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'Like an Italian Chick-fil-A': Chef's launches new model in Amherst

The Amherst location of Chef’s will launch a new model for the venerable Buffalo Italian American restaurant – and award one customer Chef’s for life.

At 5483 Sheridan Drive, Chef’s On the Go will have counter service, no servers and a pickup window. “Almost like an Italian Chick-fil-A, you can sit down to eat or take it to go,” said Lou Billittier Jr., who owns and operates it with sister Mary Beth.

The recipes will be exactly the same as the Buffalo’s original spaghetti parm palace, downtown on Seneca Street, he said. The restaurant will have 50 to 60 seats, and sell wine and beer.

It’s expected to open in mid-September. The first 100 people in line will get a free dinner, and one of those people will win a Chef’s meal daily, for the rest of their lives, said Billittier. (He noted that it can be any meal Chef’s offers, not just the famed spaghetti in sauce and butter under a blistered mozzarella quilt.)

Chef’s will also be donating part of the grand opening proceeds to the Amherst Boys and Girls Club in support of a bocce court that is in planning stages.

[Related: Buttery backstory behind Chef's spaghetti parm | Check out parm and other favorites from Buffalo's oldest restaurants]

The Amherst location will be a prototype for a planned franchise rollout, which has already started attracting investor interest, he said. Opportunities are being showcased through its website, chefsfranchising.com.

The company also plans to add a Chef’s smartphone app, online ordering and customer rewards system, so dedicated customers can earn points toward free pasta with each Chef’s run.

The lack of servers means that if you like having a Chef’s bib tied on for you, you’ll still want to head downtown.

The original Chef’s, at 291 Seneca St., was founded in 1923. Bought by former dishwasher Lou Billittier in the 1950s, it is run by two of his children.

One of the oldest restaurants in the city, Chef's is known for its spaghetti parm, developed by Billittier’s father with Dave Thomas, former host of the well-known children's show on WKBW-TV Rocketship 7. The dish is the main reason that Chef’s goes though about half a ton of mozzarella each week. Chef’s is also one of the largest restaurants in the city, seating about 325.

The pickup window on Seneca Street was a huge success, allowing commuters to order ahead and slot a Chef’s run into their evening homeward journey. That’s why the Amherst location has one, Billittier said, to allow the restaurant serve the on-the-go families of today.

The Amherst restaurant will be open 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Like the original, the Amherst Chef’s will be closed on Sundays, so employees can spend time with their families, Billittier said.

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