Falletta's, a well-known Italian restaurant located for years on Delaware Avenue in Kenmore, has eschewed its very urban situation for a more country-like setting. The residential developments may be edging ever closer, and the hum of the cars on Transit Road may be quite discernible, but neither factor detracts from the charm of this quirky, sprawling old house.
The restaurant now occupies the site of Lyon's Tea Room, a former culinary landmark on Clarence Center Road in East Amherst.
A myriad of small rooms with heavily beamed ceiling rooms open up from the center hall, which sports an active fireplace and comfortable chairs. Decks seem to sprawl off in every direction, promising great outdoor eating when summer comes.
The menu in the new place still concentrates on pasta and red sauce. Most dishes are prepared with an earthy down home twist. Eggplant Parmigiana ($12.95) and Eggplant Florentine ($15.95) both are served with a side of pasta. Veal Cutlet ($15.95) and Lasagna ($10.95) are available, too.
But there's also an entree section that gets a wee bit fancier. Haddock baked with seasoned bread crumbs ($13.95) and Shrimp Marinara ($16.95), for instance. You can even get a 12-ounce Strip Steak ($14.95) or Steak Au Poivre ($17.95).
Big choices, but you're almost willing to forget all of it and zero in on the bread tray. These are thick sesame-adorned slices of Italian bread, utterly fresh from the oven. Among the choice of appetizers, we found that the soup of the day was a thick well-seasoned Lentil ($3.50). And we also liked the Dom Bread ($5.95), a sort of bruschetta, well-laden with good mozzarella and tomatoes. The portion is big enough for everyone to share. Salads were fresh and nicely varied, another plus.
For our main courses, we settled on two evening specials. Pasta Vinny was a hearty combination of ground meat, sausage, sweet peppers and marinara -- the texture and taste was just different enough to make what might have been a conventional dish interesting.
And the Crabmeat Stuffed Veal Chop was even better. The meat had been lightly breaded before being fried, so it was crisp and golden. Inside all was juicy, especially the full flavored stuffing. In accompaniment: baby carrots and a twice-baked potato. Real comfort food, and a lot of it. We actually considered skipping the dessert course completely -- and that would have been a shame.
That's because to visit Falletta's without consuming at least one Cannoli would be a little like going to Venice and missing the gondolas. The pastry is that famous in this neck of the woods. This particular made-in-house shell on this particular night may have been a little soggier than I remember, to tell the truth, but the whipped ricotta filling was as rich as ever and the fresh strawberry garnish was welcome, too.
The Chocolate Cassata Cake, though, was a disappointment. Yes, the ricotta filling was moist and tasty, but the cake itself, which makes up the layers, was inescapably dry.
8255 Clarence Center Road, East Amherst (741-7406). Popular Kenmore Italian restaurant moves out to the country. Still plenty of pasta and red sauce, but there's a few more elaborate dishes on the menu, too. Credit cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard.
FAVORITE DISH: Stuffed Veal Chop.
NEEDS WORK: Chocolate Cassata.
PRICE RANGE: Dinners from $10.95; includes salad.
HOURS: Dinner only. Tuesday through Saturday, 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday 2:30 to 8:30 p.m.
HEALTH-CONSCIOUS CHOICES: Shrimp Marinara, Haddock with Seasoned Crumbs.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Difficult.
PARKING: In the lot.
KID APPEAL: Nice family ambience.
KEY: * FAIR, **GOOD, ***VERY GOOD, ****EXCELLENT, *****EXTRAORDINARY. Stars are awarded for the quality of the food only.