For Nicholas “Nick” DePalma ’87, food is synonymous with family: He owns Leo’s Grandevous Italian restaurant in Hoboken, New Jersey, which was founded by his grandfather in 1939, and now employs the family’s fourth generation, including DePalma’s daughters. He is also president of A. Oliveri & Sons in North Bergen, New Jersey, which distributes flour and baking supplies to wholesale and retail customers throughout the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut metropolitan region.
What drew you to the food industry?
From an early age, hearing my father recount stories of his daily exploits dealing with vendors and customers throughout New York’s five boroughs intrigued me. I quickly determined that the distribution of flour and bakery supplies could provide a career that was both challenging and rewarding. Being a part of the largest consumer market in the U.S. presented a great opportunity for an ambitious individual looking to grow a family business.
Getting involved in the restaurant was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. My uncles left the business, and it was in danger of being sold outside of the family. My cousin and I offered to take the reins, and we jumped in blindly.
If you had to recommend one dish from Leo’s menu, what would it be?
Our Wednesday night lasagna draws devotees from all over Hoboken, and the stuffed calamari in marinara sauce over linguine is an original Grandma Tessie recipe that packs them in on Fridays!
What is your favorite part of your job?
Problem-solving and being able to remove the stress from the workplace through thoughtful trial and error and team building bring me the most satisfaction. Finding ways to keep everyone engaged and interested allows for the most creativity. Whether you’re a customer service representative or a table server, you need to care about what you do—and it’s my job to motivate.
What was your most rewarding moment in your career so far?
My older daughter, Theresa, works with me at Oliveri & Sons and at Leo’s during the summer months (She is a senior at Fairfield University). One day she turned to me during our morning commute and said, “Dad, I don’t know how you do it.” That was the best day of my career.
Does your Jesuit education influence your work?
I am fortunate to have received eight years of Jesuit education from Xavier High School in New York City and then Holy Cross. There is no doubt that the Jesuit approach to education and life is the biggest force behind my business success. If you are not trying to do more and reach beyond your personal responsibilities, then you are falling behind in life as well as in business. You must be accessible and understanding in your dealings with other people, whether they are partners, family, employees or customers, to really feel satisfied and accomplished. The drive to expand your knowledge and always be open to possibilities and experiences blurs the line between business and life. ■
—Rebecca Smith ’99 and Kimberly Staley ’99