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Cheap Eats "I was overcome by the dinner choices on the menu."

La Bella Sicilia was buzzing with activity on the early side of a Friday dinnertime, and once we saw the antipasto carried from the kitchen, we knew why.

"That was huge," said Dan, his eyes widening. "It would have fed this whole table." We scoured the menu and decided that it must have been the large antipasto, which carried the rather reasonable price of $7.

But, we would find out, that's the way things are here at La Bella Sicilia. The pasta dishes - $5.50 for the simplest, spaghetti or ziti with sauce, and $9.50 for fettuccine Alfredo with broccoli - are sized to stuff one person, leaving the limited dessert menu unstudied. But the dinners - ranging from $9 for tripe to $13 for Veal Scallopini ala Margarita, which means made with ham, eggplant and melted mozzarella - are easily twice as big, making both a satisfying dinner and a sizable lunch the next day.

Ruth went for the Pasta with Broccoli ($7.50) and found the ziti in oil and light cheese tasty and the broccoli bright green and tender-crisp. Dan's Cheese Ravioli and John's Stuffed Shells (each $7), were each served in a sizzling hot oval, metal dish placed on a paper plate to protect the server's hands. They were clearly both pulled right from under the broiler, where the thick layer of mozzarella on top had turned molten and bubbly, and it was a few minutes before they cooled enough to be tasted.

Both John and Dan also ordered meatballs ($2.50 for two) and found them delicious. "They're tasty and not overly dense," John said.

I was overcome by the dinner choices on the menu - seven veal, six chicken, as well as sausage and shrimp - and finally decided on sausage and peppers ($9.50). Although it was only $2.50 more than the pasta dishes, it was almost hilariously huge, served on a platter with probably most of a pound of cooked sausage. I actually laughed when the server put down the side dish of spaghetti, saying, "Well, good thing I got that! Now I won't starve!"

The sausage was nicely spiced with fennel seeds and garlic, and the peppers were plentiful and tasty, although another hour simmering in the sauce wouldn't have hurt them. I suspect people who ordered that dish two hours later would have gotten more of a satisfying blend of flavors.

Big portions, great tastes and good value - no wonder it was crowded.

- Anne Neville

La Bella Sicilia is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, and from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. It is handicapped-accessible.

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>La Bella Sicilia

2909 Genesee St., Cheektowaga

896-6692

3 1/2 pennies (out of four)

"Big portions."

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