Some Daytonians are unforgettable characters. Such is the case with lifelong barkeep, Rick Busch. He is set to retire from Franco’s Ristorante Italiano on Tuesday February 7th, after over 50 years in the business, the last 15 years at Franco’s.
If you have seen or met Rick, you would never forget him. He has a quick wit, and is well known for his sarcastic jokes. His trademark mustache and beard are throwback style. His deep, rich voice and laugh are unmistakable. Rick is sharp, and is a treasure trove of information about the Miami Valley restaurant scene. He is a lifelong Dayton foodie, and always up for a Food Adventure.
Whether talking about a past or present local eatery, he usually has a great story or insight on the place. We chatted with Rick about old restaurants like the “Cork n Cleaver” and shared recent memories from this past year’s Italian Festival. His infectious smile is a testament to his craft as a bartender. He is knowledgeable, and makes you feel at home. No wonder he has had a successful career spanning five decades.
The long days of standing on your feet for several hours in a row, and the toll it takes, caused Rick to decide it was time to retire at this point in his life. He also works for clients through a Dayton senior service care company. We assume he may continue that part time.
So how did he become this legendary bartender?? Let’s find out!
HERE’S THE SKINNY on ICONIC DAYTON BARTENDER, RICK BUSCH:
—He grew up in West Carrollton and regularly meets with a group of classmates from his high
school class of ’64. With his wisdom, he explains the importance of time with good friends, because life is way too short.
—Rick started bar tending at the 400 Club in the mid 1960’s, which was Dayton’s first gay bar on 400 Warren St. He said “if people knew some of the stories that went on in that place, oh boy…”
—He also worked bar at the legendary Stockyards Inn on Springfield Street in Dayton and a stint at Frigidaire in 1976.
—His next move was the Bar Manager at the Daytonian Hotel at Third and Ludlow Streets from 1980-1984. During that time, first lady Nancy Reagan paid a visit and dined.
—Over the next 17 years, Rick would work at the TWA Ambassadors club at the Dayton Airport, tending bar. Oh, the stories he must have heard and shared over the years.
—In 2001, he started working at Franco’s Italian restaurant, on Fifth Street, where he was an immediate fixture. This is where the Food Adventure Crew first met him. The food and drink are always good, but Rick puts his special touch on service that you can’t describe. You
have to experience it yourself. An era is truly coming to an end (insert one of Rick’s jokes here).
We decided to put some stats together based on averages, to estimate of the number of people Rick has served over the last 50 years. We figured out that Rick has served approximately 780,000 customers. We figured 234,000 which would have been served at Franco’s alone. That is an amazing feat.
—On a personal level Rick loves good food & wine. He loves to explore local eateries, & loves to travel. He loves to dine in locally owned & operated, small town restaurants. He is also known for hosting some epic parties at his Beavercreek home.
Food Adventures has our favorite “Must Eats” at Franco’s, but today, we thought, “who better to seek that expertise from, than Rick Busch?” He has 2 favorites from his 15 years working with the menu.
RICK BUSCH’S “MUST EATS” at FRANCO’S RISTORANTE ITALIANO:
—FETAGO di MANZO (CALVES LIVER AND ONIONS):
Liver sliced and sautéed to perfection in Franco’s kitchen. Served either Italian-style with sauce or American-style with onions. Rick says this dish is fantastic.
—FRANCO’S WORLD FAMOUS SPAGHETTI:
Spaghetti noodles tossed is a combination of Romano cheese, fresh roasted garlic and olive oil.
We love to add mushrooms, but Rick says, instead, add Franco’s homemade, special Italian sausage (insert one of Rick’s joke here).
Last time we dined at the bar, Big Ragu got a Moretti Italian Beer with his appetizer, which is his tradition. When he told Rick he was ordering Lambrusco with his meal, Rick said he
would have to get rubber gloves out to protect himself from serving that crap. Ragu ordered another Moretti Beer instead. This Tuesday, Big Ragu promises to toast him with a glass of Lambrusco.