Dorchester Road Revisited

Dorchester Road Revisited

Back in September of this year, I wrote a post about Dorchester Road. In response, I received so many emails from past and current residents of the street regaling me with their sweet memories of growing up here. I decided to take another look at Dorchester Road, and share some of those stories with you today.

Let’s Start with the Original Post

Suzanne, the grandaughter of Leo Stall, a longtime Buffalo pharmacist, sent me this 1929 photo below, which I added to the original post. It’s of Leo and his family. I’m sharing it again because I just think it’s so telling of who the family was. Welcoming, always. That seems to have been, and continues to be the prevailing attitude on the street.

Here is a photo of the Stall family home. For more about them, see the original post.

One of the E.B. Greens

I also heard from Bill Blake, who sent me this photo of the William H. Scott house taken in 1915, when Frederick W. Allan lived in the home. I added this to the original post as well. I love this shot of the home for some reason. Maybe it’s because there is less foliage and no fence. It appears more open and welcoming, perhaps because we can see the home better. Either way, it’s a gorgeous home, and happens to be one of the six E.B. Green homes on the street.

Hubbell, Mark H., “Home of Frederick W. Allan, 20 Dorchester Road.,” Digital Collections – University at Buffalo Libraries, accessed September 7, 2021, https://digital.lib.buffalo.edu/items/show/80308

Here is the home today. Still stunning.

Next

I also mentioned in the original post that I’d love to live on Dorchester. I would. So a real estate agent contacted me and told me she had a home to show me. I told her I wasn’t really going to move, but that I’d love to see the home anyway. She was super nice about it, and I went over the next day to see 65 Dorchester. Here are a few photos from the day. The home recently sold to a very lucky buyer, in my opinion.

An Invitation

Very recently, I received an email from a current resident of Dorchester. What a nice woman! This is a quote from a portion of her email:

“…in one of your books about Dorchester Rd, you mentioned a desire to live on our street.  I’m writing to tell you that there will be 3-4 homes for sale on the street.  1 currently & others coming on the market soon.  I so enjoy your books! I hope to see you as our neighbor!”

You see why I love receiving your emails? What a fantastic street! So welcoming! For all of you Dorchester residents, although I would love to be your neighbor, my husband doesn’t want to leave our current home, and I really like him – soooooo… It’s not in the cards for us to move to Dorchester. For now. Wink, wink.

Who wouldn’t want to live here?

The Losi Family

Enter the Losi family. Michael was the first family member to comment on the post, in early September. He mentioned that I had brought back bittersweet memories for him. He said he could picture his Mother sitting on the porch at 142 Dorchester, and it made him miss her. That told me, not only that he had lost his Mom, but that he had some beautiful memories on Dorchester that included her. Sweet.

Once again, the Losi Family home.

Fast forward a couple of months, and I received another email from Joseph Losi, Michael’s brother. Guess what? Joseph has just bought back the family home at 142 Dorchester, and from what I can tell, the entire family is very excited about it! And why not?

A Bit of History at 142

The Phipps Family

The home at 142 Dorchester was built in 1908, and as early as 1914 Charles R. Phipps lived in the home with his wife, the former Anna Beals and their daughter, Carolyn. Charles came to Buffalo in 1901, like so many people did, and was a superintendent of rolling mills at Lackawanna (later Bethlehem) Steel Company. He retired in 1941. Charles was a photography enthusiast and was a founding member of the Buffalo Camera Club. He was also a member of the Buffalo Masonic Consistory, which was located in the former George Rand mansion and is now part of Canisius High School.

Charles’ wife, Anna, was active in social circles in Buffalo. She was a member of the Twentieth Century Club, which, by the way, was the first women’s club founded by women and run by women, in the country. She entertained frequently in their home at 142, usually hosting lunches, teas and bridge games. Now, this being Dorchester Road, these social events probably were not attended by Buffalo’s most elite but they were listed in the social columns of the newspapers of the day. This means that Charles did very well and was respected, but that Anna was also very well liked. She was also an amateur poet, and a member of the League of American Pen Women. Sweet.

Charles and Anna’s daughter, Carolyn, married Dr. Carl F. Howe, a dentist. The two lived in Ithaca, NY and summered in a cottage in Sheldrake, NY. Dr. Howe passed away at only 42 years old, and there is some evidence that Carolyn came back to 142 to live for at least a short time.

Anna passed away in 1934. Charles followed in 1947 after a lengthy illness.

The Vara Family

Sometime after the death of Charles Phipps, Anthony Vara purchased the home. Anthony was an Inspector for the Sterling Engine Company. Having been wounded twice in France during World War II, Vara was an organizer and a four term commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars John Maxwell Post 452. He was very active in the Republican Party here in Western New York, and was named Mr. Republican in 1979. The photo below appeared in the Buffalo Courier Express on July 18, 1979. Vara is second from the right. Also pictured are Sheriff Kenneth Braun and Erie County Executive Ed Rutkowski.

Vara was married to Jennie (Panzica) and had four sons, Alfred, Anthony Jr., Robert and Richard. The family stayed at 142 Dorchester until 1957, when they moved to Hamburg, NY.

Back to the Losi Family

Joseph and Josephine Losi purchased 142 Dorchester in 1958. They stayed twenty years and raised their large Sicilian family here. By large, I mean they had six children, Joanne, Barbara, Anthony (Tony), Patricia, Joseph and Michael. I was able to spend some time speaking with Patricia, Michael and Joseph recently, and they shared some of their experiences growing up on Dorchester. So many of the stories they told me could have been stories of my own childhood, and while I listened, it struck me that so many of you reading this today will probably be able to relate them to your childhood as well.

The Losi Family, circa 1957-ish.

Let’s take a look.

All three shared their enormous love for their mother, Josephine. Like so many moms, she was the glue that kept the family together and she also kept the home together, working tirelessly to do so. One of the siblings, not mentioning any names, went so far as to call her a goddess.

Pat told me how she remembers her mother bringing the laundry up from the basement and going out to the backyard to hang it. Now there’s a memory our children probably won’t have of us!

Both Patricia and Michael spoke about Josephine’s lilacs and peonies in the yard, and how she loved them. Both must have been popular then, because my Mother too, kept both of these in our yard growing up, and to this day the smell of lilacs reminds me of Mom.

All three spoke of big, extended family dinners for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Probably other holidays as well. All three spoke of the extra leaves being put into their large dining room table for these meals. Precious memories.

Barbara’s graduation gathering. Clockwise from left: Josephine (LaFornara) Losi, Gramma Jenny LaFornara, one of the six Joanne Losi Falzone, Julian Sapienza (the family called him Uncle Julie), and Angelina (LaFornara) Brozza.

The table is still in the family, and there is talk of it being returned to 142 someday. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Same day as previous photo. The four women, from left to right are: Angelina (LaFornara) Brozza, one of the six Barbara Losi Gangi, Rosie (Losi) Sapienza, and Josephine (LaFornara) Losi. Circa 1963.

Specific Memories

All three siblings mentioned that on the third floor of the home there was an apartment, probably originally the maid’s quarters. There was, however, no separate entrance to these rooms. That did not stop the family from filling them throughout their years there. An aunt lived there, as did different cousins throughout the years. Some of Tony’s friends lived there as well. And so did Joanne as a new bride. Apparently, her husband was drafted and had to leave soon (this was during Viet Nam), so the couple got married and moved in to the third floor apartment at 142. I would imagine this type of thing was pretty common in homes such as this. Especially during war time.

These are a few photos of the apartment on the third floor from the recent real estate listing. Impressive. And perfect for extended family members and friends.

Typical antics of the 60s and 70s

Joseph spoke about talking on the rotary phone back in the day, with the cord pulled around the corner to the basement stairs for privacy. Did any kids not do that in the days before cell phones? Because I know my whole family did. He also remembers riding bikes through the neighborhood, over to Claytons Toy Store on Elmwood, to the Art Gallery, and Delaware Park. Love it.

Michael and Patricia both talked about playing ‘cowboys and indians’ (it wasn’t wrong back then) using the back staircase as their home base. Mike told of Pat’s uncanny ability to make the sound of horses galloping…when Pat mentioned that she had this way of making the sound, she very lovingly said that Michael just loved it, and that’s why she always did it. Hearing the three talk about each other, I’m really feeling the love. This is a close family.

Left to right, cousin Tony LaFornara, Joseph & Michael in the yard at 142 on Joseph’s first communion day.

Pat fondly remembers one of her older sisters leaving the back staircase during one of these games and saying to her “Cover me!”, Pat, not knowing any better, threw a blanket over her head, thinking that’s what she meant. Haha! Cute!

She also got me laughing pretty hard while telling me the story of a bat being loose in the house. Their grandmother told them to cover their heads with paper bags, so the bat wouldn’t get caught in their hair. The boys caught the bat, apparently killed it and took it outside and burned it, while doing a ceremonial dance around the garbage can where it burned. Haha! I’m still laughing out loud at this one.

Joseph mentioned that while washing his father’s car one day, it somehow slipped into reverse and rolled into the DiGulio’s fence next door. I cannot imagine what ‘somehow’ meant in this case, but I’m pretty sure somebody was grounded in the Losi home that day. And probably for several days afterward.

Left to right, cousin Tony LaFornara, Joseph & Patricia in the living room at 142, on Pat’s first communion day.

Michael told me that their brother Tony, who sadly passed in 2007, used to play basketball in the back yard with Tony Masiello and Rocco Dino, who were high school friends of his. Michael would sneak into the back yard, climb up a telephone pole to get on the garage roof, hide behind the backboard and jump up at the last second and swat the older boys’ shots away from the basket.

You can’t make this stuff up…it’s the type of things kids really did before computer games. And if you are of a certain age, you know it’s true.

Pat spoke of stealing away to the back porch to sit and read a book, just for the opportunity to be alone. Sounds like something I’d do. She said she was quieter than her brothers, and didn’t spend as much time rough housing in the neighborhood. I can see that.

Joseph told me his father would whistle out the front door in order to call the kids in for lunch, dinner, if the street lights were about to come on, or whenever. My mother did the same thing.

The Neighborhood

Both Michael and Joseph spoke a lot about the neighborhood and local families. Here are some of the surnames mentioned: Bartolone, Sciolino (Susie), DiPasquale (Charlie), Carnivale, Lorenzo (this family lived in the E.B. Green home at 137, across the street), Taravella (I believe Joseph mentioned one of the Taravellas is his real estate agent), DiGuilio, Abate, Rooney, Leak, Fama (Nancy, Joseph’s first crush) and Vigilante. Almost all Italian (Sicilian) names. Joseph mentions that they didn’t really think of it back then, but, yes, it was a predominately Italian neighborhood.

Neighborhood kids returning from a party at Melody Fair. Family names represented are Leak, Sciolino, DiPasquale, Augello (sp?), Fama (Nancy, blonde, and the famous crush). The taller boy on the left is Eddie Leak, who grew up to own Papa Jakes on Elmwood Ave.

Both boys also noted that the neighborhood was filled with doctors, attorneys, the owner of a dry cleaning business, restaurateurs, the owner of Melody Fair etc. Joseph mentioned that his father was an engineer by trade, and that he worked for Hewitt Robbins, and was laid off in 1967. A story all too familiar in Buffalo during the 50s and 60s.

The neighborhood boys would go over to Bidwell Parkway to play football. Michael has a memory of Dorchester playing against Potomac in a championship game over on Bidwell one year. I mean, we’re talking pick up games here, not an organized league with uniforms or anything. This is a memory that was pretty clear for Michael. Must have been a big deal.

Photos of the Home

Joseph has not yet taken posession of the home, but here are some of the photos from the listing.

