In 1980, Angelo Mazzone began his restaurant and catering business with three people in downtown Schenectady. Mazzone Hospitality now employs 1,100 people in 23 locations throughout the Capital District.
Stenciled on the wall above Angelo Mazzone's desk at corporate headquarters in Clifton Park is a quote: “I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing--that it was all started by a mouse.”
“I’m a huge Disney fan, and I always kept his words in mind as my company was growing bigger and bigger.” In 1980, Angelo Mazzone began his restaurant and catering business with three people in downtown Schenectady. Mazzone Hospitality now employs 1,100 people in 23 locations throughout the Capital District.
Mazzone grew up on Long Island and got an early start in the food business, making pizzas in his grandfather’s pizzeria at age 11. His mom and grandmother were excellent cooks. “My childhood meals are still my favorites: veal Parm, pasta, tomato panzanella salad.” He maintained a job at an Italian restaurant all through high school.
A wrestler and lacrosse player, Mazzone attended Hudson Valley Community College aiming for a degree in physical education. But people told him there were no jobs in phys ed so he pivoted and studied hotel and restaurant management at Schenectady County Community College and the University of New Haven.
Union College hired Mazzone to open the college’s first on-campus pub in 1975. Two years later he became the director of food services at Union, the youngest person to hold that position. In 1980, he took his entrepreneurial leap and bought Peggy’s Diner in downtown Schenectady.
“I was 26 and had staked everything on that place. I vowed to keep it the same as the previous owner, following exactly what he did to avoid making mistakes.” Within a month and a half, however, Mazzone had gained enough confidence to start putting his own mark on the place. He opened additional pizzerias and restaurants in downtown Schenectady and developed a catering business.
Mazzone quadrupled business at Peggy’s and then sold it in 1988. After eight years of hitting the road as a caterer, he sought a banquet facility, a place where he could host events rather than travel. He found Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia and fell in love with the beautiful riverside property. “I had that gut feeling that this was the place. I asked Key Bank for a million dollar loan. They had an office right next door to Peggy’s so they saw how hard I worked. They loaned me most of what I needed, and I spent months cleaning up the property and the river bank which had been a dumping ground.” Glen Sanders Mansion opened in March 1989.
“You can’t just talk about hospitality; you have to have it in you.”
What distinguishes Mazzone Hospitality? “Our people. We train them to take care of our guests. Hospitality is the most important quality. Pay attention to detail and provide the best experience possible. If you offer great food and excellent service, the people will come.”
Mazzone Hospitality encompasses three branches—restaurants, catering and corpo- rate dining. With Glen Sanders Mansion as a premier banquet facility, Mazzone developed his signature restaurants: The trio of Primes, Tavolo, Aperitivo (located in the former Peggy's Diner, which he bought in 1988, proving you can go home again), Tala American Bistro, Fish at 30 Lake. He also took over the catering at Key Hall at Proctors, Hall of Springs at SPAC, and 90 State among others. And if there's a charity event in the Capital District, Mazzone Hospitality is probably involved.
“We did an incredible wedding recently at the Hall of Springs and SPAC. The event could have made Town & Country, the culmination of everything we’ve developed over 30 years. Being entrusted with the opportunity to create an event of that caliber, that’s what keeps us inspired and motivated.”
In addition to hospitality, Mazzone is renowned for sourcing the highest-quality ingredients. “Many of our clients seek us out because they know we use fresh local produce and meats as much as we can, whether it’s for Cycle Adirondacks or farm-to-table weddings.” In the summer of 2015, Mazzone Hospitality did a joint venture with SUNY Cobleskill at FarmOn! in Copake. “SUNY brought students in to teach the kids how to farm, and we donated a kitchen so the kids had a place to learn how to cook. We now buy a lot of the produce they grow and ship it to our restaurants.”
Mazzone is quick to credit his employees for his company’s success. “We couldn’t do our job without the whole team, from dishwashers to servers to top management. If we didn’t have clean dishes, people wouldn’t eat our food. Everyone has a vital role in the company. Most of my long-term staff began as dishwashers, bartenders or prep cooks. My son Matthew started when he was eight years old, washing dishes for Easter brunch at Glen Sanders.”
Advice to aspiring people in the food industry? “Be ready to sac- rifice, persist and persevere. I’ve always worked between 60 and 80 hours a week. That comes with the territory. I’m the first one here every morning at 6:30 and stay till 7:30 pm unless there’s an event that night.”
Mazzone now lives in Rexford, 20 minutes from every company location except Clifton Park. His three kids are involved in hospitality. “My daughter, Kim Otis, teaches in Schenectady Community Col- lege’s hospitality program. Michael is an opera singer but comes home every summer and works at Saratoga National restaurant. Matthew oversees Glen Sanders, Aperitivo, Key Hall at Proctors, and 90 State.”
“Even though I went to an excellent culinary school,” Mazzone continues, “I also learned from every chef I’ve worked with. Just watching and learning. I can do a full-scale banquet, but I’m not a high-end, fancy restaurant kind of cook. I’m most comfortable with wholesome Italian food, where I can take fresh ingredients and prepare them simply. And since I work with food all day, I don’t want to come home and make a complicated meal. Honestly, sometimes it’s just Chinese takeout or Oreos and milk!”
“As for the holidays, the kids come over and we keep the Italian traditions. Thanksgiving, we start with soup followed by ravioli or lasagna, and then the turkey dinner. No one actually wants the turkey at that point! Christmas Eve, we do the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes, and on Christmas Day, we’ll have a beef rib roast or pork roast.”
Angelo Mazzone has been in the restaurant business since age 11 and run his expanding empire for 36 years. But what does he really want to do?
“Open one really great Italian restaurant where I can touch people through the food I cook and serve. Almost like going back to where I began.”