours, likely 4 to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, but will make adjustments as he goes, he said. He plans to start with two employees.
"I plan to open in tiers, opening as guidelines and distancing orders allow."
The building will display signs in the coming week about the opening. Also, keep an eye on the Fort Thomas Padrino Facebook page for more details as they unfold.