Madonna’s (62 Allen St., 768-1401) is an Italian restaurant in Buffalo, so there’s fried calamari on the menu. It’s a restaurant on Allen Street, though, so Chris Connolly wanted to make sure he took care of the vegans.
One of the ways is with Madonna’s fried artichoke hearts, fried to a fine crisp and served by the heaping platter, for the princely sum of $7.
“It’s one of those painfully simple things, you just have to do it right,” said Connolly, who also owns Café 59 across the street. “That’s the way most of our food is. It’s about freshness, hot oil and clean oil.
“We try to do a lot of vegetarian and vegan-friendly food, because the neighborhood likes that stuff,” he said about both of his restaurants. That doesn’t necessarily mean dishes based on tempeh and tofu. “Macaroni and cheese can be vegetarian, pizza. They don’t need fake meat.”
Café 59 doesn’t have a fryer, so when Madonna’s installed one, Connolly thought of fried artichokes from previous stints working in Italian restaurant kitchens. His process is so simple, it’s almost not a recipe.
“Dredge them in flour. Toss them in the oil. When they start to crisp up around the edges, at the last minute pull them out,” he said. Then toss them with fresh parsley, a little salt and pepper and Romano cheese.
“We like a lot of pickled flavors with fried foods. That’s why tartar sauce is so good with fish fries,” Connolly said. For a dipping sauce, “to make it a little different we used capers, mayonnaise, lemon juice, pepper, and just a tiny touch of garlic. It’s just a simple dish that can be made vegan by just withholding the cheese.”
The fried artichokes have been on the menu since Madonna’s opened, and are there to stay. They’re on the dinner menu, but you might be able to get them for lunch, too, if you ask. “It’s one of the better selling appetizers, along with calamari.”
FOODIE FIND: Smokin’ Eagles International BBQ Festival.
Barbecue for sale from vendors as competitive barbecue teams work on their entries. Friday through Sunday on Sweeney Street, North Tonawanda. Hours: noon to 10:30 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 695-3755.