It's little surprise that Antonio Caldarone has become the go-to lawyer for Chicago's labor and employment law matters. While he represents employers in a wide variety of industries, including healthcare and retail, restaurants and eateries have long played a key role in this young lawyer's life.
Caldarone's parents immigrated to the United States from Sicily in the late 1960s and opened Palermo's Pizza and Restaurant, a fixture on Chicago's Southwest Side. Caldarone grew up in this restaurant, working every job from dishwasher to delivery boy.
When Caldarone was just 20, his father passed away suddenly. Caldarone found himself helping to run the family business while also balancing college and, eventually, law school.
Since those days, Caldarone has become one of the top restaurant and hospitality specialists in Chicago's legal scene. Today, he handles labor and employment issues for more than 100 of the city's bars and restaurants. He also has a particular niche in defending wage and hour class actions for clients in many different industries.
His passion, however, is keeping his clients out of the courtroom. Caldarone has developed extensive management training programs involving non-discrimination and anti-harassment, minimizing legal risks with effective documentation and performance management, and wage and hour compliance, navigating the troubled waters of ADA and FMLA compliance.
Antonio has earned the respect of both sides of the bar. Chicago attorney James Zouras has seen firsthand just how talented Caldarone is when representing his clients. In one challenging case, Caldarone's client, a well-known Chicago restaurant, faced seven-figure exposure in a certified wage-and-hour class-action suit brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Zouras, who opposed Caldarone in that case and many others, said that Caldarone not only dramatically limited the claims and potential damages to only a fraction of that original seven-figure amount, he also secured a thoughtful and creative resolution that served his client's best interests.
Even more impressive? Zouras said that these results are far from uncommon.
"Only a handful of litigators in this field possess both a mastery of the law and the sophistication to successfully apply their legal acumen to real-world situations," Zouras said. "Antonio is one of them."
Stephen Lombardo III, Chairman & General Counsel with Gibsons Restaurant Group, said that Calderone operates his legal practice with the perspective of someone who has been in the restaurant industry himself. This means that Caldarone can offer his clients the guidance, support and insight that they need when facing legal challenges.
And when Caldarone represents a client? That client feels as if he or she is Caldarone's only one. Just ask Lombardo. He said that during one legal matter, Caldarone provided Gibsons with immediate support, overnight, when the restaurant group needed to obtain a restraining order.
"Antonio knows that his clients don't regularly go into depositions or courtrooms, so he always prepares as if it is your first time," Lombardo said. "He is respectful that his clients are relying on his expertise. Given his genuine nature, it always comes across without ego or in a patronizing fashion."