Niagara Gazette — There are two things that stand out among the online reviews of Osteria 166 restaurant in Buffalo.
Many reviews mention being personally greeted by owner Nick Pitillo. A Canadian couple who came in one night just before closing reported how graciously they were treated, despite the late hour.
Both had served in restaurants before, according to the reviewer, “Kate H.,” and after Pitillo agreed to feed them, they asked jokingly if he would “hate them,” for holding up closing. To this, he was said to reply “Of course not, I’m going to welcome you like you are family and thank you genuinely for coming.”
When asked about that review, Pitillo said later that his idea of Italian food is all about treating people like family. His restaurant, decorated by his sister, Kim Pitillo, and designer Michael Neffke of Niagara Falls, includes Pitillo family photos hung throughout.
“To me, serving Italian food, it’s kind of like you’re in my home and we’re breaking bread,” he said.
Many reviewers on sites including Yelp and Urban Spoon lauded the authentic, Italian food served in the restaurant, which is located at Franklin and Mohawk streets in Buffalo and which Pitillo has named Osteria because it means “casual pub” in Italian.
The kitchen staff, led by Jeff Cooke of Grand Island, has created a menu that includes handmade sausage and cured meats, as well as traditional favorites such as “Nani’s Sunday Sauce and meatballs.”
A lot of the menu items come from family recipes, including ravioli handmade by Nick’s mother, but the kitchen is led by Cooke, who recently won two awards at The Buffalo Soup Fest, with his line chef, Joanna Congi, former head chef of Wine on Third in Niagara Falls.
In a creative effort led by Congi, the team submitted a broccolini gorgonzola cream soup that won two awards, including Best Vegetarian Soup and Fan Favorite.