We have had some of our best food in small, out-of-the-way places, where the standards in the kitchen are high and the prices are low.
So when we pulled into the parking lot of Giuseppe's in South Wales, just off the 400 past East Aurora, we were hopeful. And we were not disappointed. From quality ingredients, such as pepperoni and cheese on the pizza, to the chef-invented dishes to the homemade pies, our only lament was, "We wish we lived closer to this place!"
But for those of you who do, or who don't mind taking a 25-minute ride from downtown Buffalo on a nice day, Giuseppe's is well worth a stop.
The small door from the parking lot opens into a room with a long, L-shaped counter, where two couples had settled to eat and chat. John, Pat, John and I headed past the counter to the cool back room, which contained about nine tables and was comfortably decorated with some country touches.
The menu is extensive, with starters; salads (both small and large, up to $8.95); cold, hot and specialty subs ($5.25 for a half, $7.25 or $7.50 for most whole subs); pizza, starting at $8.95 for a 12-inch white pizza with cheese; sandwiches; chicken wings; homemade chicken fingers; burgers; pasta and a variety of dinners (most $8.50 to $9.50). We were impressed with the three soups (cup $2.75, bowl $3.95) offered on the Sunday afternoon when we visited -- chicken noodle, seafood bisque and creamy pepper. The creamy pepper was described by our attentive server as the chef's own creation, including several types of peppers, both sweet and hot, and a real favorite. It sounded intriguing, but because she also filled us in on a couple of other specialties of the house, we knew we had to skip the soup.
We started with a 12-inch cheese and pepperoni pizza ($9.95), which was served fresh from the oven and was superb. Pizza is simple, but quality ingredients make an enormous difference, and that was the case here. The pepperoni was the old-fashioned type that cups and chars on the edges; the cheese was a tasty mixture that formed strings when a slice was pulled out. The crust was medium-thick and tender, the sauce deliciously complex with a zing of oregano.
The two dinners we ordered each came with soup or salad, and the salads were large, cool and fresh. Iceberg, tomato and cucumber slices, grated carrot and croutons filled the china bowls. The house dressing was an herbed oil and vinegar creation with a sweet taste.
A special of the day was baked lasagna ($8.95) and we enjoyed the dense square of tender layers of seasoned ground beef, cheese and pasta. It was served on a platter in a pool of the house's nicely balanced red sauce and accompanied by warm garlic toast.
The second dinner was chicken and broccoli alfredo ($10.95), which filled the platter on which it was served. Diced chicken with visible grill marks and good flavor and a substantial serving of tender-crisp bright green broccoli florets were tossed with a rich, creamy alfredo sauce with a subtle flavor of cheese. It was served on a generous bed of thick spaghetti, cooked just past al dente.
The steak hoagy ($8.50) started with grilled black angus steak, shaved thin, then tossed with soft, sweet peppers and onions, topped with cheese and a tasty special sauce. The meat mixture was placed in a split, toasted hoagy roll and baked, then served with a half-plate of hand-cut fries. It was a challenge to eat but was conquered with a knife and fork, and was extremely good.
Our final selections were two menu items that are unique to Giuseppe's. The zeet ($2.50) is a cylinder of dough filled with either Italian- or Mexican-spiced ground meat.
We chose the Italian-spiced meat, a sausage blend we were told is also homemade. The spinoli ($2.65) is a flatter circle of dough, filled with broccoli, spinach and cheese. We ordered a small dish of sauce for 75 cents and used it as a dip. As good as they were by themselves, with a slathering of sauce each was excellent.
We had already heard that the pies were homemade, so we put half of our dinners in take-out boxes and turned to the dessert menu. A slice of pie is $2.95, with ice cream $4.25.
The pie selections included several kinds of fresh fruit pies as well as coconut cream pie and a key lime cheesecake. We tried the strawberry-rhubarb pie, which was tangy and full of fruit, with a tender, flaky crust. The coconut cream pie was breathtaking in its sweet richness, and the key lime cheesecake, which had a graham cracker crust, was also superbly sweet with a genuine citrus kick. These are desserts like your grandmother made -- if you were a very lucky child.
> RESTAURANT REVIEW
Review: 4 stars (Out of 4)
WHERE: 7067 Olean Road, South Wales (652-9455)
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes