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!

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.

Lucky’s Texas Red Hots on Clinton

Lucky’s Texas Red Hots on Clinton

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.

We’ve been going to Lucky’s for a while now. Ever since we started doing our ‘church tours‘ about a dozen years ago. You see St. Casimir was on the list of churches we went to that first year. And as was our custom, we’d go out to breakfast after going to mass at whatever church we were going to that week. Because of its proximity to St. Casimir, we decided on Lucky’s Texas Red Hots.

Here’s why. Because we liked the look of it. And because Tim could get his favorite texas hots, and they have all day breakfast on the menu. I love breakfast foods at all different times of the day! But mostly, it was because we liked the look of it. You see, Tim and I love the simple, no BS restaurants. The Mom & Pops. The kind of place you can stop in, get some incredibly good food, even better service, and be on your way. Or if you choose, hang out and read the paper, or talk into the night if you feel like it.

Lucky’s has that look. And we were right, it’s exactly that kind of place. The kind of place that has a story. Been around forever. Run by the same people, usually family. This is Lucky’s.

Our First Time

We were comfortable the minute we walked in the door and the woman behind the counter said hello and told us to sit wherever we liked. She brought menus and coffee immediately, even though most of the booths were full and she appeared to be the only one serving. I also liked that she didn’t get put out when I asked for a cup of tea. Really, believe it or not, some people do. And sometimes, I’m made to feel like I’m asking for something really special. Any fellow tea drinkers out there hear what I’m sayin?!

The food was delicious! And I believe we both had big breakfasts that day. Bacon, eggs, home fries (mountains of them) with peppers & onions and toast for me. And a Greek breakfast for Tim. Everything was perfectly cooked! We would definitely go back. And have, many times.

The Story

Lucky’s is owned by Gus Bechakas. Gus was nice enough to sit down with us last Saturday to chat.

He came to Buffalo from Greece when he was 12 years old with his parents. He went to Buffalo schools, and told us his family has always been in the restaurant business. In 1966, he opened Lucky’s on Fillmore Avenue near Glenwood, in the building that is Mattie’s (sadly now closed). Gus moved into Kaisertown, here on Clinton Street 47, years ago. And with that, a neighborhood icon was born.

Gus runs the Greek/American Lucky’s Texas Hots with his wife, Theodora, and two sons, Leo and George. I’m told, by Tim, the Texas hots are fantastic! Texas hots are not a favorite of mine, but I can tell you the souvlaki here is heavenly. In fact, I’ve never had a bad meal here, or bad service. And we’ve made it a point to come back at least a couple of times a year. Theodora, Leo and George seem to be very friendly, kind people. And Gus? Well, Gus is the salt of the earth.

Left to right, Leo, George and Gus Bechakas. Theodora was not there the day I took photos.

He spoke humbly about starting the business, keeping it going, their troubles during Covid lockdowns, and coming back afterwards. He mentions, somewhat emotionally, that Theodora is battling cancer. But he’s much more comfortable talking about the restaurant with someone like me, who he barely knows. I respect that.

The Patrons

The other diners all seemed to know each other, saying hello as they come in. This is a real neighborhood place.

While taking photos, I met Leonard, sitting at the counter enjoying his breakfast. Not too busy to talk though. Gus tells me Leondard was one of his first customers when he opened 47 years ago. I asked Leonard how he likes the food here, he said, something to the effect of, “Well, I come here everyday, and I’m 96 years old, so they must be doing something right!”

It’s obvious to me, too, that they are definitely doing something right.

Leonard finishing up his breakfast.

In that brief conversation with Leonard and Gus, Gus turned the conversation to Leonard. He told me that Leonard is a World War II vet, was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, and was a prisoner of war for 12 months. I was instantly humbled. I thanked Leonard sincerely for his service to which he looked me right in the eye and barely nodded, before changing the subject back to Gus and Lucky’s. These two men are more than restauranteur and patron. These two are friends. I love it.

My Impressions of Lucky’s Texas Hots

You’re only going to get this kind of experience at a place like Lucky’s. Good food, good people. That’s really all it takes to make me love a restaurant. And it’s awesome when people like the Bechakas family make it look easy. And owning and running a restaurant is incredibly difficult. Especially at this point in history. This family makes you feel like you’re welcome. Like they’re happy you’ve come for a visit. And it’s sincere. They love what they’re doing, and it shows.

Gus – Tim & I will keep you and Theodora in our thoughts and prayers.

Visit the Bechakas family:

Lucky’s Texas Red Hots, 1903 Clinton Street, Kaisertown, Buffalo

*CASH ONLY* ATM on site.

p.s. Try Theodora’s rice pudding – I had some today (10/8) and it’s fantastic!

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

Urban Farming in Buffalo – Back to the Future

Urban Farming in Buffalo – Back to the Future

Sow the Seed

My father grew up on the East Side of Buffalo and occasionally shares stories from his youth.   He recently told me one about how he worked for a neighbor who farmed his property. This man, remembered by my father only as Mr. Shuh*, owned three homes in a row.   He lived in one and rented out the other two. But he farmed all three backyards. He had chickens, grew vegetables, and also loved to grow flowers.  


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