My Impressions

I’d like to mention something that is pretty typical here in Buffalo, I met another Losi family member, Arlena, quite by accident. A few weeks ago, I was at the Buffalo History Museum selling my books at a Holiday Makers Market. A woman pointed to the Dorchester book, and began to tell me the story of how her cousin just bought back the family home on that street. I asked her if his name was Joseph, and she said yes. I then told her that I had a zoom meeting scheduled with him the following week! She told me the whole family was excited for them. Awesome.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that some of the families’ memories were bittersweet. Both Losi parents are gone now. Josephine, their beloved mother, passed away suddenly, not long after the family moved to Kenmore in 1977. Michael, the youngest of the six, was not yet 20 at the time, so all of the children lost their mother at a young age.

Joseph (the father) and brother Tony are both gone as well.

After a day at Crystal Beach are from left: Josephine (LaFornara) Losi (mother), Rosie (Losi) Sapienza, Angie (LaFornara) Brozza, Angie (Losi) DiGaetano, Joseph Losi (father).

Joseph (the son) spoke about how things changed after their father lost his job in 1967. He feels the pressures of raising six kids affected his father in a big way. Today on the phone, Joseph quoted Michael saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Even though Dad had his issues, he did give us 142 Dorchester.” A fine gift it is. And wise words, Michael.

In addition, there were tragedies on the street as well. One neighborhood boy, Stevie, was hit by a car and died. One of the children in the Rooney family was killed in the World Trade Center bombing. Another neighborhood child was killed (as an adult) in a mob hit. Wow.

So, as magical as the good memories are for the Losi siblings, there are bittersweet memories as well. We’ve all got something we’re dealing with. The loss of a family member, the loss of a job, a lost love. Whatever it is, it’s important that we keep in mind that everyone’s got something.

For the Losis, they are both lucky and blessed that they have been able to reclaim their childhood home. That one of them was in the position to buy it when it went on the market. That everything fell into place. I think it’s great! And even though Joseph lives on the west coast now, and the family is not yet sure when one or more family members will be able to move into 142, I am happy for each and every one of them. They seem so excited. Like a child’s laughter, the Losi family’s excitement is contagious.

This holiday season, take some time to be nostalgic. Remember the good times with loved ones through the years. Share some memories and perhaps some old photos from days gone by with family members and friends.

I wish each and every one of you peace this holiday season and in the coming year.

*Note: The Losi family will be renting the home at 142 Dorchester, available February 1, 2021. If you’re interested, contact Louis Taravella, MJ Peterson Real Estate, Lou@Olear.com, 716-867-0138.

Cazenovia Park in the Fall

Cazenovia Park in the Fall

If you are a regular reader of the blog, you know that my husband Tim and I are both bikers, as in cyclists. In the summer, we ride four or five days a week. We have ridden through Cazenovia (Caz) Park several times. The last time, Tim suggested I write about it. I said what I always say, “I’ll put it on the list.” And I did. Full disclosure, my list is now pages long with something like 80 ideas waiting to be written.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard it was peak time to see fall colors in Buffalo. So I struck out for Caz Park to see what I could see. I admit, I am not very familiar with the park except for those bike rides through it on Warren Spahn Way, and a couple of road (running) races. But this day I drove over and parked at the Shelter House to get a closer look. I see things more clearly on foot.

A Bit of History, of Course

Let’s start with a bit of the history of Buffalo’s Parks and Parkway System.

In the mid 1800s, Buffalo was booming. We were growing as fast as a city could at the time. Commerce flourished along the waterfront with shipping, railroads, cattle, grain and all the smaller industries that supported these giants. Buffalo had money, and by 1860, city leaders wanted to create a park similar to Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park in New York City. So, they brought Olmsted to Buffalo to design our own Central Park.

Frederick Law Olmsted

After touring the city through its radial streets design, laid out by Joseph Ellicott in 1804, Olmsted declared Buffalo to be “the best planned city, as to streets, public places, and grounds, in the United States, if not in the world.”* He then proceeded to improve upon it, by proposing and creating a park system to compliment the already beautifully designed city we call home. It would become the first park system in the United States, where the parks are connected through a series of parkways, giving the illusion that, when travelling from one to another, you haven’t left the park.

Take a walk down the center of Lincoln, Bidwell or Chapin Parkways to get that feeling. It’s real. Olmsted knew what he was doing. He is perhaps the greatest landscape architect our country has ever seen, even now.

Caz Park

Cazenovia Park and South Park were designed to serve the rapidly growing neighborhood that came to be known as South Buffalo. You know the place. These parks were to become part of the elaborate park system I mentioned just a moment ago.

Plan of Cazenovia Park, Olmsted, Olmsted & Elliot
Photo courtesy of UB University Libraries

Caz Park was built between 1892 and 1894, by Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot, including Frederick Law’s son, John. It sits on an 83 acre site roughly bounded by Abbott Road, Cazenovia Street, Potters Road and Seneca Street. Cazenovia Creek ran through the park, and was dammed to create a 20 acre lake near the Cazenovia Street/Abbott Road area. This was news to me. And it made me think. It’s an 83 acre park, so that means the lake took up just about a quarter of the whole park.

Wish I could have seen it. Apparently it was a popular spot for canoeing and boating in summers as well as ice skating in the winter. Which I could totally see. I get that it’s a safety thing, but I wish skating was allowed in the parks again. I suppose we have skating at Rotary Rink and Canalside. Which is fun, but it doesn’t seem quite the same as gliding out onto a lake, or even a creek.

What would we have to do to bring this back? Hmmmm. Not holding my breath.

Let’s Continue

In 1902, the Shelter House was built to accommodate the boaters and skaters. And for that matter the picnickers too, because this was becoming the place to be evenings and weekends in South Buffalo. The Shelter House was smaller than Olmsted had originally designed it, but where else do you see public restrooms like these, except in an Olmsted park? They’re amazing.

The Casino

In 1912, funds were available, and the Casino was built. The architectural firm of Esenwein & Johnson was chosen to design it. The firm was well known, and quite popular in Buffalo, having designed many buildings and homes here, including the Temple of Music at the Pan Am Exposition, the Niagara Mohawk Building, the Elephant House at the Buffalo Zoo, the Calumet Building, and more.

This view of the casino today is from the opposite side of the lake (when it was still there.)

