Happy (716) Day at the Fest!

Today begins the annual four-day celebration on Buffalo’s finest avenue of the Italian heritage and everything that comes along with it.

Coincidentally, it’s also the celebration of Buffalo Day: 7/16. So in the spirit of helping fest-goers while finding cool ways to use our area code, I’m going to give you my recommendation on what to buy at the Italian Festival if you had exactly $14 in your wallet.

$7 – Steak and Dandelions from Lombardo’s. Don’t be scared of the dandelions. They’re sauteed in butter and garlic and are glorious. The cuts of steak are well worth the price too.

$1 – Bottle of Water from Bing’s. The coldest, purest, wettest, purified spring mineral water around. OK maybe not, but a buck is definite the cheapest. Stay hydrated people, it’s hot out there.

$6 – Stuffed Pepper Roll from Molinaro’s. Sausage and stuffing with three cheeses, rolled in dough and deep fried. Healthy AND delicious!

An alternative could be to find one more dollar and blow it all on three slices of Campi’s Pizza. Just throwing that out there. Oh, and by the way, they have TWO Campi’s Pizza stands this year – one at Commonwealth and the other at Virgil. Mind blown.

So there are some options for you. Hopefully you have more than $14 because there are a lot of incredible eats to be enjoyed…and I didn’t even talk dessert! The usual bakery suspects are all there filling and serving their cannoli, feel free to reference the extensive research done in 2013 to help with the choosing.

Buon appetito! God Bless Buffalo. Go Bills.

716 Fest

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Italian Fest Hangover

I just completed the Grand Slam – conquering the Italian Fest all four days.

Yes, I have it easy being just a one block stroll away. But that didn’t appear to stop those that needed to bike or drive their way in. Nor did the weather on Saturday, which still drew a good crowd despite the rain.

As an Italian-American who grew up on so many of the foods and traditions shared at the fest, it’s a great source of pride for me to have the Italian Festival located in North Buffalo – where I call home, and, according to the latest census, more Italian-Americans call home than any other neighborhood in Western New York.

While North Buffalo today is a great conglomeration of people – a melting pot for sure – it’s nice to have the focus on one of the main cultures that helped shape the neighborhood.

To the residents of North Buffalo: you are fine hosts. It’s not a small ask of a neighborhood to close their streets and open their doors so-to-speak to 200,000 visitors. And yet, we wrap up another successful year of showing off “il nostro quartiere e la cultura”. (Google it)

To Campi’s Pizza and Romano’s Bakery: your welcome – I made a significant contribution to your bottom line this week.

To the North Park Theatre: nice touch with showing Italian movies all week!

To The Public House of Buffalo: thank you – your new spot served as a safe haven from the rain on Saturday and your staff, atmosphere and beer list gave me 72 of reasons to come back.

All in all, I couldn’t be happier with the direction the festival keeps heading with each year seemingly bringing more and more Italian traditions and culture to the forefront. There’s so much more to our heritage than just the typical foods and songs everyone can name, and I think that’s really starting to show at the fest.

Can’t wait for next year! Ciao!

Leave the money. Take the cannoli.

This time of year makes me so very happy. Not only do I get a hall pass from Karen to say things like “Che se dice?” and “Mia famiglia!” in my loud, overly exaggerated Cake Boss Italian accent, I get to repeatedly wander down to Hertel Avenue to cruise the Italian Fest for cannoli upon cannoli.

Sure, other offerings of the fest greatly appeal to me. Campi’s Pizza. Mozzerella Stuffed Meatballs from Salvatore’s. Steak and dandelions from Lombardo’s. But if I only had $4 in my pocket, my lone purchase would be “un cannolo.”

So because EVERYONE loves them, I’ve taken the liberty to give you everything you need to know about the cannoli offering this year – from price, to location, to the most important taste factor. But let me point out that only ricotta filled cannoli are under consideration. Any substitute for that is un-Italian and just plain wrong.

Here’s the cannoli vendor lineup, in no particular order.

Tombaks

Tombak’s: The bakery got its start in the Broadway Market and now serves the local farmer’s market scene. One location near Commonwealth boasts six varieties and the least expensive cannoli on the street at $2.50. Slightly thin filling but very tasty! 

