From Buffalo Business First
By Jim Fink
The full bar with people eating sandwiches and salads while watching golf on big screen TVs and an equally busy dining room where patrons are having lunch in a more casual setting belies the fact Osteria 166 has only been open a few days.
To the unsuspecting eye, it looks like downtown Buffalo’s newest restaurant has been there forever.
Maybe that’s because owner Nick Pitillo, a savvy local restaurant industry veteran, and his chef, Jeff Cooke, know a thing or two about running a restaurant – and running it in the right way.
The youthful-looking Pitillo, clad in a blue golf shirt, is a master at working the room. While Dean Martin and Bobby Darin songs play in the background, Pitillo seamlessly moves from diner to diner making sure everything – every last detail – is taken care of and handled professionally.
Osteria’s menu is loaded with Italian specialties from porchetta sandwiches – a slow-roasted pork, to meals showcasing Pitillo’s family spaghetti and meatballs recipe. Cooke came up with a quartet of unique flat iron pizzas.
Diners are flocking to the grilled octopus appetizer.
The Thursday special of chicken lasagna was especially popular.
“We sold the heck out of it,” Pitillo said.
In fact, the menu is dominated by Pitillo family recipes. The red sauce is his mother’s recipe. The pasta fagioli comes from his sister, Kim.
Osteria 166 is the latest in the recent string of new downtown Buffalo restaurants to open its doors, with more to come.
Located at the corner of Franklin and Mohawk streets and nestled between the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center and Statler City, Osteria 166 is picking office business, walk-in customers and those just generally finding their way around the central business district. It makes for its own case study of how an entrepreneur like Pitillo can leave the safety of his former job with the Seneca Gaming Corp. to open his own restaurant.
“My business model is based on strong lunch, happy hour and early dinners,” Pitillo said. “The key was getting my foothold in downtown before the fall comes.”
Lunches are designed to be served quick.
To help get the word out, Maria Vitagliano, Osteria 166’s catering and sales manager, is visiting downtown offices to get the restaurant on the radar screen of workers and event planners. The restaurant’s 75-person main dining room can be blocked off for private parties and receptions.
Pitillo credits his early success to a lot of people including his landlord, Carl Paladino.
“Carl made my dream a reality,” he said.
Never one to slow down, Pitillo gets up and starts working the room again – with a big, warm smile on his face.
He is living his dream, his lifelong dream.