Russell Salvatore is many things besides a Buffalo restaurant icon. Salvatore is famous for his philanthropic support of local charities, youth sports, veterans agencies, law enforcement, first responders and of course Buffalo’s professional sports teams. Russell Salvatore is also a proud patriot of this country and all that it stands for.
Russell Salvatore was born in 1933 to Italian immigrants, the youngest of three children. While still in grammar school Salvatore worked at his father’s tavern on Delavan Avenue on the East Side of Buffalo. It was a modest business where Chevy plant employees would cash their checks and stay for a shot and a beer.
Then in 1967 Russell Salvatore opened his own restaurant called “Salvatore’s Italian Gardens” near the corner of Genesee and Transit Road. Over the next forty years “Salvatore’s” became one of the largest and most successful restaurants in the country. Russ then tried retirement, giving his business to his son and family, but being away from what he loved was too tough.
In 2008 Russ Salvatore opened “Russell’s Steakhouse” along with “Salvatore’s Grand Hotel”. Today “Russell’s” is known as one of the premier steak house’s in the entire country.
So while Russ Salvatore has enjoyed remarkable success in his field, he also learned at an early age that “giving back” is important. “I can remember as a young boy my dad having me deliver Christmas gifts to neighbors and friends. He was so appreciative of his customers,” said Salvatore. “He would always have holiday parties for all the customers, he would arrange trips and alike to give back what he could. I guess this instilled in me to never take customers for granted and by giving back to your community you help make it stronger.”
Russ Salvatore has also had a long relationship with the fans of the Buffalo Bills. More than once Russ Salvatore has bought out the remaining tickets for a Bills home game so that it could be shown on local television and not be blacked out. Case in point, in December of 2012 Salvatore purchased the remaining 10,000 tickets for the Bills/St. Louis Rams home game which was then shown in the Buffalo Market.
Salvatore explained his purchase of the Bills tickets and other forms of support for local teams like this: “Sports in Buffalo has been a thread we could always cling to as a community,” said Salvatore. “Despite any hardships that may hit us personally or regionally, sports always gave us a common ‘rallying” bond.”
Russ Salvatore has had several different ties to the Buffalo Bills over the years. Salvatore’s was once the sponsor for the Buffalo Jills in the 1990’s and many will remember the huge Bills’ fan parties he threw in Florida. For fifteen years Russ would host a bash at Shooters down in Fort Lauderdale the week of the Bills/Dolphins game attended by thousands. For many it became as much a part of the trip as the game itself did.
During the 1990’s and the Bills Super Bowl years, Russ Salvatore was one of the biggest supporters of the team as any business owner in the region, but he didn’t stop there. Russ Salvatore has sponsored countless events that have benefited sports teams at all levels.”The participants and fans of WNY sports teams cross every possible demographic from little league, high school , college and the pros. Whether your 8 or 81, a man or a woman, there is something for everyone. Next to our great Independent restaurants, sports means Buffalo to me!” said Russell.
Russ Salvatore has also created “Patriots and Heroes Park” on Transit Road right in front of Russell’s Steaks. Salvatore had purchased the land with thoughts of building a shopping plaza in that location, however, that all changed. “Something came over me while I was sleeping and I said, I think we’ll build a park. My friend, Charlie, told me I should make it “Patriots and Heroes Park”, and dedicate it to all the people, servicemen and everybody from the plane crash of Flight 3407 and 9/11. It’s dedicated to all the people from the bottom of my heart. This is not my park, this is your park.”
Since building “Patriots and Heroes Park” Salvatore has added a statue of St. Michael Archangle, patron saint of law enforcement and a World War II monument dedicated to the men who fought in the “Battle of the Bulge”.