If You Want Italian- You Want Osteria 166
Dire che con il cibo- simply “say it with food.”
No place epitomizes this saying better than Osteria 166. An Italian eatery located on Franklin Street across from the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. Owner Nicholas Pitillo opened the doors to Osteria 166 this past June and there has been non-stop traffic since.
Nicholas, (Nicola) in Italian, has created a family friendly atmosphere that allows you to sit back and enjoy great food, great wine and great company. The name alone tells you what to expect; in Italian Osteria means tavern, pub or public house. And when you walk in that is the feeling you get, one of unity; of family gathering in a public place. Nicholas greets every patron either at the door or at their table and he genuinely cares about your experience in his restaurant. Nicholas is a Buffalonian through and through and truly wants to help revitalize the downtown area. He plans ahead and knows the opportunities that are available downtown and he wants to be a part of that. With an outdoor patio during summer months that seems to stay packed well into the fall, Nicholas knows how to bring patrons in and keeping them coming back. He also has keen entrepreneurial awareness and has future plans for Osteria. The one thing you walk away with after talking to Nicholas is that what Nicholas sets his mind too, he accomplishes. Not just because he’s a business man, but because he’s a passionate man of his business.
What sets Osteria apart from other Italian restaurants is the combination of atmosphere and food. Walk in and you see oak barrels, rich wood features, stone work and dim lighting. You hear a mix of beautifully orchestrated jazz music, contemporary style tones or melodic Italian songs. But what you won’t see are gaudy murals of Italian “scenes” painted on the walls, all year round Christmas lights hanging everywhere (with the exception of the holidays), or a menu that is five pages long. Osteria is ripped right out of the pages of a traditional family style pub that you find in Southern Italy- I would know, my relatives are from Italy and I have been multiple times.
The menu at Osteria 166 is simple. With options for those with gluten intolerances or food allergies; it reflects the style of food found in Southern Italy and Sicily. What exactly is the style of food in that region? Spice- and plenty of it, red pepper, roasted tomatoes and garlic and olive oil based sauces. His pizzas are the true style of Italian Margarita flat bread pizzas. His toppings are subtle but pack a punch. For example the arugula and zucchini pizza ($9.00) is topped with shredded zucchini, eggplant puree, tomato, arugula, and provolone cheese. The toppings are sparse so as not to weigh down the dough, but provide just enough juice for the flavors to melt right into the sauce. If you’re a true carnivore you might want to try the Carne Pizza ($11.00). This delectable dish comes topped with Pancetta (pronounced Pan-chetta) (one of my favorites), Sausage, Prosciutto, Mozzarella (pronounced M-u-z-z-e-r-l-l-a) and Sunday sauce.
The Fire Roasted Beet Carpaccio Salad ($6.00/$9.00) has many ingredients Italians use frequently; beets, arugula, frisee, goat cheese, olive oil and lemon. The juice of the lemon mixed with the tartness of the beets and salty flavor of the cheese is the perfect combination for a slightly lighter affair.
But if you really want a wow experience I have to recommend two of my favorite dishes (something I very rarely offer up); The Porchetta (pronounced Por-ketta) Sandwich ($9.00) and the Sausage and Campanelle Pasta ($9.00/$16.00). The Porchetta Sandwich is slow roasted pork with a house rub, garlic, asiago cheese and arugula served on a cibatta roll. The pork is cooked to perfection, leaving it juicy and so tender it practically falls apart, but not so much so that it turns into pulled pork- that it is not. I actually preferred it without the roll; I felt the bread took away from the amazing flavor of all the other ingredients. But for a sandwich you really can’t beat this.
The Sausage Campanelle Pasta tops my list. The pasta is cooked al dente (which is important) and is served with Italian sausage, garlic, shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese mixed into a tomato cream based sauce. But what makes this dish for me is the hint of red pepper flake in the sauce, the house Italian sausage and the rapini (a green vegetable similar to broccoli). The rapini has a peppery tart flavor that compliments this dish very nicely. For a first time experience, I truly recommend one of these two dishes; served of course with a nice glass of red or white.
Nicholas has done a truly amazing job of bringing old world Italian recipes to the Buffalo NY main stream. Every time I walk in there I feel at home. The smells, the sounds, the atmosphere, bring me back to being in Italy.
Sono circondato dalla sua famiglia (I’m surrounded by family) and you will be too. If you have yet to try it, Osteria 166 is a must.
La passione per il cibo e come nient’altro! Buon Appetito