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Restaurant notes: Sonny Red's, Vizzi's, Good Fortune

Mulberry restaurant owner Joe Jerge is expanding his Italian portfolio with a new Neapolitan-style pizza spot in Lackawanna.

Sonny Red's will open in the former Press Box, 1841 Abbott Road. The restaurant will host a Christmas party open to the public Dec. 23, and reopen Dec. 26 with a condensed version of the menu. By the end of the following week, the full menu should be available, Jerge said.

With the installation of a Neapolitan-style pizza oven, the menu at the former sports bar will be centered around the premium pizza product.

"We're going to do a few pastas, sandwiches and salads, but the focus will be the pizza," Jerge said. Toward that end, Jerge spent the better part of month in New York City training under Neapolitan pizza master Roberto Caporuscio, chef-owner at Keste Pizza & Vino and Don Antonio.

Mulberry not resting on its meatballs

"It's not Buffalo pizza," he said. Neapolitan style pizzas cook at about 900 degrees, and are finished in about 90 seconds.The oven is all-wood-fired, and the quickly cooked pizzas will sport toppings like smoked buffalo mozzarella. In his training, Jerge said, he got hands-on instruction on everything from dough to finishing herbs.

A space that formerly sported a dance floor has been redone with subway tile on the walls. A copper-topped pizza bar has been installed where a half-dozen customers can watch the pizziaolos stretch dough and fire pizzas.

The restaurant will hold 55-60 inside. In good weather, another 60 can be accommodated outside, with the installation of a new pergola. Sonny Red's full bar seats about 20 people, with 24 beers on tap, Jerge said.

Jerge did not have an update to offer on Mulberry on Main, the Mulberry offshoot set for Snyder.

Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with pizza available until midnight on Friday, Saturday. Closed Mondays.

University Heights opening: Owners of the Gourm-Asian Bistro food truck are opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant in University Heights.

At 11 Minnesota Ave., less than a mile from the University at Buffalo's Main Street campus, Good Fortune's menu will offer creative Asian-influenced dishes from the truck's menu, and more, according to a Facebook post.

"We are taking our concept from the truck and putting a spin on Chinese take-out and any Asian cuisine," the post said. "Except ours is made from scratch, fresh, and to order with a ton of veggie options and a few favorites from the truck."

The Gourm-Asian truck has served at Food Truck Tuesdays at Larkinville and other food truck events. Sesame chicken ($8) and Asian veggie noodle bowls ($6-$10) have been mainstays of the business.

Gourm-Asian Bistro adds Pacific Rim to food truck flavors

"Our goal is to provide a healthy, satisfying alternative to take out or delivery," posted owner Greg Whitehurst. The truck will remain on the road serving customers in other locations.

The restaurant's opening date is Jan. 2.

Hours: 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday. Phone: 444-5004.

The Gourm-Asian Bistro food truck owners will open a restaurant in University Heights. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News file photo)

Vizzi's sold: Practically everyone has the same question for Sean Honan, the new owner of Vizzi's, home of one of Buffalo's greatest burgers.

Here's his answer: "We're not changing anything," Honan said.

The neighborhood tavern at 967 Kenmore Ave., Kenmore, was opened by Joe and Mindy Vizzi 24 years ago.

Joe ran the bar and Mindy, "the heart and soul of the whole business," ran the kitchen, Joe Vizzi said. In 2008, Vizzi's was named the best burger in Western New York by The Buffalo News, and its "monster burger" has won praise from many critics and burger fans.

Burgerlicious Where's the best burger in town? With help from our readers, one reporter traveled 3 counties and 300 miles to find out

The Vizzis wanted to sell the place and retire two years ago, but it was harder than usual finding a buyer, because the Vizzis had more than money on their minds.

Asked if he wanted to say anything to the customers who sustained the business over the years, Joe Vizzi said: "I had a chance to sell it previously, but I refused to do it unless the purchaser kept it the same, and do it the way we've done it for the last 24 years." He's 72, and he and Mindy are moving to Ft. Myers, Fla.

Honan took over Dec. 11. The new owner was already running a legacy business, Sullivan's Hot Dogs, a seasonal ice cream and burger outlet at 501 Cayuga Drive, Niagara Falls. "That was an established business when I took over five years ago, and I watched how they did things."

Walk on in; You don't have to live in the neighborhood to be welcomed at Vizzi's

The cheeseburgers, employees and Friday night live music will stay the same, said Honan of Vizzi's.

"My plan is literally not to change anything. I've had a lot of success in Western New York going with a proven winner and not messing with things. Just keep the tradition going."

Ellicottville Public House: The third Public House has opened in Ellicottville, giving the ski town another Buffalo-based restaurant offering. It's also a dream come true for the owners, who fell in love with Ellicottville years ago.

Frank and Sara Testa opened Public House of Buffalo, 1206 Hertel Ave., in 2014. Then the Testas turned the former Root Five, 4914 Lake Shore Drive West, Hamburg, into Public House on the Lake.

Then Public House Ellicottville opened Nov. 24 at 24 Monroe St., formerly Cadillac Jack's.

The Testas were able to shape the space to their tastes. "Basically, everything we wanted to do on Hertel but couldn't do – like expose brick walls, shelving behind the bar, tap tower – we were able to do, so we're super happy with the way everything turned out," said Sara Testa.

There's six dining tables on the first floor with the bar, and another 15 tables upstairs.

The first Public House was supposed to be in Ellicottville. "I've been skiing my entire life, coming here with my family since I was five," Testa said. "It's got that small town feel, that ski town feel. Everyone is always having fun, you're there to eat and drink and have a good time."

The couple also likes to go to Killington, Vt., a town with a similar vibe, she said. They were looking for a house, which turned into a search that ended on Monroe Street.

To drink there's 20 taps of draft beer, plus 50 cans and bottles, and a full bar.

The food menu will include Public House standards like soups, salads, sandwiches, and lobster poutine. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday. One addition to the Ellicottville menu will be pizza, said Testa.

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 699-9001.

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