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OUT TO EAT / Great dishes, drinks and people

Stuffed pepper gets an upgrade

The "Italian stuffed pepper" is a familiar appetizer on Buffalo restaurant menus. Usually it's in the form of a long chili pepper that's stuffed with a mixture of cheeses before being broiled or grilled.

But the stuffed pepper at the Blue Lantern Lounge (6120 Seneca St., Elma, 652-2583) has substantially upgraded the ubiquitous appetizer. "We started doing the panko crusting two years ago," said owner Tom Pease. "That's what I think has really made it a huge hit."

The Blue Lantern stuffed banana pepper ($6) comes one to a plate, encased in a crunchy panko crust. The nongreasy coating helps temper the chili heat, which can vary widely from pepper to pepper.

The oozy insides have been tweaked too, with goat cheese, smoked Gouda and a few other secret ingredients, along with a whack of bacon. The whole deal arrives nestled on a tomato-based vodka cream sauce.

"We always try to do something a little different with everything we do," said Pease.

-- Andrew Z. Galarneau