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Steakhouse may replace Romanello's Roseland Restaurant

Romanello's Roseland Restaurant, a West Side institution for 77 years, could be replaced by a new restaurant, if a planned deal goes through.

AFT Property Management plans to buy the property that houses the restaurant at 490 Rhode Island St.

AFT would lease the site to event planner Jennifer Mogensen and Christian DiFiglia, a co-owner of Cozumel Grill on Elmwood Avenue.

Mogensen and DiFiglia want to operate what Mogensen calls a "modern steakhouse" at the site.

Joseph Romanello, whose family has owned the West Side landmark since it opened in 1928, said it was premature to discuss what might happen.

He emphasized that the family-run corporation which owns the restaurant had not decided whether to sell the property, and that it would remain open as Romanello's Roseland if a deal is not completed.

"I don't know if there is a deal or if there is not a deal," he said.

"We're doing very well there," Romanello added. "We're happy with what we're doing there."

Mogensen, of Social Expectations in Buffalo, also said everything remains tentative until a deal is signed. But she said the business partners hope to have the transaction completed soon so that the new restaurant could open in November, following some remodeling, she said.

Romanello's Roseland Restaurant was founded by John Romanello and Bruno Saccomagno, both of whom were Italian immigrants. The Romanello family branched out over the years, opening the since-closed Romanello's Prime Rib in Williamsville in 1974, and the still-operating Romanello's South in Hamburg, in 1980.

Romanello's South and the Old Orchard Inn in East Aurora, which is also owned by the Romanello family, are not affected by the proposed deal for the Rhode Island property.

Romanello's Roseland Restaurant is well known for its atmosphere, including its dim lighting, covered patio and white table cloths.

An incident that happened outside of the restaurant is also part of local lore: a 1974 gangland killing of a man on his way to eat there, a crime that is still unsolved.

The people involved in the planned purchase of 490 Rhode Island have experience in real estate and restaurants.

AFT Management's Anthony Trusso owns a number of residential and commercial buildings around Buffalo. He recently bought the Lenox Hotel on North Street in Buffalo.

DiFiglia has restaurant experience from Cozumel, and will continue his involvement in that Elmwood Avenue establishment. Mogensen previously spent a few years as director of catering for Romanello's South.

The restaurant operators' plans call for serving only dinners at the planned West Side restaurant; they hope to add banquets later on, she said.

Mogensen acknowledged she and DiFiglia would be following a lot of restaurant history at 490 Rhode Island.

"That's one of the exciting things," she said. "Lots of people know it's there. There's a lot of expectations that go along with that."

Romanello's Roseland would be the second longtime Buffalo restaurant to bid farewell in recent weeks. Lord Chumley's, which had been open for nearly three decades in Allentown, closed in late August.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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