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June means time to dine on the patio

A Buffalo restaurateur once told me that any Western New Yorker opening a dining establishment around here without providing outdoor tables in the summer is in trouble from the outset. There's a good chance that's true. Most of us want to take advantage of every bit of summer weather and stay outdoors as long as we can.

That explains why just about every restaurant, coffee shop and hot dog stand boasts an alfresco eating or drinking area and almost all the tables are occupied. It's a brave restaurant owner who restricts his customers to eating indoors.

Some patios are better than others, however, and, in response to questions, I'd like to submit a few of my favorites (there are many, many others). I've devoted a lot of space to water views in recent weeks, so this time, I'll stay with patios that have something else to recommend them. And I've limited it to Buffalo for this first version. If you have your own favorites, let me hear from you.

First, let me nominate La Tee Da, 206 Allen St. This is a comfortable, shady backyard, open for dinner only. What makes it especially charming is contrast. The space is green and flower-filled, but you know full well you're in the heart of the city. Plenty of houses surround the yard and, though it seems far off, you can hear the hubbub of Allentown.

Charming settings mean nothing without good food. It's terrific -- Italian/American done with imagination and with plenty of attention paid to vegan and vegetarian items, as Buffalo News food writer Andrew Z. Galarneau noted in last week's Gusto. Eggplant Wings anyone?

The late Mary Tomaselli, who founded the restaurant, is missed; her family carries on.

Contrast, too, is offered at Tabree, 425 Elmwood Ave. near Bryant Street. It, too, is small indoors, but gloriously spacious outdoors where the space is surrounded by apartment houses. The patio is heated and there are tarps in case of rain.

The stylish menu presided over by husband and wife team Bruan and Taara Bryndle is basically French -- this is elegant food done with sophisticated simplicity. Enjoy the profiteroles for dessert!

Hutch's patio, 1375 Delaware Ave. at Gates Circle, is right out there on the sidewalk, separated from the passing foot traffic by canvas barriers. I love eating out here because, believe it or not, it's quiet. (Indoors tends to be noisy on a busy night.)

The menu is divided into large plate and small plates. The food is innovative. Owner/chef Mark Hutchinson is one of the best chefs in the area, and he had a commitment to local produce long before it became so popular. You often see him at the Bidwell Farmers Market.

The patio at Ristorante Lombardo, 1198 Hertel Ave., is out front but set back from the street and softened with landscaping. The contemporary Italian menu just keeps on getting better. Roasted Half Chicken Saltimbocca, with farro, no less, is calling to me right now!

And finally, we mentioned the Bidwell Market, and this is the one selection on the list that is not upscale. Caffe Aroma at 957 Elmwood is a Saturday morning scene across from the market and a good place to sip your latte and watch all the neighborhood action -- of which there is plenty. Sandwiches and baked goods are available, too.

Next week (and about time, too!): Readers' comments and suggestions.

Who did we miss? What's your favorite patio, in or out of the city? Send questions and comments to News restaurant reviewer Janice Okun at

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