by Jimmy Lee King
If you mention this story from the BDSUNKY.COM you will get happy hour pricing on drinks all night.
In 2008, two brothers opened Buona Vita Pizzeria in Dayton, Kentucky. Joseph and Matthew Frommeyer set the wheels in motion for a new restaurant that would offer an Italian theme for all who love great Italian-style food at competitive prices, using mainly organic ingredients. Everything from the name and the recipes to all the pictures on the walls are a tribute to the pride of their families, the way they were raised, the stories they were told, and the food they grew up with. Buona Vita, which translates to “good life” from Italian, is a custom-made family restaurant.
This restaurant on 6th Avenue has an atmosphere that may remind you of a place you saw in a movie that was set in old New York City, or perhaps bring to mind a trendy Los Angeles spot where you would envision movie stars hanging out. The building was once a bank and houses large walk-in vaults, one of which is now used as a small private dining room. The atmosphere is warm and cozy, inviting you to feel comfortable and stay as long as you’d like to celebrate the good life. Indoor dining areas can accommodate up to 150 people, but in the warmer months seating expands to an outdoor area which also features a bocce court. It is an amazing setting that can be enjoyed with friends and family alike.
Dayton was the location the brothers chose based on it being a place they could learn from and grow with. “We knew there was promise on the horizon,” Joe Frommeyer says. “It was in Newport, then it went into Bellevue, and we were hearing about this riverfront development. We knew about the development going on with the condominiums up on the hill. It was like, let’s get in there in there now while we can afford it, and then we can build as the community builds and gets larger, and as new attractions come and new businesses come we can be there at the ground level to build with the city.” Joe admits that he and his brother hoped things would move would along more quickly: “By five years when maybe the city has doubled in population we would grow with the city into a polished, well-oiled machine. It’s taken longer, but it’s coming.”
Having great food at affordable prices and enjoying the added benefit of a unique place in which to serve it is not without challenge. Judging from average credit card receipts, Frommeyer estimates that most customers come from outside of Dayton, with as many as 40% coming from Ohio. “It’s not hard for us to do well on weekends,” he says. “We don’t have a huge budget for marketing—most of the people who come here are grass roots, word of mouth. Monday through Thursday is our biggest challenge. We feel like we’re a neighborhood restaurant that doesn’t have a huge neighborhood following yet, and we’re trying to change that. We do have a great group of supporters within a two mile radius, and they visit the restaurant weekly. In the beginning, without that core group of supporters we wouldn’t have made it. Friends and family were only going to come so much. 10% of our business comes from Bellevue, Dayton, and Ft. Thomas, and the other 90% of our business is coming from outside the area. We like to think of Buona Vita as part of the Northern Kentucky/greater Cincinnati area and not pigeon hole us as just a restaurant in Dayton, because a mile-and-a-half away is Fountain Square, downtown Cincinnati. It’s just a matter of getting the word out there and letting people know if you have good food at a good price. People will come—doesn’t matter if you’re in Dayton, KY or Manhattan.”
Joe’s brother Matthew applauds the new incentive package being introduced in Dayton for new business: “Anthony Cadle has done his homework to get this incentive package developed for the city, and I see it as a big step to marketing Dayton. We need entrepreneurs to come into Dayton and develop these commercial spaces that are vacant. This would generate dollars for the city.” Matthew also believes this will make the city more attractive: “Something has to be done to make the streets feel safer. We need lights on the avenue to make the streets look and appear safer, like Bellevue. Bellevue is all lit up and we need that, too. It’s not that it isn’t safe in Dayton—it is, but if you’re not from Dayton and you come into the town that isn’t lit up very well, the perception is that it’s not safe. We think this would help other potential business, as well, until we catch on to more of the people here in our hometown of Dayton. Our business depends greatly on people outside of Dayton coming, so getting the streets lit up is an important step.”
“We have a vision of a great looking sidewalk with other businesses that are open—people can walk from one to another,” Joe adds. “We’re hopeful of getting the city cleaned up and making main street beautiful. We almost had a mural that was going to go in down here on a building that would have been a big improvement to the look of our main street, but it got voted down even though it was already paid for. The tax payers of Dayton paid for a mural that is now in Covington, KY. How did that happen? We want a cleaner, safer, more approachable town that is better for everyone. If more people come into Dayton, then there is more revenue. We feel we’re doing our part to make our place look nice and encourage people to come to Dayton. We just hope other businesses will do the same.”
Aesthetics are only part of the equation, though. “It’s one thing to get businesses to come down here and get started, it’s another thing to get the neighborhood to support them. That’s going to be the next problem,” says Matthew. “The incentive program for new business is great, but we also need Dayton to support it. We hated seeing the Dayton Chili Parlor close. That was a Dayton stronghold for so many years and we know the owner was older, but the reason it closed was due to lack of support. If Dayton wants businesses to come to here and stay, then Dayton needs to support the town. The average new business that may come into Dayton and get started who doesn’t have a big following already may use the incentive package, but after the incentives are over, what is he going to do? The people in Dayton supporting businesses will be the reason a place can survive or not. Dayton is a blank slate for new business and we’re extremely hopeful other entrepreneurs will see what we see.”
“We’ve tried some different things,” according to Joe. “Everyone said we should do delivery, so we got set up for delivery and we got about 3 orders a week. We would sit here and watch Marco’s and LaRosa’s pizza delivery drivers driving down the avenue so there is a market for delivery pizza, but we didn’t get the support we needed from the town to keep that going. We have also opened on Sundays because many people said they wanted that. Sundays are starting to get busier and take hold. We encourage the people of Dayton to keep Buona Vita in mind on every evening, seven days a week. Bring the whole family and have some great food with us. We strive to make the best food at the best price with the best service, and we’re thankful for everyone who does support us and look forward to the continued support of the city.”
Buona Vita will open their outside patio when the weather warms up. There will be happy hour specials every Monday through Thursday, as well as during Cincinnati Reds games. If you mention this story from the BDSUNKY.COM you will get happy hour pricing on drinks all night. Also watch the Buona Vita sponsored Dayton, Kentucky March City Council Meeting here: Dayton, Kentucky March City Council Meeting