Duff’s is probably coming to Buffalo – and returning pizza to a revered spot.
Duff’s Famous Wings' owners have a letter of intent to lease the former JJ's Casa-Di-Pizza location at 477 Elmwood Ave., owned by Sinatra Realty.
The deal won’t be done until final lease details are negotiated, said Greg Duell, a Duff’s partner who runs the Eastern Hills Mall location.
“We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves,” Duell said. “We’re very close to a deal, but we’re still hammering out details in the contract.”
That said, “it doesn’t temper our excitement about opening in the City of Buffalo. It’s a beautiful spot in a great neighborhood, with tons of families and businesses, and we feel Duff’s can be a good part of the community there.”
The original hope was to open there by the end of 2019, but the way things are going, early 2020 seems more likely, said Duell. The first-floor dining room, about 5,400 square feet, would hold about 125 to 150, and add a visible brick oven for pizza as a design element.
JJ's Casa-Di-Pizza closed its restaurant at the address in 2015, after 62 years at that location. Now one of the possible additions, if Duff's moves in, is adding brick oven pizza to its specialty of chicken wings, like the Eastern Hills location, Duell said.
It's too soon to settle on all the details, but the two-story space could also add another Duff's first: a banquet or event space on the second floor. "We are kicking the tires on doing that, a place for rehearsal dinners, team dinners, or business meetings."
First, Duff's and Sinatra have to sign an agreement. Then the planning and designing will move forward.
Construction will be extensive, and the age of the building contributes to uncertainty.
"A lot depends on when they are going to be able to get in there, when they start pulling the building apart," he said. "It'll be a full gut. When they pull everything apart and start reconstructing, what will they find?"
The current structure would be respected, but there's a lot of room for touch-ups. "Aesthetically, we would be touching every inch of that."
Whatever the precise plans that the Duff's partners end up with, Duell said, it will fit into its surroundings. "In the Elmwood Village, we really want to have respect for the neighborhood, the charm and the character it's always carried throughout the years, and we want to be respectful of that."
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