The casino was located right along the lake and the lower (basement) level had room for 100 boats and canoes, both private and rentals. There were restrooms, an ice cream shop and a candy counter, with plenty of seating both inside and out on the expansive patios overlooking the lake. The upper floor was used for offices and storage. Must have been something back in the day when the lake was still there, sitting out on the patio sipping a cool lemonade on a hot summer day, watching the boaters. Or hot cocoa in the winter after skating.

Photo credit: Pinterest

The casino is still there, and the views are absolutely lovely today of a meadow with plenty of trees, a playground for kids, baseball diamonds and the creek off in the distance.

What Happened to the Lake?

Because the lake was created by damming the creek, there were all sorts of drainage issues throughout its history. Silt built up often in the (only) 4 -6 feet deep lake, and flooding occurred many times. Over the years, the lake was dredged and redesigned in the hopes that the flooding issue would be rectified, but it was no good.

Photo credit: Pinterest

The lake was eventually removed. I’ll add that I’ve read many different versions of when it was finally removed. I guess there was a small lagoon area that was created during one of the redesigns that was there until 1969 or so, but most of the lake was gone in the 1950s. I won’t quibble about the exact date, because it’s pretty clear that it was completely gone by 1970. It’s sad that they couldn’t make it work, but you can’t fight Mother Nature. She always wins in the end.

On a Personal Note

My Dad recently told me a story about asking his father to drive him out to Caz Park to do some fishing. He was about 12 years old and had heard the fish were biting. He asked to be dropped off and then picked up three hours later. Normally, he’d have ridden his bike, but it was March and was snowy. My father grew up on the East Side, and rode his bike all over Western New York as a 10 or 12 year old, to fish. Including to a lake out in Clarence. And once he rode to Chautauqua Lake without telling his parents where he was going. But that’s another story for another day.

So my Gramps dropped Dad off at Caz Creek in the park. He was absolutely freezing by the time he got picked up, three hours later. Apparently, the casino was closed that day. When I asked if he caught anything, he replied, “Oh yeah, we ate fish for supper that night, but I don’t remember what kind or how many, I just remember how cold I was.” This was a kid who delivered 120 newspapers every morning, and more on the weekends, so he was no stranger to being out in the cold. But that memory sticks out in his mind about Cazenovia Creek to this day.

More Recently

Today, the park is chock full of amenities. There are baseball diamonds, tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, a playground, a splash pad, a community center, complete with a swimming pool, an indoor ice rink, and a senior center. Oh, and a golf course! There is also a neighborhood library on the grounds, although it’s temporarily closed. And let us not forget the numerous events that would be taking place throughout the year, if it weren’t for covid. (When will I get to write a post that doesn’t include that word?)

And the foot paths. They are used daily by South Buffalonians of all ages. There are always people walking here. With their dogs. Alone. In pairs or small groups. And why not? It’s a beautiful park, with gorgeous, old trees chosen and placed, quite possibly by Olmsted himself. And It’s what I did on this crisp, sunny day at the end of November.

This is Tara, who walks here everyday with her favorite human, Bill.

The Shelter House was renamed in 2016 for Robert B. Williams, a former professional baseball player, and longtime Buffalo cop. He also coached and mentored thousands of children while active in the Buffalo Police Athletic League. Very cool.

My Impressions

I am so happy I ‘got to know’ Caz Park. And there is more to see! I’m going to make it a point to get out here in all four seasons to really get to know this park. The foot (bike) paths are just lovely, with lots to see, including wildlife. There are a lot of trees in the park, both old and new. That’s always a good thing. And some of the old ones, boy, are they ever beautiful.

Here’s a lovely new tree.

Here’s something I couldn’t help but notice while walking around the park. The park is residential in several areas. Meaning that there are homes that face the park, on Potters Road, Cazenovia Street and more. And guess what? They’re not million dollar mansions like the homes that line Nottingham Terrace, or Rumsey Road. That hits me like a breath of fresh air. They’re great homes to be sure. I might have to return to get some photos on a street or two, and write a post…yes, I think I will. I’ll put it on the list. You know, that list that’s got 89 (I went back and counted) ideas on it, haha!

What Else?

This park is steeped in history. While walking around, I couldn’t help but wonder about the many, many people who have come before me. What were they like? Did they freeze here in the winter like my Dad did? Did they score the winning goal at a soccer game, or basketball game? Or did their team win the softball championship in 1976?

Or was this the place to come on Sundays in your horse drawn carriage around the turn of the 20th century? With a picnic basket, filled with whatever was popular picnic fare back then? Possibly sitting out on the terrace overlooking the lake?

Who were these Buffalonians? What were they like? Were they happy? Were they kind?

When, oh when, will time travel be a thing? I will be first in line. I’d like to see Buffalo during its heyday. I’d like to see this park in 1915. And not as a woman of Polish/Irish descent who would have worked in service, but as the daughter of very educated parents, who happened to be very successful, and wealthy. Haha!

This place incites daydreams in me. I will definitely be back. And soon. I love walking in the snow…

Get the Book! Click below for a preview!

They make great keepsakes, or gifts for family and friends (or yourself!).  Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!

*The Best Planned City in the World: Olmsted, Vaux, and the Buffalo Park System (Designing the American Park) Hardcover – June 7, 2013. by Francis R. Kowsky

Romeo & Juliet’s Cafeé & Bakery on Hertel

Romeo & Juliet’s Cafeé & Bakery on Hertel

Disclaimer: We’ve received no compensation from Romeo & Juliet’s for writing this post. We simply want to highlight locally owned small businesses for their hard work supporting our neighborhoods.

We’ve been going to Romeo & Juliet’s on Hertel for a long time. They’ve been open since 1998, but it had to be at least 2008 before we found it.

Tim & I are pretty social, and we love to be on the go most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, we love to relax too. But often, when we go for a run, a walk, or a bike ride, we enjoy something social afterwards. On Tuesdays after work, we used to go to Delaware Park for a run / walk. After that, we’d head over to Hertel for a bite to eat. One night someone suggested Romeo & Juliet’s, so we went.

