Leonardi, 41, has been general manager of Padonia Station for six years, but has been exposed to the restaurant business for as far back as he can remember.
“It just came from family,” Leonardi said, “My parents and my aunt and uncle had a pasta shop down in Little Italy.”
“I've been around the food business since I was a kid. Even when I went to college I went and took hotel and restaurant management kind of stuff to learn the business aspect.”
Fortunately for Leonardi, he was able to find happiness close to home. After growing up in the small town of Hamilton in Baltimore City , he attended Calvert Hall College High School before moving on to Essex Community College , where he received his associate arts degree in restaurant management.
As general manager of Padonia Station, Leonardi is responsible for the daily operations of the restaurant; the hiring and training of staff, scheduling and overseeing the other managers. Leonardi is essentially the businessman behind the scenes of one of the nation's most revered sports bars.
From working in the greatly popular Vellagia's restaurant in Little Italy to the nationally recognized Padonia Station, the Baltimore native has decided to live and breathe the restaurant business. The fast-paced lifestyle of the restaurant business is the only life Leonardi has ever known. He has tried to work in the traditional office setting, but discovered immediately that it wasn't the setting for him. It seems that if he wasn't running around a kitchen or conversing with a friendly group of customers, he couldn't be happy.
But for Leonardi, there is much more to his job than just drink specials and half-off burger nights. He knows that because the restaurant he runs is an important facet to the surrounding area, he knows that he has a responsibility to give back to the customers that keep his establishment running.
“We do a lot to sponsor things in the neighborhood, too,” Leonardi said, “We sponsor 15 to two dozen softball teams in the area.”
“Anybody that's within a five or six mile radius of here that asks for a donation, we're pretty much going to give it to them.”
Leonardi has expanded his giving beyond the Baltimore County area, as well.
“We do a lot with the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation for abused children, too. We're one of the top sponsors to that function, where a guy from every NFL team gets voted on by team members as the Courage Award winner.”
“We have a lot of functions where we sell raffle tickets or we have silent auctions to raise money for that charity.”
Leonardi is rewarded for the restaurant's charity work, not only with a boom in business, but a growing relationship with the Cockeysville residents that he hopes will continue long after he stops working. At any given time, Leonardi can walk out into the dining room or over to one of the two bars and converse with regular patrons; something that is virtually unheard of at a location that receives such large amounts of business.
Even though part of his job is to change small aspects of the restaurant to keep the venue fresh, even for regular customers, Leonardi preaches that the success of Padonia Station can be summed up in one word: consistency. One of the main goals that he strives for when making decisions on the business side of the establishment is to remain consistent in everything they do so customers are never caught off-guard.
“There were a lot of places that have come and gone,” Leonardi said, “They could have been and were directly our competition, but… Our main thing is that we're consistent.”
“The Coliseum resorted to doing a midget Jello wrestling and stuff up there to try and bring people in. We don't play games like that.”
The regular patrons, as well as the new customers that arrive everyday, can expect to see Leonardi behind the bar or surveying the floor for a long time to come.
“I don't have any plans on leaving for sure,” Leonardi said, “There's always something new here.”
You never know; we might just see his face on ESPN2 again someday.