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Frozen meals and warm hearts: Buffalo restaurants adapt

Frozen meals and warm hearts: Buffalo restaurants adapt

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So you've got a big freezer, huh? Put it to work.

Stocking up on food — in responsible fashion — could be wise during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Buffalo-area food businesses are quickly emphasizing the production and sale of frozen foods, either prepped for a single meal or in bulk, with some businesses naturally better-equipped to transition. (Good luck freezing sushi.)

Osteria 166, McDuffies Bakery, Farmers and Artisans and the Broadway Market are several businesses offering freshly prepared-then-frozen dinners — many in bulk or family size — to keep appetites satisfied for the long haul.

Stock the freezer

The initiative of Osteria 166 owner Nick Pitillo has exploded over the past three days, with a heartwarming aspect to boot.

The process is simple: Customers order Osteria 166 meals, family style, that have been made fresh and then quickly frozen to lengthen the shelf life, then packaged for delivery. A solid chunk of the Italian restaurant's menu is available through, ranging from spaghetti Parmesan to lasagna Bolognese to a giant plate of meatballs.

The restaurant accepted its first round of orders beginning Friday; Tuesday will be the first day of delivery — preparation instructions come with each order.

"The takeout model is not going to work for me personally," Pitillo said, noting the emptiness of the convention center, law offices and other nearby businesses. "How can I feed people, then? It can't be a la carte, and I can't just hope the phone rings."

More than 1,400 orders have been donated by customers to Buffalo-area food pantries to help those in greater need. Two of Pitillo's restaurant friends have donated much-needed freezer space. Five of Pitillo's employees, who were among the 60-plus laid off early last week, have returned to work because of this endeavor.

"I'm completely blown away by the response. Never in a thousand years did I think we'd get more than a thousand orders donated," said Pitillo, who admitted being unfamiliar with "meal prep" before this project.

For the next round of orders, Pitillo is weighing a contact-free curbside model to offset the demand of delivery; he doesn't think there'd be a minimum order price on pickup at 166 Franklin St. For the first round of deliveries, the minimum was $50, although that's subject to change in the future. Pitillo said to keep an eye on Osteria's social media platforms for updates.

For Southern Tier eaters, Villagio — Pitillo's second restaurant, in Ellicottville — is also following the model.

Pot pie comforts

McDuffies Bakery, boasting locations in Clarence (9920 Main St.), East Aurora (718 Main St.) and Hamburg (141 Buffalo St.), has turned on full production mode, as frozen pot pies and pierogi fall in line with Covid-19 needs.

The bakery is open for pickup from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and is closed Sunday. McDuffies is offering curbside pickup from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on all open days.

The takeout menu ranges from coffeecakes and fresh bread to soups and pierogi, but the pot pies ($16.95 to $19.95, feeds two comfortably) — including the underrated chicken curry, the classic chicken and the hearty steak 'n Guinness — are surely the stars.

Bonus: The Clarence location has more than 20 rolls of Scottish Highlands toilet paper remaining — McDuffies is Scottish in its background — available for 99 cents apiece (limit two).

Support local

Farmers and Artisans, the from-scratch market at 4557 Main St. in Snyder, is a key part of the food ecosystem through its support of small, specialized producers from the area.

Owner Julie Blackman is taking the precautions that food businesses are supposed to — even limiting two people per family, and no children, entering the store, and reducing hours to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday — but she's not relaxing on her support of local producers, which included LynOaken Farms, Kindred Kreek Farm, New Day Coffee Roasters and Teacup Farm in a recent Facebook post.

There are prepared frozen meals for individuals and families, too, with some that take into account special dietary needs.

Broadway Market sans Easter

The busy Easter season of butter lambs, baked goods and meat/pierogi has kept the Broadway Market in business for the last several years, but it's more than likely quarantine measures will still be in place through April 12.

Many market activities leading up to Easter have already been canceled, and seasonal vendors will not set up this year. That presents a major problem, as despite these daunting circumstances, the permanent vendors still have to make do without the holiday bustle.

Babcia's Pierogi, one of the more social media-savvy market vendors, has started its own delivery service of frozen pierogi, with a minimum order of $40, and delivery fees ranging from $5 to $10 depending on destination. Customers are to call 836-3894 to place an order and prepay with credit card.

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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