Well, we’ve gone back again and again and again. It’s their food, yes. But it’s the friendly, casual atmosphere too. They have a sit down, full service dining room, but they also have a casual dining room, where you order at the counter and they bring it to you when it’s ready. That’s where we’ve eaten most of the time. Mainly because after a run and/or brisk walk, nobody in the real dining room wants to sit next to us! Haha! Seriously though, we’ve eaten in both rooms, and both are equally comfortable in my mind.

Something I Should Tell You

I guess I should have told you this when I wrote our first post about Buffalo food. I feel like I’ve been hiding something from you, so it’s time for me to fess up.

My diet is 90% plant based. I know, I know. I live in Buffalo, and I don’t eat chicken wings? Or beef on weck? Or pepperoni (cups) pizza? And, I’m writing about Buffalo food? Before you get excited, remember I said 90%. Basically, I eat healthy at home. Really healthy. And I do it for my health. Not everyone is blessed with excellent health. I find that this way of eating helps me to stay med free, soooo, I stick with it.

Look, I am from Buffalo. So I do eat meat and (blue) cheese occasionally, and sometimes it’s chicken wings, or pizza. I will, however, confess to never really being a beef on weck girl. I could walk away from that seven days a week. Sorry, Buffalo, you know I love you.

I’m ony telling you this so that in these food posts, you’ll understand some of my choices at the restaurants I’ll be writing about. And fear not meat lovers, you are the reason Tim will be along with me on every one of these forays into Buffalo food. He loves a good roast beef sandwich, wings and pizza. He also loves sausages, (sopressata, summer, Polish, Italian, salami, hot dogs) bacon, subs, clubs, meatloaf, steaks, seafood and more…

Enough said.

The Story of Romeo & Juliet’s

Here’s the story of Romeo & Juliet’s as I understand it. Romeo is Vito Semeraro, a baker, from Brendisi, Italy. He moved to Milan to learn the bakery business. And learn it, he did. Juliet is Susan (Incardona) Semeraro, who worked in marketing and communications, from Kenmore. The two met while Vito was visiting family here in Buffalo.

They fell in love, and married.

They went to Italy for a three week honeymoon and together they travelled all over eating at cafes and bakeries looking for ideas for their own place. Then, they came home and made it happen.

Vito wouldn’t let me take his photo, he suggested I take a picture of this photo, originally taken by Bob Bukaty of Business First. Then he said, “Look at my beautiful wife.” Susan is beautiful, but I can’t take my eyes off that panettone.

In 1998, they opened Romeo & Juliet’s in its first location on Hertel, and eventually moved to a larger space, where they are now at 1292 Hertel. Their vision of all homemade foods, from the bread, to the pizza dough, to the marinated veggies on their pizzas and in their sandwiches, to their salad dressings, to the fresh (and delicious!) baked goods, proved to be a recipe for success.

So much so, that they opened their second location on Sheridan Drive near Evans, and another one on Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda, with a couple of partners, Josh Guzzetta, and Mauricio Conti, who started as a waiter, and now manages both Sheridan Drive locations. A brief stint in Hamburg didn’t work out so well, it was just too far away.

Let’s Get Into The Food

The food here is outstanding, or I wouldn’t be writing this. Their pizza has won best pizza in Buffalo, I think more than once. For that matter, their salads could win awards. Always fresh, always delicious, and always perfectly dressed. And their panini sandwiches and specials? You get the idea. It’s all good.

All the baking still happens at the Hertel Ave location, and is shipped daily to the Williamsville and Tonawanda locations. I kind of like that. Because it means that no matter where you go, you’re sure to get the same breads and sweets at all three places, including the pizza dough. This is also a big reason the Hamburg location didn’t work out. It’s just too far to deliver to daily.

Let’s talk about the breads and doughs. Vito tells me he proofs the dough for a minimum of three days. He says it’s easier to digest when you do it that way. I like that Vito knows this. He also mentions that he bakes all the bread, with the help of Paulo Tagliaferri, who also keeps the books, and runs the dining room, and anything else that needs doing. Anyway, the breads are amazing! And incidentally, Romeo & Juliet’s were the first in Buffalo to serve foccacia bread – now everyone has it.

Now, this is my opinion, but bread gets such a bad rap now-a-days. Homemade, hand crafted, artisan bread, with good quality flour is the way it was before it became bad. The stuff you buy in the grocery store in bags is definitely not good for you. Even in the grocery store bakeries – ever look at the ingredients list? But Romeo & Juliet’s breads? They are definitely good for you, body and soul. These are authentic breads. As my cousin Steve said recently, there is nothing better than fresh baked bread, warm, with butter. Or tapenade.

The Menu

Let’s talk about the tapenade first. Like bread & butter at most restaurants, Romeo & Juliet’s gives you olive tapenade with crostini. Fabulous. And I’m not even a big fan of olives. But this tapenade is truly delicious. I look forward to it.

Everytime we eat here, we study the menu and have trouble deciding. That’s not to say we don’t have our favorites. I love the Mediterannea Insalate or the Insalati di Juliet. Oh my goodness, both are fantastic!

Most recently, the Mediterranea won out.

And the pizza! Wow! My favorite is Pizza Bianca with garlic, fresh tomatoes, scallions, mozzarella and romano cheeses. So good! Tim loves the Quattro Formaggi and the Pizza San Vito…I can’t argue with those choices either!

Their paninis are creative, flavorful and delicious! I can’t even choose! But if you force me, I’d have to go with the Romeo & Guilieta – spinach, eggplant, tomato and provolone. Or the Alberti – turkey with tomato and provolone. Or…never mind. I’ll say it again. You get the idea. It’s all good! For a look at their menu, see their website.

Now you know how large the salads are! And the pizza here is the Margherita. Incredible!

We’ve literally eaten here at least fifty times. We always leave happy, and almost always with some sweets to go. For me, it’s the cuccidatis. Tim usually goes for carrot cake or cannolis.

Seriously, how can you go wrong? You can’t.