Angelos

Angelo’s: Very sweet filling. They also made the daring move from chocolate chips to rainbow sprinkles to serve as the garnish to the tube ends. $3.50 each or buy six get one free. Three locations throughout the thoroughfare, I bought from the one in front of Daddio’s Pizza.

RomanosRomano’s: Filled directly from the pastry bag right in front of me, this $3.50 cannoli was as fresh as they come. It also had great texture and consistency, something I found to be inconsistent across the vendors.Two shops between Crestwood and Lovering, I chose the one in front of Top Shelf Music. Also serving up the buy six get one free deal.

Ginos

Gino’s: Priced at a whopping $4, I was expecting a foot long and got a cocktail wienie. In trying to be fair and objective, I just can’t see how this one could command the fest’s highest price. The pastry shell may have been undercooked and overall the cannoli was just rather bland. One location at Virgil Ave.

Muscarellas

Muscarella’s: Not to be confused with Muscoreil’s in Tonawanda. Their Italian confection had somewhat of a frozen yogurt texture to it, but I was happy to see chocolate chips right in the filling. Green sprinkles gave it some flair. $3.50 in front of Caruso’s Italian Imports. Buy six get one free available too.

Romeos

Romeo & Juliet’s: Kitty-corner to their actual restaurant at Hertel and Crestwood, their $3.50 cannoli probably has the most distinct, amaretto, flavor of them all. A thinner filling as well, but the real story here is the amaretto.

And my winner is…

cannoli contestants

ROMANO’S!

Romano’s provided just a perfect amount of crunch in a delicious shell, a desirable consistency, and overall great flavor. And to top it off, the baker’s Italian accent was as authentic as the cannoli too. Buon appetito!

BuffaLOVERS Unite!

Buf-fa-LOVE [buhf-uh-luhv]

Noun

  1. A profoundly passionate affection for the City of Buffalo.
  2. A feeling of warm and personal attachment for the people, places, traditions, culture and history of Buffalo.
  3. A Western New York city toward which love is felt; beloved city.

Ex) Thousands proudly show off their BuffaLOVE by wearing t-shirts branded with a buffalo and heart logo.

Origin

Circa 2008. 42.8864° N, 78.8786° W. American English, Buffalo Slang. Early appearances of the word BuffaLOVE came on facebook posts and twitter hashtags, and of course, on clothing, turning the theme into an apparel sensation. Regretfully my research couldn’t trace ownership of the word to any individual or group.  My tip of the hat to the creative mind or minds behind it. It’s a pure and relevant way to convey the meaning of our local pride and state of mind.  A beer on me should our paths ever cross.

BuffaLOVE

BuffaLOVE has widely become part of many people’s vernacular, but now that I’ve formally documented the definition of the word it’s time we celebrate it and its meaning with a festival. It’s Buffalo, what else would we do? On May 31st, BuffaLOVERS will get an opportunity to break bread (and tacos) at the Buffalo Zoo as it hosts the BuffaLoveFest; a collection of all things Buffalo.

This inaugural festival came about through a good friend of mine, Tom Muraca, who concocted the idea during one of his many inspirational daydreams.  Through his involvement with the ProZoo board, the idea quickly turned into reality, as the zoo was not only a great venue, but they were eager to partner on the initiative. The BuffaLoveFest will feature everything from Buffalo music on two separate stages to a celebrity dunk tank!

Buffalovefest

I’d be remiss for writing this blog without planning to attend. I’m thrilled we have yet another reason for the masses to herd to North Buffalo. I expect to overindulge in food truck food and locally brewed beer (don’t worry, it’s a short walk home to Hertel), scream many incorrect answers to Buffalo Trivia questions, and just bask in the goodness that is a Buffalo festival.

So logistics. May 31st. Party starts at 5:30 p.m. and for those who wisely buy in advance, tickets are only $20 as opposed to $30 at the door. If you’re into adult beverages, NOTE, you will also receive two free drinks with your ticket purchase. HEYO!

Visit BuffaLoveFest.com for more info and to purchase tickets. See ya there!