|By Samantha Maziarz Christmann, The
Buffalo News, N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sep. 24, 2008 - More than 40 years after building an iconic restaurant from a humble hot dog stand, Russell Salvatore is starting from scratch, right up the road from Salvatore's Italian Gardens on Transit Road in Lancaster.
Nearly two years after handing over the restaurant and nearby Garden Place Hotel to his son, Joseph, for estate purposes and being asked by him to step away from daily operations, Salvatore is re-entering the industry with an enormous new steakhouse and hotel of his own.
"[Joseph and his wife] wanted to run things their way, and they're doing a nice job. I was in the way," he said about his son, who could not be reached to comment.
But after retiring, Salvatore said being out of the business drove him stir crazy. "Retirement is not for Russell Salvatore," he said. "I didn't realize how depressed I would be after being in the public for 50 years."
It didn't help that the changing of the guard was not exactly graceful.
Salvatore declined to address reports that he was unfairly and abruptly pushed out of daily operations by his son. But in an earlier article in The Buffalo News, Salvatore conceded that his son's request to distance himself from the restaurant he loved was "a little bit difficult" and led him to question his decision to "turn [the restaurant] over as fast as [he] did."
"I was there morning, noon and night," he said last year. "I loved it so much. I'm completely bored now because I'm not putting all those hours in."
Salvatore quickly found a way to fill those hours, as is evidenced in the 18,000-square-foot Russell's Steaks, Chops and More springing up on Transit Road in Lancaster. It, along with the attached, four-story Grand Hotel, is slated for a quiet, mid-November opening with about 50 employees.
"People won't be disappointed. Trust me," said Don Parrino, the building's designer. "This is Russell Salvatore we're talking about. What do you expect?"
If you're thinking fountains, statues and crystal chandeliers, like the Italian Gardens, think again, he said.
Though Salvatore's trademark lavish style will be evident, Parrino stressed the new venture will be "nothing like the other place."
The upscale steak and seafood restaurant will have a more updated feel, he said, with an abundance of carved oak, simple chrome fixtures and wrought iron.
The restaurant's kitchen is a giant 6,000 square feet with oversized work stations to accommodate students from the nearby Russell J. Salvatore School of Hospitality & Business. Salvatore donated the school's building to Trocaire College in January.
The hotel will have extra-wide hallways leading to 80 suites, 63 of which will have Jacuzzis. Eight luxury suites, twice the size of the other rooms, will also have fireplaces, living rooms and two flat-screen televisions each.
Though technically the new venture will be in direct competition with his son's business, Salvatore denies any rivalry. Talk of community support for the new restaurant brought tears to his eyes.
"Maybe it's because they know what I've been through," he said.
Salvatore declined to disclose the project's budget, saying only that he would spare no expense on the final venture that would be his legacy.
"I'm 75 years old. This is my last one," he said. "I want to do it right."
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