It was almost too much to handle at one time -- all the politics happening along Hertel Avenue Friday afternoon.
There was Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato and New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani -- one time bitter political enemies -- hugging outside Cafe GarAngelo, sharing mounds of antipasto and baked ziti inside, and all the while saying wonderful things about each other.
Then, there was the aspect of Giuliani's second visit to Buffalo this year, leading to even more speculation about the possibility of him running for statewide office once his term as mayor ends in 2001. New York City mayors can only serve two terms.
And just to make things even more confusing, throw in Buffalo Comptroller Joel A. Giambra -- a Democrat -- praising the pair of Republicans as the "best senator" and "best mayor" New York State and New York City ever had. As he introduced his mother to the mayor and senator whom he has endorsed for re-election, it only reinforced the idea that Giambra is moving closer and closer to the GOP.
But it was most clear that D'Amato was delighted to welcome the popular mayor, who defied the GOP in 1994 by endorsing former Gov. Mario Cuomo, but is now once again among the faithful. Facing an expected tough re-election battle this fall, D'Amato imported Giuliani to the largely Italian North Buffalo neighborhood and to fund-raising events where the mayor's star appeal helped raise over $100,000.
"I'm deeply appreciative of his public show of support here in Buffalo," D'Amato said, praising Giuliani for creating a better quality of life in New York City.
"Not as a partisan, but as someone who wants to do for his community," D'Amato said. "We really want to make a difference. That's what Mayor Rudy Giuliani has done.
He has set a standard that says, if it can be done in New York City, it can be done anywhere."
Though D'Amato did not specifically boost his old rival for the statewide or even national offices often mentioned for Giuliani, he didn't back away either.
"The mayor does a great job in whatever job he undertakes," he said. "He'll perform with the same kind of ability, enthusiasm and dedication that he has demonstrated and proven."
Giuliani responded in kind, explaining that he was helping raise money for D'Amato because of his efforts on behalf of the city and state.
"I very much believe in Sen. D'Amato," he said. "I think he's done a terrific job for the state and I think people should know that."
He praised his senior position in the Senate and predicted he would be re-elected by a "great margin."
Inside the popular Hertel Avenue restaurant, Giuliani and D'Amato held court among politicians, aides and patrons surprised to find the senator and mayor of New York occupying a long table in the middle of the restaurant. Giuliani told those gathered around his table about possible plans to build a new ballpark in Manhattan for the New York Yankees, while reveling in the food prepared by chef/owner Gary Tenebra.
"He came in and said he was starving and wanted ziti," Tenebra said. "I told him we'd take care of him."
And those looking on seemed just as entertained as all the politicians. Yolanda Lawrence, a resident of the senior citizen complex upstairs, said she recognized Giuliani and would think about voting for him some day.
"If he had a clean record, why not?" she said. "He's done a lot of good things, but I read about him always getting in hot water."
D'Amato earlier in the day had attended a Buffalo fund-raiser before the $1,000 per couple main event at the Lockport home of developer David Ulrich.