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OUT TO EAT / Great dishes, drinks and people

Crazy about the beans

The most popular dish on the menu at Santasiero's (1329 Niagara St., 886-9197) arrived because the chef was willing to share his lunch.

George Santasiero, son of the restaurant's founder, liked his beans in broth, a dish too simple for the menu. As the story goes, "He used to eat it in the restaurant when he was working," said John Brands Jr., George's grandson. "So many customers wanted to try it that he ended up putting it on the menu."

That was 1954, and it's been there ever since. It's a blend of butter beans, chickpeas and ditalini pasta in a vegetarian broth of onion, garlic and spices, and it seems as popular in July as January, Brands said. Sauteed hot peppers, bread and butter come on the side.

The half portion ($6.50) is enough for a hearty lunch, but most people get the full ($7.75), said Brands. "The majority get the large -- the price difference is so minimal." Half of them take a helping home afterward.

Santasiero's has plenty of red-sauce favorites on its menu, like eggplant Parmesan and spaghetti with meatballs. But over the years, the dish "caught on like wildfire," said Brands, and Santasiero's sells more than 200 helpings on an average day.

On Santasiero's menu, it's spelled "pasta fasoola" instead of the standard pasta fagioli.

The regulars don't care -- they know what they want. "They just call it beans," Brands said.

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May the hops be with you

Back from the dark side, the Flying Bison Brewing Company (491 Ontario St.) is celebrating its return to brewing with "The Brewery Strikes Back." From noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, the taps will flow and partygoers get two free beers for arriving in a "Star Wars" costume. There will also be a Princess Leia look-alike contest, with the winner receiving a bicycle.

Rusty Chain, Aviator Red and Buffalo Lager will be poured. Live music from the Cellars and a performance by DJ Cutler are expected as well. Tickets are $7 in advance, $10 at the door. For more information: www.flyingbisonbrewing.com or 481-0906.

-- Andrew Z. Galarneau

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