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Out to eat Great dishes, drinks and people

> Little bites, big flavor

Shea Zappia of Curly's (647 Ridge Road, Lackawanna; 824-9716) was trying to figure out how the veteran restaurant could compete with patio bars for the summer cocktail crowd when he thought of tapas. Then he thought of what he could do for $5.

Which is how Curly's $5 tapas platter, one of the most interesting Buffalo food deals going, was born. "People really don't think much about spending five bucks," said Zappia, the executive chef.

There are rules. It's available after 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Only in the bar. A $5 bill returns five little tastes from a rotating cast. A recent platter was mussels with duck chorizo and Manchego cheese; tuna tartare with preserved lemon and capers; drunken goat cheese with marinated pears and Marcona almonds; spicy marlin roll with micro mustard greens and smoked chili oil; and salami with marinated olives.

"I'm really into little bites and small plates. It can show creativity, plus get people eating and drinking," Zappia said. "Good quality stuff, just two or three bites, so you want to have another drink, order something off the menu when you get your appetite going."

-- Andrew Z. Galarneau