"Hey, Janice, I know this is presumptuous, but I have to at least try: Where should my wife and I eat in Buffalo on Nov. 5? I'm a Lockport kid coming home for the weekend with my new wife, we're staying downtown at the Hyatt, have a rental car, and are going to the Sabres game Friday and Bills game Sunday. So we have Saturday night set aside for a nice dinner, and I'm really excited, and indecisive!
"We live in Charleston, so our restaurant scene couldn't be better and we don't need/want seafood in Buffalo. We'd love local ingredients, great classic Italian, or the best mix of menu and scene.
"From the usual sources (Yelp, Urban Spoon, etc.), it seems Left Bank is the clear choice. But Sinatra's Trilogy calls to my homesickness for true American-Italian. I figure I'd just go straight to the best source for a Buffalo restaurant recommendation for someone who has one night to show his wife Charleston isn't the only city that has great restaurants.
"I figured it couldn't hurt to ask. You're lucky to live in Buffalo -- wish I could find a way to get back home more often!"
-- David, Charleston
Hey David, write to me anytime -- I love a challenge. And this is a challenge, believe me. The problem: We're spoiled for choice. I don't know how long you have been gone from home, but sometime in your absence, Buffalo became a fine restaurant city. Where to start?
The places you mention are worthy, but, just to confuse the issue, here are three more.
San Marco, 2082 Kensington Ave., Amherst, just past Harlem Road. (Take Route 33 from downtown, exit at and go north on Harlem Road; turn right on Kensington.) This is my Italian nomination. Let me warn you, it is not a red sauce house. One menu recommendation is Controfiletto alla Savoia, strip steak with rosemary grilled and served with cracked black pepper and gorgonzola sauce. Or how about Conigilio Farcito? That is farm-raised rabbit with truffles and brandy with porcini wine sauce.
It is not really a "scene," but it has comfortable, understated yet sophisticated surroundings, and the service is wonderful by Frank Grimaldi. (His wife, Nancy, is in the kitchen). They also have fine wine.
Another place worth trying is Torches, 1141 Kenmore Ave., on the Kenmore side of the street. It is a funky-looking place run by two young brothers, J.J. and Kevin Richert, who are in love with food. They are imaginative and use contemporary ingredients without getting crazy.
Some appetizers: Duck Pastrami with Three Pear Salsa and Pomegranate Reduction, or Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Gnocchi with New York maple cream, apples, blue cheese, pasta and peas.
And, that's just for openers. The menu changes according to the season.
For the third choice, I stay within the city limits. Tempo, 581 Delaware Ave., is located in an old mansion with uber chef Paul Jenkins at the helm. Try the Asiago Stuffed Veal Chop or Chicken Breast Milanese, with arugula, onion and tomatoes.
P.S. I know you don't want seafood, and since you're from Charleston, I hardly blame you, but you owe it to yourself to try Seabar, 475 Ellicott St., which offers both youthful action and good food. Chef Mike Andrzejewski offers amazing sushi and sashimi (please try the Beef on Weck roll, Western New York boy!), and if you're looking to stay on the land, go for the Chicken and Waffles or the 40 Hour Short Ribs.
Why do restaurants serve "bottomless" cups of coffee but not tea or pop? Is it OK to ask for more bread, even if you already have your meal? If you wonder about these or other dining out questions, send them to longtime News restaurant reviewer Janice Okun at firstname.lastname@example.org.