For Syracuse area native Eric Randazzo, cooking can be a passion.
Randazzo, 30, opened Dazzo’s Kitchen in the former Foti’s Italian Bakery at 42 River St. Early November in Oneonta.
“I’m the youngest of five boys and cooking and food has always been very important in our family,” he said. “It was always not just about making ends meet. We always took time to eat together as a family and all our meals were made from scratch. I remember being very young, in my mom’s baby carrier…she Cook and feed me on your shoulders. Cooking is my hobby and I think when you do something you really love…no matter what you’re doing it keeps you going and gets you excited. Me Really lucky to have found something that I really love to do.”
While Randazzo said he knew his career path “from a very young age,” the restaurant’s ownership came as a surprise.
“I decided in sixth or seventh grade that I was going to take this seriously, so I ended up going to a trade school … to test it out through high school, and I loved it,” he said. “I went to SUNY Cobleskill to study business administration and majored in culinary arts, which is how I got into my current career.
“Honestly, I never thought I’d open a store,” Randazzo continued. “But what really gave me the opportunity to write was COVID. When everything was shut down, a lot of commercial space was being rented or sold for prices that most likely would never have been. Since this is the first time I’ve had nothing happen, I say , ‘You know what? Let’s see what happens. Is this worth considering? I joined a mentoring program called SCORE through the (US) Small Business Administration. You… tell them your story And your vision, if it goes well, they assign a mentor to prepare your finances and approach the bank, and I was part of that. Writing the business plan took a few months, and then it was a matter of finding a location. “
During that time, Randazzo said, he worked as a chef for “five or six years” at Forno’s Bistro in Saratoga and “some Michelin-starred restaurants” in New York City before the pandemic forced him to return upstate.
Dazzo’s location was purely accidental, Randazzo said.
“I know if I open a place myself, I want to be closer to home, closer to the Syracuse area, but actually … I ended up doing a big detour from Albany to Syracuse , and Oneonta happens to be right in the middle, he said. “I saw this building for sale online, but all I really saw was the front, the brick and the red exterior; I did the walkthrough, Being able to see what we can make of this space is what brought me in. “
Randazzo said Dazzo’s Kitchen offers “modern European” cuisine and the menu “never remains the same.”
“The menu… changes every two weeks or so, adding new menu items or new proteins to keep it fresh and seasonal, but also to make sure we’re having fun and not doing the same thing over and over In the kitchen,” he said. “What’s very popular right now is ‘New America’—new twists on American classics to make them more eye-catching; we’re doing something like that, but with a more Western European flavor. We’re bringing in a lot of Spanish, a lot of French and Greek.”
Randazzo said early customer favorites include the suppli, which he describes as “like a fancy mozzarella stick.”
“It’s arbor rice, we make tomato parmesan risotto, let it cool, take a piece of mozzarella, wrap the risotto like a stick around the cheese, then bread crumbs and fry,” he said. “That was selling really well. And now, our number one selling pasta is our ravioli—all of our pasta is handmade—with butternut squash and ricotta.”
Randazzo said his culinary approach and the building’s materiality proved intriguing.
“We’re definitely going to be recruiting from Oneonta, Derry, Franklin and Walton,” he said. “We’re attracting people in the 30s to 40s to 50s age group, I would say we’re getting the demographics that we want. It’s a full-service restaurant; we serve beer and wine … we’re attracting People who want to try new foods, see things they’re not familiar with, and can ask their server about it, they’re excited about trying new things.
“One of the really special things about this restaurant is that people have a relationship with the building, they come in and experience it for the first time,” continued Randazzo. “I’ve kept a lot of integrity – the original floor and ceiling and the doors at the back. We’ve had a great welcome so far. We already have regulars and it’s been really special to have that. It’s been great for us Saying it means a lot because people are enjoying the space so much, they come two, three times a week when we’re only open five times a week. People are excited to have a new place to eat in Oneonta and… I One of my favorite compliments, and I hear it at least once a day, is, ‘Thank you for being here, Oneonta needs a place like this.’”
Randazzo said he also hopes to take the business outdoors.
“Another reason we chose this property was the great backyard space,” he said. “We’d like to turn it into a beer garden area with a bocce court and an outdoor bar, maybe get a trailer-mounted wood-burning oven with a very small menu, and use it as a fun hangout in the summer.”
Dazzo’s Kitchen is closed Tuesday and Wednesday and is open Monday, Thursday and Sunday 5-8:30pm and Friday and Saturday 5-9pm.
For more, follow @dazzoskitchen on Instagram or look up “Dazzo’s Kitchen” on Facebook.