Quality. Consistency. Service.
These are the three fundamentals Papa Dio's Italian Restaurant relies on to separate itself from other Italian restaurants in Oklahoma City, owner and chef Bill Bonadio says.
"I don't have location. I don't have location, and I don't have location," he says. "So, when you don't have location, you have got to have something else to keep people coming back."
Papa Dio's consistently accomplishes that by serving tasty food with a staff that's worked there for "a tremendous amount of time," he says. "And our recipes and our flavors, they stand out over anything."
Bonadio, 53, a third-generation restaurateur, literally grew up in the business. Originally from Connecticut, he started helping out in a restaurant owned by his father, Bill Bonadio Sr., when he was 8 years old by washing dishes and cleaning up around the place. As he grew, he worked his way up through the kitchen, learning various aspects of the business from his father along the way.
They brought the family business to Oklahoma in 1971, and, when his father went into semi-retirement, Bonadio opened his first restaurant — Dio's Original Fried Pizza — in 1979, nearly next door to where Papa Dio's is today.
His first restaurant, however, struggled because it was surrounded by other, mainstream pizza operations such as Pizza Planet, Godfather's and Little Caesars.
"I didn't have a prayer," he remembers. His father, then, suggested he change his concept and go with Italian food instead, noting, "There's no good Italian restaurants around here."
"Well, what am I going to do for recipes?" the younger Bonadio asked. His father replied: "Well, I'll help you out."
"So, I changed the name of the restaurant to Papa Dio's, in honor of my father, because he was going to give me my recipes and we were going to be partners. I bought him out in 1981, and took over from there," Bonadio says.
The restaurant has moved a couple of times since, and even had a second location in Edmond, for a while. It has been at 10712 N May, in the back corner of a strip mall, since 1988.
Bonadio teamed up with Bill Mathis in 1999 to add a wine bar to the restaurant — a feature the chef likes.
These dinners give him an opportunity to prepare gourmet dishes paired with specific wines during private dinners the operation throws for winemakers so they can show off and sell their products.
Wine, he explains, can't be fully appreciated unless it is introduced with another flavor in your mouth, so he uses specific foods to bring out wines' characters.
Papa Dio's Italian Restaurant offers more than 160 specific menu items, including dishes from northern and southern Italy and Sicily.
"So, no matter where you are used to having Italian food, I usually have something very, very similar, if not exactly what you are looking for," he says.
4:30 to 9 p.m. Monday
4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday
4:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Closed on Sunday