Russ Salvatore's identity has been linked with the ornate Salvatore's Italian Gardens restaurant for four decades. But by the start of next year, his name will be paired with a new, academic venture: the Russell J. Salvatore School of Hospitality.
Salvatore is constructing the 7,000-square-foot building on the east side of Transit Road, south of Wehrle Drive, and will donate it to Trocaire College when it's complete.
"They said, 'We want to open a school and name it after you,' and I said, 'That's beautiful. I'll build it, and when it's done, I'll donate it to you,' " Salvatore recalled.
If all goes as planned, the $1 million-plus facility will be ready for use in January, in time for the start of the spring semester.
The new building will contain classrooms, offices, student lounges, computer areas and kitchen space. It is expected to draw students from the suburbs, as well as Buffalo, who are interested in gaining an associate degree in the restaurant and hotel business.
"We're hoping to have 100 students at that new location," said John A. Vecchio, Trocaire College's executive director for institutional advancement.
Though designed as a one-story building, he said, more floors could be added in the future if the program expands.
Salvatore has been involved with Trocaire College since 2003, when he and Vecchio met through a mutual friend.
Since that time, the college has worked with Salvatore to offer an annual student hospitality scholarship in the Salvatore family's name, and Salvatore has expressed increasing interest in the 1,100-student college's hospitality program.
With Salvatore's son, Joseph, taking over regular operations of his father's namesake restaurant on Transit Road, Russ Salvatore said he now has much more time to devote to this current project.
Joseph Salvatore said students who attend the new hospitality school will be able to gain hands-on experience by shadowing restaurant and hotel staff at the nearby Salvatore's Italian Gardens and Garden Place Hotel.
But for now, Russ Salvatore, 74, said he's focusing on the school and working to hire a contractor who can begin construction work immediately.
"We're waiting to get a price on the project," he said.
While the school building will be far more simple and understated than Salvatore's restaurant, Salvatore is likely to be a routine presence on the campus. "For as long as Russ wants to be involved, he can be," Vecchio said, "and to the extent he wants to be involved, we're delighted to have him."