Vito tells me Romeo & Juliet’s has pretty much had the same pastry chefs since the beginning. As a matter of fact, a lot of the staff has been around a long time. Servers sometimes come and go, but there is a core staff here who are like family. Vito does everything here from the baking, cooking, serving, and yes, scrubbing toilets. He says he works alongside the staff, because he considers himself staff too. That’s good for everyone.

My Impressions

I continue to be impressed with restaurateurs here in Buffalo. They really know what work is. Vito arrives at work each day by 4:30am to begin the baking. He heads home around 2pm for a couple of hours, and is back for the dinner hour. And he stays until they close, at 8pm on Tuesday through Thursday, and 9pm on Friday and Saturday. Don’t forget that after closing, it’s another hour before the staff leaves. That is a long day. Every day.

Tim’s cannolis and my cuccidatis, what’s left of them after I gave most of them to my Dad on the way home. Gotta stick to my healthy eating! I also split the pistachio cookie with Dad. It’s always a good time for a cup of tea and some of Romeo & Juliet’s cookies, or if you’re Tim, their cannolis!

And speaking of staff. It sounds like Vito has the best. During Covid, the kitchen staff stood right next to him and worked by his side through it all. The servers had to be laid off when they had to close the dining room, and all but one came back when they could reopen. This is not common. An awful lot of restaurants are struggling to find workers. I believe Vito knows what he has in his staff, and appreciates them.

Vito and Susan’s 21 year old son, Filippo, is interested in taking over the restaurant. Vito advised him, “If you don’t absolutely love it, don’t do it. Because it will become your life.” He looked at me, and said, “Baking is my life.”

It shows in your food.

I know I speak for all of Buffalo when I say that I sincerely hope Filippo absolutely loves it. That remains to be seen.

That said, Vito and Susan have plans to retire to Florida. When that’ll happen is anybody’s guess. Could be next month, next year or in 5 years. But they are going about making their plans. As a matter of fact, Susan was in Florida when I sat down to talk to Vito. Wish I could have met her. Vito tells me she is the idea person, the creative one and the brains behind all of it.

Vito? He’s the baker.

Visit the Semeraro Family, and their excellent staff, at Romeo & Juliet’s Bakery and Cafe at 1292 Hertel Ave, Buffalo.

**Use the ‘contact’ button at the top of this page to email me your suggestions on your favorite Mom & Pops, or locally owned places in and around Buffalo!

City Living – Trinity Place

City Living – Trinity Place

So. Trinity Place. I’ve admired this street for a long time now. The first time I walked it was several years ago, with a friend, after breakfast at Betty’s. We found ourselves wandering around the neighborhood checking out all the beautiful old homes. It must have been spring, because I remember all the tulips on the street in front of this particular fence, below. It looked stunning. I cannot believe I was able to find this old photo from that day. I must be getting better at organizing them.

Isn’t this great?!

And the person who takes care of the fence is right on with the fall look, 2021. Love it.

Happy fall, everyone!

The homes here are old. Some as early as 1832. That’s the year Buffalo incorporated as a city! Love it! We’re going to look at all of them. The good, the bad and the ugly. Trinity Place has all of those, and more. Because there are some real treasures here too. Tucked away on this narrow little street that lots of Buffalonians have probably never noticed.

Knowing it was coming up on the list, I turned on it unexpectedly one evening on a bike ride with Tim. He was blown away! He had never seen it before. It’s a cool little street, up and coming, with a few problem areas, but nothing we can’t handle, Buffalo.

Come hike with me.

Those Problem Areas

Let’s get those problem areas I mentioned out of the way first. They are the first two homes on the south side of the street at South Elmwood. They’ve both been neglected for a long time. Ever since I can remember, actually. One is getting visibly worse. No info seems to be available about either one, though. Not that I can find anyway. Anyone?

The one with the for sale sign on it has a South Elmwood address. It’s got a storefront on the Trinity Place side, with what appears to be an apartment above that is probably empty. The rest of this long building appears to be apartments as well. I think some of them are being used, judging only by the cars parked behind it in a kind of large parking lot, that most likely used to be the yard or yards for a house or two that has been demolished. Can’t be sure about that, of course.

Next door to that is the home with the gaping hole in the corner of it, shown above. This is much worse than it used to be, and is so sad to see. The fence you see in the photo is the decorated fence (above) and behind it is the parking lot I just mentioned. There are always cars parked up against both of these homes as they seem to share that same parking lot out back.

It’s sad to see this happening. Especially because of their location at the corner of South Elmwood. The rehab of these buildings could go a long way in helping to bring back this section of Elmwood, which has a couple of bright spots, but could use a few more. Time will tell.

The Rest of the Street

Now, let’s take a look at the real Trinity Place. It’s a gorgeous little street with beautiful old homes. Let’s see them.

First up, these two apartment buildings are getting a face lift. One of the craftsmen told me they’ve both just been completely repointed where needed. Repointing is the removal of a couple of inches of mortar in between bricks and replacing it with new. It’s a big job! He also mentioned that the trim is getting a refresher as well, and the first and second floor doors are next (one door is complete). These two are looking pretty good and getting better!

Love the wrought iron on both of these.

This next one is lovely. Note the leaded glass on the first floor, and those windows in the peak! Nice!

This one, below, is in such great shape that I thought for sure it was owner occupied. But I’m told it isn’t. The owners are good people who care. Love that. Love the color choices here, and check out that light post. Old fashioned and fantastic!

This home, below, is so neat and pretty. I love the windows in the gable with the starburst above!

Did I mention there were treasures on this street? This one has been listed in the NYS and National Registers of Historic Places. Cool! There is a lot going on inside this gem. I could hear it from the street! This is definitely one to watch!

Love the original windows. This home has a schoolhouse look to it, doesn’t it?

These

This one reminds me of the homes on Whitney Place several blocks away. It’s an Italianate style home with an Eastlake style porch. At some point, someone thought these two went well together, and they were right. This house is a fantastic city home.

