10 Best Italian Restaurants, Cafes, and Sandwich Shops in Buffalo, NY
By Amber Nolan
Do you love Italian food? We do too, and that's why we dedicate ourselves to finding the best places to enjoy Italian cuisine in Buffalo, a city with a large history of Italian culture and heritage. We've diligently scouted out the top eateries, and we've listened to our readers and their reviews of Buffalo restaurants. We share the places that get great buzz, like Salvatore's Italian Gardens, and we showcase the ones that have proven themselves over time, like San Marco Ristorante. We also point out good neighborhoods for Italian restaurants in Buffalo - Downtown, for instance. When the craving hits, we'll make sure you get your fix!
Buffalo has always had a strong Italian community, and each July, the nation's second largest Italian heritage and food festival is held on Hertel Avenue. Outside of Hertel, there are many top-notch Italian restaurants, including the recently-opened Tappo, a trend-setting space in a downtown historic building. For something a little more casual, try Marco's Italian Deli for mouthwatering Italian subs, or Romeo and Juliet's Bakery and Cafe for the best pizza in the city.
We've narrowed down our list to bring you the 10 best Italian restaurants, cafes, and sandwich shops in the Buffalo area. With any one of these establishments, you'll feel like you are dining in Italy!
10 Romeo and Juliet's Bakery & Cafe
This Hertel Avenue cafe serves up delicious paninis, baked goods, and classic Italian entrees like lasagna and eggplant parmigiana. However, they are best known for their thin-crust, chewy pizzas like the Margherita, Quattro Formaggi, or portobello mushroom - all topped with just the right amount of sauce, cheese, meat or vegetables. After your main course, don't pass up the cannolis, Italian cookies, or carrot cake for dessert! Locals love Romeo and Juliet's, and it has been expanding its storefront to allow more room and menu options. The dining room still fills up quickly during peak hours, so plan accordingly. An outdoor cafe is open during the summer months. (716.873.5730)
Known for its famous pasta sauce, Chef's has offered the neighborhood Italian classics since the 1920s. Menu items range from the Tuscany grilled chicken salad to vegetable lasagna to veal parmesan served with freshly baked bread. In addition, the kitchen's daily specials might include chicken broccoli alfredo over fettuccine or linguini calamari, and two of their most popular signature dishes are the Chicken a la Cacciatora and the spaghetti Parmesan. The ambiance is very casual, with red-checkered table clothes and wooden tables an chairs. If you're bringing a large group be sure to make a reservation in advance as it can get busy during peak times. (716-856-9187)
8 Salvatore's Italian Gardens
Enjoy superb Italian dining in a delightfully flamboyant ambiance at this renowned restaurant. The classic menu features such favorites as osso buco, marsala, and rollitini, along with rack of lamb, Maine lobster, and roast Long Island duckling. They also serve one of the best steaks in Buffalo. The extensive wine list (18 pages long) includes local New York wineries as well as fine wines from Italy, France, Chile, Spain, and many other countries. A sommelier will guide you into the perfect wine selection. A private dining room and outdoor patio cater to your personal dining experience, and a florist is on hand for special events. (716-683-7990)
7 Trattoria Aroma
As part of the Aroma group, which includes three additional restaurants in the Western New York area, Trattoria Aroma offers a five-star dining experience and products from local farms. At this inviting dining room, patrons enjoy tasty, aromatic creations from the wood-burning oven. A starter of pan fried artichokes with olive oil and lemon or a platter of cheeses, olives and proscuitto will whet your appetite for more of the kitchen's bounty. Rich, flavorful pastas such as the pappardelle abruzzo, prepared with roasted veal tips, wild mushrooms, tomato and onion in lemon truffle broth, line the menu, as do a wide selection of pizzas, meat and fish. (716-631-2687)
Housed in a soft blue home accented with red shutters, this neighborhood favorite near the University of Buffalo at Amherst offers tasty, Italian-inspired eats. With delicious pastas like sundried tomato ravioli served with fresh Italian bread and salad with their signature house dressing or minestrone soup, you'll feel like you are dining in someone's home. A variety of sandwiches, burgers, and traditional meat dishes such veal and chicken Parmesan appear on the menu as well. A casual wood bar with black and white checkered flooring adds to the appeal of this inviting eatery. On Saturday evenings, they offer live musical entertainment. (716-688-0404)
