Aldo Evangelista is gone, but La Hacienda will live on.
The Niagara Falls restaurant at 3019 Pine Ave. will be operated by the famed Niagara Falls restaurateur's family, with a planned reopening Wednesday.
"Nothing's changing," said Donato Evangelista, Aldo's son. From the food to the staff, everything will be as Aldo left it, Donato said.
After being diagnosed with cancer several months ago, Aldo asked Donato, a manager for an arcade company in Orlando, to take over. Aldo died at the restaurant last week before Donato could complete the transition to Niagara Falls.
"We're opening Wednesday for normal business hours," Donato said, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. "It's going to be and my mom (Lillian) running the place from now on. I'm going to be the face, and she's going to be behind the scenes running it."
Aldo's recipes have to be transcribed from his "Italian chickenscratch" notes, but the keys to recreating his pizza and sauces are there, Donato said.
"We look forward to serving the exact same recipes that everyone has come to know and love," said Valerie Kay Evangelista, Donato's wife, who will manage the restaurant with him.
"He had already been diagnosed, but we've been talking because he wanted to keep the restaurant going. He didn't want to shut it down," Donato said.
On Wednesday, if all goes as planned, Aldo will get his wish.
Springville's Legacy back: The Legacy is back, dishing up dinner in the heart of Springville.
It's been a long struggle for insurance agent Ted Winkey, who decided to reopen the restaurant he'd run with wife Kathy from 2000 to 2006.
In October, he was hoping to open the restaurant, at 3 E. Main St., for Thanksgiving.
But delays on multiple fronts pushed the start into 2018. The Legacy started serving sandwiches and drinks, but Winkey was planning to offer Springville more. Earlier this month, the Legacy started serving dinner.
"Now we do have a nice introductory dinner menu" on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Winkey said. A 8-ounce filet mignon tops the list at $29.95, with potato, vegetable and soup or salad. A pork chop, pasta carbonara, salmon and chicken breast ($16.95) follow.
The Legacy also offers a broad sandwich menu, offered throughout the day. Several are named after local figures. The Zielinski Brothers Triple Play ($11.95), named after local baseball boosters, boasts ham, turkey and roast beef in a club sandwich configuration, with crispy bacon and cheddar.
Another takes its name from a friend and local businessman who died in the fall, Winkey said. Garlock's Deluxe Schiacciata ($12.95, lead photo) is a show-stopping edifice of capocollo, mortadella and salami with pesto mayonnaise, roasted red pepper, tomato, lettuce and fresh mozzarella, piled onto a rosemary lemon-zest focaccia-like roll.
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 4:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Closed Sunday. Phone: 592-3300.
Quick-serve Italian downtown: The people behind Rachel's Mediterranean, relocated to 235 S. Elmwood Ave., are opening a quick-serve Italian spot in the former Rachel's spot at Chippewa and Delaware.
The space, at 235 Delaware Ave., will be called Bruno Italian Grill.
The restaurant's setup echoes Rachel's, with an Italian accent. Customers choose pasta, wrap or salad, then customize it.
The menu isn't complete, but pasta pickers will be able to choose from a variety of fresh pastas, including a whole wheat option, said Gene Khoury, who runs Rachel's with his brother Joseph.
"These pastas are fresh, that's the draw," he said. "Since they're fresh, they only take about a minute or two to boil. Put it in the bowl, and down the line they go."
Add a sauce, fresh or shredded mozzarella, and proteins like chicken, steak, Italian sausage or herbed tofu. Then consider a selection of fresh and cooked vegetables, like roasted tomatoes, sautéed onions and peppers, grilled artichokes or fresh basil.
Organic spring mix will be the foundation for Bruno's salads, he said. Prices will be in the $9-$11 area.
The quick-serve operation will aim to capture the fancy of on-the-go customers. Seating in the space will be limited, as it was as a Rachel's outlet.
Bruno's should be ready to open by the end of March, Khoury said.
Oliver's honored: Delaware Avenue dining destination Oliver's has earned a position on the American Automobile Association's list of recommended fine restaurants.
The honor comes almost two years after Ross Warhol took over as executive chef at the Buffalo white-tablecloth standard. The list is based on visits in 2017 by AAA inspectors.