I’m always so happy to see original windows on an old home. This is another Italianate design, (there are quite a few on this street). I’d love to know what type of shingles those are. I don’t think I’ve really noticed these before. The moldings and brackets at the peak and surrounding the porch make this one something special.

The Kinskie / Kinskey Home

It’s at this point that I’m going to tie two of the homes on this street together. This one, below, and another across the street and down closer to South Elmwood. I found a Buffalo Courier Express article from 1928 that discussed the ages of the homes, the street itself, and the city as a whole. It’s always interesting to read old articles like this. To me anyway. They give insight to what life was like in a completely different time. And if you’re like me, they incite daydreams.

I’ll give you a brief synopsis of what the article was about. It’s 1928, and there’s a man by the name of George Kinskey living on Trinity Place in the home above, whose grandfather also lived on Trinity, beginning in 1834, in this home below. His name was Basser Kinskie. (The spelling of their surname has changed slightly over the years.)

Basser Kinskie and his wife came over from Austria in 1834 and purchased this (then) two year old home pictured below. The home doesn’t look all that different today than it did in 1928. The pedimented windows have been replaced. But on the whole, it appears very similar. The plot is still the original 25 feet wide by 200 feet deep it was in 1832, when the home was built.

Photo credit: Buffalo Courier Express, June 17, 1928

Changes on Trinity Place

But the article went on to say that a lot had changed on the street since 1834, when the Kinskies moved in. First off, the address of the house was 34 German Street. My best guess is that the street name was changed sometime around World War I. The road wasn’t paved in the 1830s, nor were there street lights, obviously. George Kinskey had tax receipts from 1837 for the original home at 34 German / 51 Trinity Place. The city tax paid was $.75, and the county tax was $1.40. (!) In 1928, when the article was written, the city taxes were $107.24 and the county tax was $21.97. Why the county tax was so much less that year, I couldn’t say. But I can tell you with certainty that the tax bill has gone up since then! Haha!

The city changed as well. The northern edge of the city grew from North Street over to Kenmore Ave. And the population went from 15,000 in 1834 to more than 500,000 in 1928.

The article stated that although George Kinskey’s children wanted their father to move to a more modern area of the city, George wanted to stay through at least 1934, so that members of the family would have lived on the street 100 years. Sweet.

Let’s Continue

Below is a community garden. I’m told that a lot of neighbors pitch in to grow everything, and anyone can partake of the fruits (and veggies) of their labor. I love this. Community gardens are such a good thing for a neighborhood! They bring people together.

Peace.
Have I mentioned the light poles?
This one is so sweet, I love the lines. And the yard is fantastic too!

This one, below, is coming around on the opposite side of the street. It has great bones, but could use a little love. I especially like the patios!

This one is very original – great colors!

The home behind a home. I see you!

This one, below, is a quintessential Allentown home. There is at least one very, very creative person living here. And if the gardens look this good in October, I bet they were amazing in the summer!

Is This Hollywood?

And what have we here, below? This home is so unexpected on this street! Why does it make me think of Mary Pickford? You know, the old Hollywood actress. This house is like a smaller version of an old Hollywood home. I can’t believe this is in Allentown! Love it!

Also, note that the Hollywood home is on a pie shaped piece of land. It falls right at the curve in the street. This is one of those neighborhoods where Buffalo streets converged with Black Rock streets, creating these interesting little twists and turns in our street patterns. Also creating some funky shaped pieces of property, like this pie shaped one, on the inside of the curve. And the one across the street where the community garden is, where there is extra room. It’s part of the evolution of Buffalo. And I happen to think it’s cool.

Love the colors here!

This next one is beautiful, from what I can see of it. The trees are awesome, and they must keep the porch nice and cool in the heat of summer.

Next – Meet Rhonda

It’s at this next house, below, that I met Rhonda. She lives here with her husband, Dave and two kids, and spoke openly with me about the street, her neighbors and the neighborhood as a whole. Considering that I caught her as she was going down the street to help a friend with a reno project, she was remarkably patient and didn’t rush off. She even allowed me to walk down the street with her while we chatted.

Rhonda moved here 15 years ago with Dave, and their then four month old son. Theirs is a double lot and it’s Rhonda who clued me in to just how deep these properties are. The single lots are narrow, in most cases 25 feet. But they are long and go way back! Rhonda and at least one other neighbor keep chickens in their yard. As a matter of fact, the bucket that holds reno supplies that she’s carrying down to her friend’s house, is topped with a bowl containing three fresh eggs for that neighbor. So unexpected in the city – and yet really cool!

While we chat, she tells me how they’ve watched the street change in the past 15 years. When they first moved in, Rhonda said the neighborhood was “sketchy at times”. I can see that, especially 15 years ago. But they wanted to stay in Allentown so they bought here, and have watched as the street has slowly improved. And I think they may have contributed to that in a much bigger way than Rhonda would have admitted. She spoke about her involvement in the neighborhood very humbly. I like that.

When the home next door, below, sat empty, they went to municipal housing court to complain, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. In the end, Dave and a friend of his fixed the home up and eventually it sold. Rhonda tells me they are beginning to see people who work in the medical field moving in on the street. And why not? It’s a great street! She says the street has changed to a lot more owner occupied homes, and she’s grateful for that.. She pointed out several that are rentals, but they are among the nicest on the street. She’s grateful to have such good landlords on the street as well. It seems that everything is falling into place on Trinity Place.

Rhonda, I love what you’ve done with your property, and the one next door. And I can tell that you are a force on this street, for the good. You, and your neighbors are Buffalo.

Moving Down Trinity Place

This place looks so sweet. I could be happy here.

These patios look well used. You know I love that. And what a different little dormer! The paint job is very happy, and I like the two separate entrances. This is a very inviting home.

This one could use a little love, but the details are still there. This is one to watch.

Kudos to the upper windows! The storefront needs a bit of love, but this former tavern has a lot of charm. Let’s keep an eye on this one too. It could be great!

My Impressions

The article I read about the Kinskey family homes was very thought provoking for me. It got me thinking about the changes our city has gone through over the years. This is really a great time to be living in Buffalo, when we’re pulling ourselves up out of the rust, so to speak, to put ourselves back on the map as a beautiful, innovative place to be.

