We love when a Cheap Eats and a Bar Scene collide, as is the case of Leo’s Pizzeria, set on the fringes of West Seneca and Orchard Park on Southwestern Boulevard.
While the area is overflowing with pizzerias, we like joints that offer sit-down dining and a sports bar feel. (We grow tired of eating pizza on paper plates at our boring kitchen table).
The story of Leo’s is interesting. Owner Keith Leo has worked in pizzerias since he was 15. At 21, he borrowed $9,000 from his grandmother to open his original location on Seneca Street.
“It was a rough two years,” said Leo. “I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Well, he knows now. At almost 40, he owns two take-out joints (Seneca Street and South Park Avenue both in South Buffalo), and two places with bars - East Aurora (once Sorrentino’s) and the West Seneca location we visited.
Leo wants to expand the West Seneca location to add bar space and room for bigger parties. We can see why - the place was packed on our Friday night visit.
“I’m busier that I thought I would be,” Leo said.
Too late for happy hour, we settled on a Lucky Traveler blackberry shandy draft ($5.50) and beer of the month, a Sticky Tree single IPA ($4.50) draft from the Buffalo’s new Pressure Drop Brewing in the Barrel Factory.
“My general manager runs exotic beer each month. She researches a lot,” Leo said.
Taps rotate, offering different selections, plus some regular standbys. We didn't see a cocktail menu but noticed a few on a board including a Bailey’s minty martini and peppermint white Russian. Glasses of wines range from $6 to $7, with nice selections like a rosé from Provence, France.
The crowd was mature and the music level was ideal for conversation. Most televisions showed sports, but also Animal Planet’s "Tree House Masters" and "My Lottery Dream House" on HGTV were on, too.
The decor includes sharp stacked stone and interesting water spigot light fixtures. We could have eaten at the bar as many folks did, but we waited for a table.
The entire pizzeria menu is available for dining in. (Take-out and restaurant share a kitchen.)
Our three items were tasty, starting with a personal stuffed pepper pizza ($8.99). Melted cheese made it hard to see the peppers, but we could taste the filling and tangy zip of peppers. We noticed Leo’s uses a sweeter tomato base sauce. Not bad, but different and flavorful. The pizza was larger than we expected and half came home.
A beef taco ($4.99) was humongous with lots of filling, hot and in a wheat wrap, as requested. The mini chicken finger sub ($6.99) was big too, with lots of fingers and served medium, as ordered. Both items came with super fresh potato chips.
Our dinner bill - two drafts (a shandy and Brooklyn Brewery Naranjito) and food - came to $33.80. It was a bargain in our book. Our server Samantha never missed a beat either, bringing water without having to be asked.
We could still see lots of action on the take-out side when we left.
Leo still gets a chuckle from the fellas tasked with bringing a pizza home.
“They sit at the bar, put the order in and have a beer. All kidding aside, my whole point was to give people a comfortable place to eat and drink,” Leo said.
We say he did.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Leo adds, “Now I am looking to open a place in Lancaster.” Of course he is.
2220 Southwestern Blvd., West Seneca (674-8888)
(Also 142 Grey St., East Aurora (dine in); take out at 2077 Seneca St. and 2249 South Park Ave.)
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight (West Seneca/East Aurora locations)
Price range: $2 cheese pizza slice to $12.99 fish fry; personal pizzas to sheet pizzas ($8.99 to $35.99); subs, sandwiches, burgers, etc. ($6.99 to $10.99); wings ($10.99 to $38.99 buckets); chicken finger dinners ($11.99 to $31.99 bucket).
Happy Hour: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday with $2 Miller, PBR and Labatt bottles; $2 domestic drafts; $2 well drinks; half-priced glasses of wine. Domestic buckets of beer are five for $13.
Gluten-free options: Gluten-free pizza menu.