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Novel, expanded former Amaretto on Transit, nears opening

After more than a year of planning and construction, the restaurant at 7170 Transit Road in Amherst is close to debuting its new look and name.

Novel Restaurant was formerly known as Amaretto Italian Bistro. Chef Richard Semonian and General Manager David Petruzzi, who own the place, closed their restaurant in April to expand. They hope to welcome customers again by the end of July.

Italian isn't in the new name, but it's still in the restaurant's makeup.

"We make all of our pasta from scratch using imported semolina," said Semonian. The Novel menu will feature diverse types, including dishes such as roast chicken with fusilli ($24), shrimp and scallop campanelle ($32), pork bolognese with carrot rigatoni ($22) and bucatini for the cacio e pepe ($18).

Sunday evening will be $10 housemade pasta night, with homestyle classics such as spaghetti and meatballs, and chicken parmesan, Semonian said.

Appetizers will include scallop carpaccio with lime broth and vanilla salt ($14), potato gnocchi with brown butter, cauliflower and hazelnuts ($11) and grilled octopus with smoked chickpeas and chile oil ($13). Entrees will include beef short ribs with saffron risotto and pistachio gremolata ($32), halibut with beet puree and bacon vinaigrette ($34) and grilled chicken and shrimp with white wine butter sauce, preserved lemon and capers ($27).

The former dining room is now a bar, and the former vaping shop next door has been transformed into a dining room. There are seats for 88, and a banquet room that can hold 75.

Semonian said he is eager to show people what Novel has become. The partners launched the remodel and expansion after coming to believe the food was better than the room. Now his cuisine has a more appropriate setting, he said. "It's night and day."

Great ideas; Amaretto Bistro surprises with ambitious dishes

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