I always get excited when I find a Buffalo house, or a street, or a building I’ve never seen before. Like I said earlier, I found Trinity Place seven or eight years ago now, but I guess Tim had never seen it. When we were on that bike ride I mentioned, I got excited watching him see it for the first time. It’s like I said when I wrote Castles of Buffalo, once in a while, it’s good to see something through someone else’s eyes. Especially when they’re seeing something really cool for the first time.

I still get this feeling on the regular in Buffalo. It’s one of my favorite things. That excitement of finding something cool, learning something new about a place you think you know. That’s why I continue to explore and talk to people. I always learn something. I met a man on an urban hike over on Summit Ave, who recently wrote to me in an email, “…participating in true dialog is one of life’s most outstanding gifts.” How right you are, Frank.

When we stop exploring, stop learning and stop conversing, that’s when we begin to die. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a lot of livin’ to do!

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Eddie Brady’s on Genesee Street

Eddie Brady’s on Genesee Street

Disclaimer: We’ve received no compensation for writing this post. We simply want to highlight locally owned small businesses for their hard work supporting our neighborhoods.

Some of you may have been expecting to see a story about an Italian restaurant today. Well, like Mick says, you can’t always get what you want. Things didn’t quite work out the way we expected this week, but we did get exactly what we needed at Eddie Brady’s.

Patrick drawing a tall one.

Tim and I used to go to Eddie Brady’s after seeing bands down at Lafayette Square on Thursday nights. Anybody remember the real Thursday in the Square? Well, afterwards Eddie Brady’s would be absolutely packed, with the crowd spilling out onto the sidewalk. Ah, good times.

Tim’s meatloaf special. He’s still talking about it.

Nowadays we go there to eat because about six or seven years ago they added a full kitchen. And the food is good. Real good. But, like I promised when I started writing about these locally owned eateries, this is not just about the food. This is also about the history of the place and the people behind the food.

The History of the Building

The history of this place is cool. The property was purchased in 1857 by Nicholas Losson as a harness and saddle shop. He tore town the existing wood frame building, and built the three story structure we know today. It is believed it was built around 1863. Civil War era. Love it. Not the Civil War, that the building is that old.

The Losson family owned the building until 1897, when they sold it to Emil Brombacher. He opened the first tavern on the site. John Lang was the next owner, from 1902 until Prohibition, when the tavern was closed. In the 20s the building was transformed into a candy manufacturing company called Honey Dew Candy Company. Nice.

Buffalo Courier – my first employer (Express).

In the 1950s another reno took place, transforming the building into the Kitty-Cat Lounge, owned by Henry and Eda Korman. This raises the question, was Chippewa, only a block away, a red light district in the 50s? I’m not sure. I mean, maybe the Kitty-Cat was just a men’s kind of bar with good looking wait staff (am I allowed to say waitresses?). I picture an old black and white movie where men meet after work at the Kitty-Cat Lounge for a couple of martinis or manhattans. Once in a while one of them gets a little blotto and makes a pass, and the waitress stalks off in a huff (and rightly so).

Let’s just hope it wasn’t that other kind of lounge. Interesting, this little tidbit. Had never heard this part of the story. The Kitty-Cat was closed in 1968.

Here’s where it gets a little blurry. No more information until 1985 when the building housed another tavern, Bremer’s Pub, which didn’t last long. Then it was a restaurant, Gandy’s.

Eddie Brady

Finally, we come to Eddie Brady, who bought the place in 1990. And the rest is history. Well, almost.

We gotta give Eddie props for opening this place when he did. I mean, Chippewa was still pretty active, if you know what I mean. Mark Goldman bought the Calumet Building in 1988 and the turnaround had begun, but it took years to get where we are today. Thank you Eddie, for being there from the beginning of the comeback.

Patrick Brady

Now, to Patrick. In or around 2015, Eddie’s brother, Patrick, came into the business and has since taken over Eddie Brady’s. He expanded the food from just a few sandwiches to a full menu, along with chef Dan Quinn, and has been cranking out fantastic pub food ever since. Patrick also serves up a side of sarcasm and wit along with everything else. As an Irish pub owner should.

Patrick Brady

Patrick, left and Eddie, right. Photo from Eddie Brady’s facebook page, used courtesy of Patrick Brady.

My Impressions

Eddie Brady’s is an old time saloon, with dark wood accents and furniture. Lots of exposed brick, a vintage looking bar back and beer coolers all add to the charm of the tavern. There is a definitely a ‘feel’ to the place. Comfortable and friendly.

While on a pub run on which Eddie Brady’s was a stop, Tim and I noticed the Courier Express and Iroquois Beer paraphernalia on the walls. One of the ‘regulars’ at the bar filled us in. Eddie had a Courier route as a kid, and one of his customers was the wife of the owner of Iroquois Brewing. He could always count on a good tip around the holidays at their home. Thus Eddie’s love of the old memorabilia. Patrick confirmed the story.

As a former Buffalo Courier Express carrier, I can attest to the lasting memories of certain generous customers. Love this story.

And I have to say that this trip was the first one for us since Covid, and for the first few minutes, I was the only woman in the place. I thought “Where are all my single friends? This place is full of decent looking men.”

I’ll let you in on an an inside joke Tim & I have shared for years now. When a friend of ours was told her husband was good looking, her response was, “He’s decent.” We thought that was hilarious, and have been using it ever since to describe each other, and other people we think are good looking. So, no offense guys who were at the bar that night. And girlfriends, you know where to go…haha. Everybody else should go too. You’ll all be glad you did. The atmosphere is fanstastic and the food is even better. Be sure to tell Patrick we sent you!

Visit Eddie Brady’s Tavern, 97 Genesee Street, Buffalo

**Use the ‘contact’ button at the top of this page to email me your suggestions on your favorite Mom & Pops, or locally owned places in and around Buffalo!

My reuben sandwich. Melted in my mouth.
Current menu.

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