LOCKPORT – Our professional sports franchises motivate us in many ways. When they’re going well, we are encouraged to cheer and jump on the bandwagon. When they’re going poorly, we might feel like jumping off something, like a ledge.
Win or lose, our teams prompt us to eat and drink – sometimes heavily.
Whether it’s tailgating at the stadium or tackling tacos in front of the television, football and food just seem to go hand-in-hand. (Or perhaps hand-in-mouth.) In fact, it helped inspire a recent visit to Cammarata’s. Come to think of it, some of you may want to check out the place out before today’s game … or during … or even afterward.
The classy little diner on the outskirts of Lockport doesn’t officially open until 4 p.m. on Sundays but offers “football specials” with a limited menu starting at noon. We weren’t as interested in the football during a recent visit as the food, since the Bills weren’t playing until later.
What most interested me was a chicken-and-biscuits special ($6.99) and the French onion au gratin soup ($4.99). We also sampled the grilled chicken sandwich ($7.99) and two other soups: tomato Florentine and beef and vegetables ($3.79/bowl).
Large meals weren’t on our agenda this particular day, so you can imagine my surprise when the chicken and biscuits came out, covering a large platter. It wasn’t until I was several bites in that I discovered the next surprise – mashed potatoes layered between the two biscuits!
The dish consisted of copious amounts of shredded chicken and veggies mixed in a tasty, light gravy served atop a pair of thick biscuits, with a large helping of mashed potatoes underneath. Unfortunately, the potatoes were instant (or, if not, were very thin and weak), which didn’t add a whole lot of pizazz.
The good news is that they were not needed: The mix already was tasty and filling without the taters, and enough to conquer the biggest appetite. It was sufficiently good to make one forget about the Bills’ unimaginative play-calling … or their third-down inefficiency … or their red-zone ineptitude.
Who are we kidding? Nothing can really erase the bad taste of their red-zone ineptitude. But the chicken and biscuits is a good start. And if you eat enough, the resulting food coma can give you a sort of start-over. When it comes to the Bills, isn’t that what we all crave, a good do-over?
Getting back to the table, our pre-game warm-up was hastened with a hearty crock of baked French onion soup. It was a big hit, like a nose tackle on an opposing QB – a subtle, smooth broth that was nicely seasoned and filled with ample croutons and topped with bubbling cheese. Excellent!
The beef-and-veggie soup was chock full of barley, beef crumbles and chunky veggies. Served wickedly hot, it was almost a meal in itself, especially with the supplied oyster crackers.
Steffany enjoyed her tomato Florentine equally, calling it “very good.” The rich, thick broth was bolstered with leaves of spinach.
She and my wife split the grilled chicken sandwich, which they ordered with Cajun seasoning. It wasn’t an overpowering Cajun but rather a nice complement – a bit of a twang, like ol’ Chan Gailey himself. The big difference was, unlike the Bills’ efforts, nothing was left on the plate.
Now there is a mantra the Bills should heed: Leave nothing behind. Put it all out there and see what happens.
We’ve been to Cammarata’s in the past for their spectacular dinners, ranging from Angus steaks and prime rib to luscious seafood and Italian specialties. The prices are a little lofty (from around $9 to $29, for the 20-ounce prime rib), but rest assured, you’re going to get your money’s worth.
Which is more than we can say for some of our sporting options these days, but that is another story.
There is a very good reason why Cammarata’s is one of the most sought-after places for banquets in this neck of the woods, and the quality doesn’t stop there. But if you’d rather check it out on the cheap, why not give a football Sunday a shot? The menu isn’t extensive, but then neither is the Bills’ playbook. In this case, however, basic is good enough.