Ilio DiPaolo's offers a lunchtime special that is so good and inexpensive that it could be called the best-kept secret of the Blasdell restaurant and banquet facility.
The Veloce Buffet features two casseroles, three soups, a salad bar and assorted baked goods. It’s a lot of food for a bargain of $10.99 and choices change daily.
I discovered the delicious and varied food feast about four months ago after hearing about a soup and salad bar at Ilio's. I've learned it’s much more than the average soup and salad bar and it was so impressively delicious I’ve returned multiple times.
The buffet is set up in the dining room where you can sit at tables or booths. Since there was a larger than usual lunch crowd on a recent visit, the bar room was filled with as well. Sitting at the bar, I was waited on by young Ilio DiPaolo, who also took time to chat with me about his family. This personal touch of greeting customers has been passed down through the generations from the restaurant's namesake, the original Ilio DiPaolo, to his son Dennis and now Dennis' son, Ilio.
At the buffet, the soup and warm casserole choices were especially pleasing on a cold day. The cheese tortellini and chicken casserole was a great choice. Made with grilled chicken breast, prosciutto and spinach in Ilio’s vodka sauce, it was topped with Asiago cheese, which added a heavenly flavor to the dish.
The Italian Goulash was hearty. The pasta was thick with diced pieces of tender meatballs, green and red peppers, onions and tomatoes with penne in tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese. It was a sight and taste to behold.
Soups are kept hot in large black pots where you can ladle your choice in a bowl or sample all three if you wish. A bowl of minestrone was just the way I like it with a generous amount of beans. Instead of traditional chicken noodle soup, Ilio's serves a chicken and corn chowder with bits of potatoes and carrots that raised it above average. Italian wedding soup with those tasty and tender little meatballs satisfied my soup-loving taste buds.
The salad bar goes beyond the usual greens and veggie toppings like tomatoes and cucumbers with heartier salad options including chicken salad, pasta salad, pesto pasta salad, green bean and potato salad.
Also help yourself to fruit salad, cheese, crackers and fresh Italian bread. Top your lunch off with a Danish pastry and cookies from the dessert portion.
With delicious homemade food made with quality ingredients, the Veloce Buffet is a good reason to reconsider a fast-food burger or a boring sandwich. Cheap Eats doesn't have to be boring eats.
Although the buffet has plentiful choices, if you would like more food, you can upgrade to the Chef's Express for only $3 more ($13.99) and add a sandwich such as pulled prime rib sandwich with melted provolone and au jus or a Buffalo chicken salad wrap with cheddar cheese and fresh greens wrapped in a garlic herb tortilla. If you prefer to order off the regular lunch menu, you can add the buffet for $4.99.
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Ilio DiPaolo's Restaurant and Banquet Facility
3785 South Park Ave., Blasdell (825-3675)
Hours: Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Dinner hours are 2:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 2:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, 2 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Gluten-free options: Ilio’s has a full gluten-free menu including appetizers, soups, entrees and desserts.