In 2016, Warhol's artistic touches, added to the tried-and-true standards and experienced staff, earned Oliver's a 10-of-10 plates rating from Buffalo News restaurant critic Andrew Z. Galarneau.
"There have been many ups and downs, late nights, early mornings, and many great achievements throughout the years in my career," Warhol posted to Facebook after getting the news, "but this one takes the cake."
"I can’t thank my family and friends enough for all the support throughout the years, staff that I’ve worked with all over the world who have helped shape me into what I am today."
Checkers closed: Checkers, one of Buffalo's most beloved neighborhood bars, has closed its doors.
News spread after the bar's Facebook page announced the sad tidings for local drinkers Wednesday.
There are plenty of places to drink on Hertel, but there was only one Checkers, at 1864 Hertel Ave.
Here's how News columnist Jerry Sullivan put it while detailing his favorite Buffalo bars in a 2006 article:
"It's a North Buffalo institution - and some of the regulars belong in an institution. But seriously, it's a great bar, a social melting pot. Just about everyone has spent time in the place. Try wedging your way in after the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning."
The bar was popular for its down-to-earth amenities: non-fussy decor, reasonably priced drinks, $1 Sahlen's hot dogs on Mondays and Taco Tuesdays.
In July 2003, Buffalo News Staff Reporter Kate DeForest, in a Gusto cover feature on patio bars, wrote this assessment: "Checkers is definitely a divey little place."
"From the peeling green wallpaper to the stale smell of years of smoke," DeForest wrote in the story, "the bar's Irish bent can be seen only in a couple of yellowed Kennedy clippings tacked up behind the counter. The patio, though small, nearly doubles the size of the bar and has a couple of tables and chairs scattered about."
A few years later, in August 2006, Trey Wydysh wrote in a review in The Buffalo News that "Checkers just may be the friendliest bar in Buffalo."
"Almost everyone in Checkers has a story to tell, and after their first visit to Checkers, newcomers will most certainly have a story of their own," Wydysh wrote at the time.
"You can go in, meet new friends and be sure they'll remember you the next time you're there," Wydysh wrote in the piece in The News.
Checkers has been described as an establishment that appealed to adults of all ages. The music that played in the background tended towards classic rock and reggae and the food selection was as basic as burgers, fried bologna sandwiches with onions and corned beef sandwiches on St. Patrick's Day. The bar also sponsored charities, such as its annual Checkers Tavern 5k Pie Run.
Jackie Sullivan, who lives a block away from the bar, has been a longtime patron of Checkers.
"I have been coming to Checkers for 16 years. I met my husband here 16 years ago, the first time I ever walked into the bar," Sullivan said Wednesday.
"What makes Checkers special is it is a family. I have developed lifelong friendships that I will have for the rest of my life. It's a place to go to feel at home. It's really a home away from home," she added.
"You can come here in your gym clothes. You can come here in a fancy dress. You can come in whatever you want, and you are not judged at all. There is absolutely no judgment in this place," Sullivan said.
Demi Walsh, a bartender at Checkers for about a decade, from 2007 to 2017, said: "It was basically your neighborhood dive bar, for lack of a better word, but it was open all day every day. You had people from all sorts of generations that came in and were friends with one another. I mean, people were friends that were 21 years old with people that were 90 years old."
"It was the place to go before an after a wedding or before and after a funeral. We celebrated every holiday here. One of our biggest nights of the year was Thanksgiving morning and Christmas Eve to be at Checkers," she said.
Many of the Thanksgiving revelers were participants in the annual Turkey Trot.
"We had people that had moved into the North Buffalo neighborhood that had heard about Checkers and just had to stop by to see what it was like and quickly became regulars here," Walsh said.
Cantina 62 closing: Cantina 62, the Lackawanna taqueria, will close at the end of March after losing its lease.
It'll be tacos as usual at 2723 South Park Ave. until March 30, said owner Matthew Krupp. "We're looking for other space," he said.
Cantina 62 opened on Nov. 9, 2016. Krupp said he knew the building needed work when he got into it, but thought he could work it out. "When I did it, it seemed like a good idea," he said. "It was cheap, easy to get into, we could start building a brand, and give it a real go."
Krupp said he'll work to keep his business going during the transition. "We're lucky that we have a strong brand," the owner said. "We're going to be serving tacos until March 30. I hope to find some pop-up locations over the summer."
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