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Cheap Eats

The name is Otto's, which might get you thinking about a big plate of sauerkraut and bratwurst. But you'll find that the menu leans toward Italian, and take it from us: that's the way to go.

The parking lot was full when Ruth, Dan, John and I arrived for dinner on a Friday, and it looked like a line of people were waiting outside the canopied door. It turned out that there was a party in progress, the people outside were smokers, and we had our choice of tables.

Italian dishes abound on the menu, and Ruth ordered the calzone with ricotta, cheese and ham for the amazingly cheap price of $4.75 (50 cents extra for a bowl of sauce). I went for the Italian Combo Platter with chicken, stuffed shells and lasagna ($10.90).

Ruth and Dan started with soup. Although Ruth enjoyed her chili, Dan searched in vain for an onion in his French onion soup ($2.50 for a cup of each). A later review of the bill showed that we'd been charged for a bottle of Miller Lite (which they did not have) as well as the bottle of Coors Light that we did get.

Ruth's calzone was truly a stunning size for the price, and she was delighted with its tasty dough shell, which was browned to perfection on the outside. About four slices of deli ham inside were augmented by creamy ricotta and melted cheese -- mozzarella? Altogether, a satisfying, if simple, filling. My Italian combo platter was the size of two dinners, with breaded chicken breast, stuffed shells and lasagna, generously covered with a nice red sauce that was well-balanced between sweet and spicy. Ruth and I were happy.

Not so the men, unfortunately. The fish in John's Fish Fry ($7.95) was fresh and delicious, he said, and we overheard a man at the next table telling the server how much he'd enjoyed his. But it was two sizes smaller than the fish you find featured on most Buffalo Fish Fry plates. That could have been remedied by a generous side of fries, but that wasn't the case. The small handful of fries looked lonely next to the paper cups of macaroni salad and coleslaw.

Dan didn't even do as well as John. His Beef on Weck ($6.95) was dry and tasteless, and the horseradish on the table was faded to no heat. He, too, received what Ruth called "the 'no-thank-you' portion of fries."

Ruth and I shared our dinners with the guys, and they agreed that the lasagna and calzone were very good. At Otto's, order the Italian -- and check your bill before you pay.

-- Anne Neville

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Otto's

3972 Union Road, Cheektowaga

632-2035

Review: 2 1/2 pennies (Out of 4)

"Good Italian."

The Otto's kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to midnight daily, except Sunday, when it is open from noon to midnight. It is handicapped-accessible.

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