5 Ristorante Lombardo
Another favorite on Hertel Avenue, Ristorante Lombardo continues to develop its menus each year to ensure they are serving authentic cuisine with a variety of options. Dark wood accents, white linen table clothes and natural light grace this simply adorned dining room, and copper and earth tones accentuate the knockout bar, outfitted with mosaic tiled surfaces and pendants overhead. Guests savor delectable creations such as pan-roasted red snapper with lump crab, roasted garlic-sun dried tomato butter and marscarpone orzo. Among other delicacies are Caesar salad prepared tableside, pizza from the wood-fire oven, and creative house-made pastas. Wine is available by the glass, quartino or bottle. (716-873-4291)
4 Tappo Restaurant
With a wine list that features 41 different bottles for under $15, Tappo is encouraging residents and visitors to savor the Italian dining experience in downtown Buffalo. At newly-opened Tappo, edgy decor like mood lighting around the bar juxtaposes the exposed brick walls of the historic building. Tables are fitted with decorative wine bottle corks, and hardwood floors are found throughout the dining room. Upstairs, a rooftop patio invites visitors to take in the views during the warmer months. Menu items include starters like cured meats and imported olives, followed by mains such as chicken saltimbocca, basil prawn rissotto, and their signature item, Brasciole, a Sicilian classic a select meats rolled in cheese and herbs. ((716) 259-8130)
3 Ilio DiPaolo's
Opened in 1965, this reliable eatery in Hamburg, New York (just south of Buffalo) specializes in homestyle Italian cuisine. Dig into some cheesy garlic bread, mozzerella sticks or fried zucchini before starting a hearty main course of pizza, pasta, seafood or steak. Among the house specialties are shrimp and scallops with homemade marinara over linguini and eggplant parmigiana with spaghetti. The adjoining Ringside Lounge displays athletic memorabilia of Ilio DiPaolo, former wrestling champ and the restaurant's founder. Before or after their meal, diners can play a round on the outdoor bocce court. Be aware that they are closed on Mondays. (716-825-3675)
2 Marco's Italian Deli
With more than 25 years experience operating restaurants in Buffalo, Mark Sciortino has established a loyal following at each of his five locations. At Marco's Italian Deli, the chef coined the term "sangwich," for their fresh, flavorful muffaletta subs. Every sangwich and panini comes with a memorable name like the "Chairman of the Board," loaded with turkey, sweet and hot peppers, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and fontinella cheese. They also serve up soups, salads, and burgers for dine in or take out. For an upscale evening out, try Marcos Niagara, another concept from the restauranteur that offers classic Italian cuisine including gnocchi, spaghetti bolognese, and linguini with clam sauce. (716-877-6829)
1 San Marco Ristorante
Superb Northern Italian cuisine inspired by Tuscan and Venetian flavors highlights the seasonal menu at this quiet, elegant restaurant. After moving to Buffalo from Italy, owners Grimaldi and his then fiancee, Nancy, opened San Marco. The husband and wife duo have created a following and received much recognition, but they can still be found in the dining room and the kitchen each night. The grilled quail sauteed in cognac and shallots may be served as an appetizer with porcini mushrooms or as an entree over wild mushroom risotto. Game dishes are their specialty, such as tenderloins of wild boar, red tipped venison, and fresh deboned white rabbit. The excellent wine list offers vintages from Italy and California. (716-839-5876)
About Amber Nolan
Originally from upstate New York, this restless traveler has a knack for befriending interesting characters. You can usually find her just about anywhere that has a hammock. Amber's favorite places are Iceland for its remoteness; Panama for its parties; and Peru for its history. Her work can be found on MSNBC.com, Frommers, and Sherman’s Travel, where she served as the Cruise Editor and Senior Producer. She is currently working on a comic novel about her shoestring travels as she hitchhikes on airplanes across the country in an effort to visit all 50 states. See Jethiking.com.
Read more about Amber Nolan here.