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Gusto

In search of Italian-American cuisine worth celebrating, I have encountered miles of pallid pasta and oceans of weak tomato sauce. There have been bright spots, certainly, places with plenty of dishes to recommend. But of the 20-something red sauce purveyors whose Southern Italian dishes I've had the privilege to evaluate, none ran the table. Then I went to Sinatra's. …

Gusto

Anyone who thinks cooking can't be an artistic performance should be blessed to have a ringside seat on a skilled grill jockey during breakfast rush. Eggs cracked out two at a time in neat lines, shells finding the trash in no-look arcs. Mountains of home fries lining the griddle's western horizon chopped into foothills with metronymic precision to crisp before plating.…

Gusto

For a restaurant name, 773 North doesn't offer passersby a clue about what they'll find inside the plain brick building on Grand Island Boulevard. The site of Jason and Christy Zippier's first restaurant is decorated with Grand Island's telephone exchange, and little else. I stepped inside on a Saturday night to find the place packed, filled to the brim with customers, …

Gusto

I'm old enough to remember when pizza was an Italian thing. Or more precisely an Italian-American thing. The delicately blistered pies of Naples would never be mistaken for Buffalo-style pizza, whose most prized qualities are a thick quilt of cheese on a mattress of dough, slices equipped with stout handles to make them easier to lug. But now some of the best New York C…

Gusto

There is no love more pure than the love of a child. Such wide-eyed adoration imprints its subjects on tender souls, malleable as 24-karat gold, before experience of the wider world alloys them with disappointment. This helps explain why you might travel the globe, sampling its elixirs and delicacies, only to find that nothing moves you quite like the beef on weck and malt…

Gusto

There are restaurants for special occasions, places for a night of escaping all cares and putting yourself in the hands of professional pamperers. Then there are survival restaurants, commercial kitchens that provide sustenance at prices you can weave into your weekly budget. At survival restaurants, décor is irrelevant. Service means getting what you pay for, in contai…

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There was much effort put into creating an impression for anyone entering the Curtiss Hotel. A water feature in the white-stone-lined porte cochere has faucets overflowing sinks into a trough, where submerged lights illuminate in shifting hues. Inside, walls are lined with ornate terra-cotta tiles and the foyer crowned with a chandelier that made me wonder if the Palace…

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Since my 16-year-old self started visiting Buffalo bars, Coles has always been there, looming in the background of my eating and drinking life. Especially the drinking. That could lead to eating, but not usually, as I rarely believed I had enough money for both, relying instead on the nutritional content of barley and hops. Coming through that battered front door and se…

Gusto

Confession is good for the soul, or so they say. So I will share that when the first dishes arrived at Mangia, I emitted a quiet sigh of relief. After visiting so many Italian-American restaurants, the dominant strain of the area's "ethnic" eateries, I have developed red sauce fatigue. I've learned to expect average food in an average setting, made by a staff putting in…

Food and Drink

Eight years after Kevin and Stephanie Lin introduced the first Burmese cuisine to the local menu, there are a dozen places within 30 minutes of Buffalo's City Hall where you can taste a little bit of Burma. The menus at those restaurants echo the one blazed by the former Wegmans sushi rollers. There's usually sushi, both standards and tricked-out rolls, core Thai dishes an…

Food and Drink

Making a single unusual food item the foundation of your restaurant's menu is a risky proposition. Menu writers tend to head in the other direction, offering broad catchment areas for customer dollars. Joe Blaszczak and Adrienne Seekins didn’t play it that way. In December, when they opened Stooges in Lockport's Old Town Hall, they were willing to gamble their first res…

Gusto

When I choose a steakhouse for dinner, I have two expectations: big beef and big bucks. Since an excellent steak can be had in many local spots, when I choose a steakhouse, I'm making a point. I'm showing how much I value someone's company, renting a stage where we may engage in the fantasy that on this night, money is no object. Other patrons of Morton's, the steakhous…

Food and Drink

When I want to eat light and bright, I head for the Middle East. Hummus, a puree of chickpeas enriched with ground sesame seeds and pointed up with garlic and lemon, is familiar to many. Fewer people venture to babaganoush, smoky roasted eggplant given a similar treatment. Lots of people like the ground chickpea fritters called falafel, especially the better versions, b…

Food and Drink

When I first fell in love with real barbecue – meat transformed by wood smoke, transmitting come-hither signals to my caveman DNA – I lived in Concord, N.H. The nearest source of top-quality spare ribs, pulled pork and brisket was 75 minutes away. My friends and I would pile into a car and head down I-93 to Redbone's, in Somerville, Mass. I could do that drive in my sle…

Food and Drink

When Rue Franklin closed last year, restaurant regulars and industry folks wondered if the “death of fine dining” declared in Manhattan had, like so many cultural developments, made it to Buffalo five years later. Since the rest of the luxe crowd has held steady since, scheduling its funeral supper seems premature. There has been little fine dining among new restaurants…