A cocktail specialist who was in the running for best bartender in Philadelphia is returning to Buffalo to open the former Black Rock Kitchen and Bar.
At 491 Amherst St., Keith Raimondi plans to offer a place that highlights craft cocktails and other beverages, backed with a food program that exploits vegetables and local produce whenever possible.
Everything besides liquor that goes into drinks will be housemade, he said – juices, syrups, tinctures and bitters, for example. The food side will focus on housemade basics too, with charcuterie and bread made in-house, he said.
His strategy as a bartender is to make versions of classic cocktails with upgraded ingredients and hide surprises in them, while leaving them still properly balanced, he said. “I like to tuck, to hide things in what you would consider classics.”
Raimondi, no known relation to Lewiston chef Carmelo Raimondi, said he’s working on a name for his place. He has a candidate for chef, but hasn’t secured the person’s services yet.
Raimondi grew up in Olean. The member of the Olean High School Class of 1996 is coming back to open his first place. He is returning because he wanted to settle down, open a place of his own, and be closer to his parents, who still live in Olean, he said.
Raimondi has a finance degree from West Virginia University, and was a financial adviser for a brief period, he said. But after working as a server and bartender, he found that more satisfying.
“Hospitality is what I like. The idea of creating a place where people can come and be comfortable,” said Raimondi. “People have to eat every day. They don’t have to drink every day, but it helps.”
In Philadelphia, Raimondi worked at places including Village Whiskey, other Garces Group restaurants, and Lemon Hill. At Townsend, his work behind the bar garnered second-place honors in Eater Philly’s bartender of the year voting.
Local Restaurant Week: It’s time to make reservations for Local Restaurant Week’s spring edition.
From April 11 to 17, more than 200 independent Western New York restaurants will be offering introductory specials priced at $20.16, $30.16 or $40.16. At a family restaurant or pizzeria, $20.16 could be dinner for two. At a fine-dining restaurant, amid white tablecloths and candlelight, that might bring an entrée and a glass of wine.
See the list of participating restaurants, and details of their specials, at localrestaurantweek.com.
Gordon’s sold: Gordon’s, a popular Delaware Avenue bar that has become a North Buffalo neighborhood fixture, has been sold, a few days short of its 11th anniversary party.
The handover won’t take place until June or July, so the party – set for Friday – will go on as planned, said owner Corey Gordon. Fans of the tavern at 2263 Delaware Ave., and fans of burgers and beer in general, will have plenty of chances to say goodbye.
“It’s definitely nice that it’s going down this way, that they came to me and I could make a decision out of what’s best, instead of out of necessity,” Gordon said. “A lot of bar owners don’t get to make that choice.”
Gordon declined to identify the buyer, at their request, he said.
“Over the next few months it’s business as usual at Gordon’s,” he wrote, “where ‘Nobody leaves a stranger.’”
Tavern 414 opens: Owner Chris DeBernardis, a former owner of Thirsty Buffalo, opened Tavern 414 in the former Garvey’s restaurant March 10. At 414 Pearl St., it’s an upscale casual tavern and restaurant serving casual American fare, DeBernardis said.
Chef Allie Demers was born in Buffalo and recently returned to the city from a stint in Park City, Utah. DeBernardis also owns Average Joe’s Bar & Grill on Sweet Home Road in Amherst. -- Samantha Christmann
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