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Bartender returns from Philly to reboot Black Rock Kitchen

A cocktail specialist who was in the running for best bartender in Philadelphia is returning to Buffalo to open the former Black Rock Kitchen and Bar.

At 491 Amherst St., Keith Raimondi plans to offer a place that highlights craft cocktails and other beverages, backed with a food program that exploits vegetables and local produce whenever possible.

Everything besides liquor that goes into drinks will be housemade, he said – juices, syrups, tinctures and bitters, for example. The food side will focus on housemade basics too, with charcuterie and bread made in-house, he said.

His strategy as a bartender is to make versions of classic cocktails with upgraded ingredients and hide surprises in them, while leaving them still properly balanced, he said. “I like to tuck, to hide things in what you would consider classics.”

Raimondi, no known relation to Lewiston chef Carmelo Raimondi, said he’s working on a name for his place. He has a candidate for chef, but hasn’t secured the person’s services yet.

In Philadelphia, Raimondi worked at places including Village Whiskey, other Garces Group restaurants, and Lemon Hill. At Townsend, his work behind the bar garnered second place honors in Eater Philly’s bartender of the year voting.

[Read about the closing of the former Black Rock Kitchen & Bar]

Raimondi grew up in Olean. The member of the Olean High School Class of 1996 is coming back to open his first place. He is returning because he wanted to settle down, open a place of his own, and be closer to his parents, who still live in Olean, he said.

Raimondi has a finance degree from West Virginia University, and was a financial advisor for a brief period, he said. But after working as a server and bartender, he found that more satisfying.

“Hospitality is what I like. The idea of creating a place where people can come and be comfortable,” said Raimondi. “People have to eat every day. They don’t have to drink every day, but it helps.”

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