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Buffalo in the ’70s: Stumpy at Ralph’s on Hertel

The cozy little spot at 1503 Hertel that served the corned beef on rye, the matzo ball soup and potato pancakes for decades was known as Stumpy’s, but officially Ralph’s – even though Ralph had been gone for decades and Anthony “Stumpy” Gengo was Hertel’s favorite sandwich maker for a couple of generations.

Italian by birth, Stumpy and his wife, Anne, spent close to six decades creating the Kosher-style basics that were the mainstay of at least a half-dozen Kosher delis on Hertel in the days when the same area of Hertel also had that many synagogues.

After earning the title “The Potato Latke King” at his father-in-law’s place – Sandler’s on Washington Street –  Gengo and his griddle moved to Ralph’s on Hertel Avenue, where the tiny accommodations always seemed packed. Ralph Marcus started the place during World War II and sold it to Stumpy in 1963.

There was a cozy feel starting at 5am for breakfast and then through the lunch rush, where Stumpy would make every sandwich by hand while dispensing advice and the occasional phosphate, cream soda or wild cherry.

In 1993, Stumpy closed up 50 years-worth of New York style deli memories on Hertel, and moved to Delaware Avenue near Sheridan, where the name finally, officially, became Stumpy’s Delight.

After managing her parents’ place for years, Stumpy’s daughter opened her own restaurant on Hertel Avenue in 2003. Although Risa’s is now in the M&T building at 285 Delaware Ave, it still offers many dishes prepared from recipes that would be familiar to anyone who sat at the counter across from Stumpy.

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