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Off the Menu

Santasierio's Italian restaurant

Bites on a Budget

Local Restaurant Week kicks off Monday

When every dollar counts, it can be difficult to justify dining out. Next week, however, hungry restaurant patrons will have an opportunity to splurge just a little and eat quite a lot.

Local Restaurant Week is about to make its sixth run on the Western New York restaurant scene. Debuting in the spring of 2009, this special week comes just twice a year and offers diners the chance to sample local fare at deeply discounted prices. Nearly 200 local restaurateurs have partnered with the Western New York chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association to make a delicious night out a bit more friendly on the wallet.

Beginning on September 26 and running through the weekend, concluding on October 2, independent restaurants running the gamut from fine dining mainstays to the local mom-and-pop place down the street have crafted menus that feature some of their best dishes at a price that is easy to swallow: just $21.11

In addition to luring Western New Yorkers from the family dinner table with promise of good food at a great price, this week also provides a unique opportunity to expand the culinary horizon. Restaurants that previously may have been deemed too pricey or too extravagant are now within reach, and their dining room seats are up for grabs.

Trattoria Aroma (307 Bryant Street) is serving up a menu that includes several homemade pasta entrees paired with a green salad. Chef Mike Andrzejewski, owner of Seabar (475 Ellicott Street), is rolling, slicing, and serving a sushi surfboard comprising nigiri pieces and maki rolls.

A Niagara Street staple, Santasierio’s Italian restaurant (1319 Niagara Street), is offering one of the best deals in town: dinner for two for $20.11. Each person can select either soup or salad and an entrée from a mouthwatering menu. Linguini and clam sauce, chicken parmigian, and peas and macaroni will be served in their signature heaping, steaming-hot portions.

Next week, skip washing dishes and make reservations instead. A complete list of participating eateries along with their menu offerings can be found at

Feeding a Need

Loaves and Fishes sets a place for the needy

Nearly every Elmwood Villager has passed the doors of the Lafayette Presbyterian Church (875 Elmwood Avenue) and watched a line form at the noon hour. A myriad folks gather at those expansive doors, and what lay in wait is worth its weight in gold: food.

Loaves and Fishes dining room has been operating in this place of worship for almost 30 years. They offer food and welcome to anyone in need of a hot meal.

In 1983, Sister Virginia Maroney, SSF, brought into being a community dining room in the heart of the Elmwood Village. According to Anne Harrington, program coordinator, Maroney could not have anticipated her creation’s impact. “She saw a need that she wanted to fill.” says Harrington of Maroney. “She thought that six months of service would be long enough to fix [the problem of hunger in this area].” Twenty-eight years later, Loaves and Fishes serves, on average, 140 people a day. The need is growing.

Harrington has held down the fort for the last 13 years and enjoys her job and the camaraderie immensely. She lives, works and sends her children to school in this vibrant and dynamic community.

According to Harrington, the guest list at the dining room is not what one would expect. “People would be surprised to find that most of our clientele are working individuals,” she says. The dining room caters to an even mix of men and women, is racially diverse, and serves more young than old. They provide what she calls “food security.”

Loaves and Fishes receives the majority of its food from the Food Bank of Western New York ( To supplement their need, they depend on the surrounding community. Local establishments and eateries help to fill the void. Harrington makes regular stops to pick up unused items at Café Aroma and Starbucks. The Lexington Co-op and Native Offerings, a CSA farm, participate in the food shuttle that serves several local pantries. “There is an entire community involved with our program,” Harrington says.

In addition to food donations, time is required to cook and serve those in need. Nearly 99 percent of the staff at Loaves and Fishes are volunteers, from retirees to high school and college students.

Bright lights and colorful flowers welcome the hungry. The meals are balanced, hot, and tasty. Sloppy Joes, chicken with mashed potatoes, meatloaf, and lasagna fill empty bellies. Harrington explains that the menu is based primarily on the food that is available.

Beyond serving hot meals, Loaves and Fishes also offers items to take away. On a daily basis, Harrington is able to offer food in all its various forms, from bread to fresh produce. First come, first served, but there is always enough to go around.

Harrington’s dining room is open five days a week for lunch service. When she closes down, other agencies open their doors. St. Vincent De Paul ( covers the weekend lunch crowd and Friends of the Night People ( serves dinner seven nights a week.

These charitable organizations do more than feed the hungry. They are offer outreach opportunities for many other social services. Loaves and Fishes provides its patrons with information regarding many public service programs and job development opportunities. Their involvement in the community is as deep as it is wide and necessary.

Harrington credits their success to longevity and trust. Their time serving the community coupled with their long-time volunteer staff has allowed them to claim their place in Buffalo’s poor and homeless community.

“Everybody has a different story to tell.You just need to listen,” says Harrington.

Information regarding Loaves and Fishes as well as additional services can be found by stopping by the church or visiting online at

An Edible Education

A lesson in hospitality at Emerson Commons

On a busy street like Chippewa, it is easy to drive by the glass-fronted building without a second glance. A more leisurely stroll down the strip reveals a tasty treasured tucked into 86 West Chippewa.

Emerson School of Hospitality, a Buffalo public school, has been operating in this state-of-the-art space for years. Students clad in chef coats, wielding sauté pans, and tossing pizza dough perform a wonderful show for passersby.

Emerson offers its students the unique opportunity to receive practical, on-the-job experience in the broad field of hospitality. The relatively small student body attends all the same classes carried at the other schools in the district while running the school-based restaurant, Emerson Commons.

Open for breakfast and lunch each day that the school is open, the Commons is run and staffed exclusively by high school students and their teachers. The full-service restaurant offers a varied menu that changes daily. The diversity of the menu allows students to expand their cooking skills.

The busy downtown lunch crowd is treated to several mealtime staples while dining at the Commons. Hot carved sandwiches, fresh salads, and homemade soups find a place on the menu each day. The students’ creativity shines in the form of the daily specials. Coconut crusted grouper is served with a fresh made fruit salsa, and the flaky pastry surrounding the beef Wellington comes complete with a delicious demi-glace.

Enjoying lunch at Emerson Commons not only offers sustenance for the afternoon but an educational opportunity for the students attending this diverse public school. A full menu spelling out the weekday specials can be viewed at

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