April 15, 1934 – May 21, 2017
In 1980, Steve Prahovic wanted to give his customers something different when he opened his restaurant, Steve’s Pig and Ox Roast in Lackawanna.
“His dream was to have the meat set up so you could see it,” his daughter Mary Coppola says. “It was the novelty of coming in there and watching the meat roasting. If he put it on at 10 or 11 in the morning, at lunch and dinner people could watch him cutting it off.”
One of his best customers was television personality and “Cheap Gourmet” restaurant critic Doug Smith, who not only gave Steve’s a thumbs-up review, but also encouraged his colleagues at WIVB, Channel 4, to drop in.
Along with its roast beef and roast pork sandwiches, the restaurant was renowned for its curly fries, which were produced with the help of a machine in the kitchen.
“He paid a fortune for that machine,” his daughter says. “We had to cut the potatoes by hand. Oh my god, we worked so hard.”
Steve’s has become a favorite of food lovers far and wide who treasure local eateries. Jane and Michael Stern featured it on one of their Roadfood segments on NPR’s “The Splendid Table.”
When Mr. Prahovic decided to retire in 1989, he sold the restaurant to relatives, who continue to operate it.
“He had shoulder problems,” his daughter says. “It was the slicer, the repetitive motion.”
Restless after a few months, he opened another Steve’s on Route 5 in Derby, which he operated for about four years before retiring permanently.
Mr. Prahovic died May 21 under hospice care at his home in Sun City West, Ariz., after an extended illness. He was 83.
Born in Kamanje, Croatia, he was living with a sister as World War II ended after his widowed mother had emigrated to France. To escape the unrest following the war, he and a cousin escaped on foot to Austria.
He spent time in refugee camps, at one point surviving by eating shoe leather, and for a year he was an altar boy at a cathedral in Salzburg, Austria, that was featured in the film, “The Sound of Music.”
Sponsored by a Croatian priest in the United States, he came first to Baltimore, then joined the Croatian community in Lackawanna, where he became reacquainted with people from his home village. He also had known the family of Nada Barberich, from the Croatian community in Riverside, and he and Nada were married in the Croatian Club on Vulcan Street in 1961.
Mr. Prahovic served in the Air Force for four years and was stationed in England, then worked at the Chevrolet engine plant in the Town of Tonawanda, first on the production line, then as a forklift driver. He also started roasting meat.
“It’s a cultural thing,” his daughter said. “The Croatians love roast lamb and anything roasted on a spit. Every time there was a celebration, through practice, he got really good at it. He had a friend and they would go around and do parties.”
He eventually took a leave of absence from the auto plant to start his restaurant in a Lackawanna storefront at 951 Ridge Road, the former offices of the Lackawanna Leader newspaper.
He had built a home in Lake View, but moved to the Phoenix area in retirement. Missing friends and family in the Buffalo area, he moved back around 2000 and built another home in Lake View, where he lived until 2014.
In addition to his wife and daughter, survivors include two sons, Stephen M. and John F.; seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A memorial Mass will be offered at 10:30 a.m. July 8 in Our Lady of Victory Basilica, Ridge Road and South Park Avenue, Lackawanna.