Today we are very excited to have Nina Barone as our newest Buffalo Foodie, it’s long over due considering her blog is titled Buffalo Foodie. For the last year plus, Nina has written a couple restaurant reviews, an impressive amount of recipes and the occasional food adventure/trip. Recently, she was named Cook of the Month by the Buffalo News, had her recipe for Ricotta Cheese Cookies reposted on Buffalo.com and last month helped Buffalo Spree judge several popular Sushi restaurants. With a resume like that it’s easy to see why we’d ask Nina to talk about her favorite places to eat, here’s what she had to say…
Right now, where are some of your favorite places to eat in Buffalo?
Nina: (her answers: restaurant-favorite dish; thoughts on the restaurant)
- India Gate: delicious, comforting food and friendly, home-style service (favorite dish: paneer pakora and shrimp malai)
- Seabar: great atmosphere and an inventive menu with many tasty options including sushi and beyond (favorite dish: lobster roll)
- Bistro Europa: amazing house-made everything and their use of local ingredients is awesome (favorite dish: potato pancakes or pierogi)
- Betty’s: consistent, quality slow cooking (favorite dish: shepherd’s pie)
- Romeo & Juliet’s: a wonderful family owned place that has the closest offering to the pizza you actually find in Italy, and they make the best bread in Buffalo, hands down (favorite dish: pizza San Vito and Mediterranea insalate)
- Lloyd (full disclosure: my brother is Pete Cimino, co-owner, and I am addicted to fish tacos and tricked out nachos): always a fun experience visiting the truck or eating at a party catered by Lloyd and it tops my friends’ list of most craved foods.
Where do you like to grab a drink with friends on the weekend?
Nina: Allen Street Hardware, Mother’s and Left Bank are favorites. You can still get a great meal or a bite to eat at all of them, too.
If you had a friend visiting from out of town, where would you take them?
Nina: A day of walking/exploring around the city is key. Shopping around the Elmwood Village, then taking a stroll over to the Hoyt Lake/Delaware Park area is wonderful. I love showing off how cool my neighborhood is. We could eat at any of the places named above, or grab brunch at Blue Monk or Trattoria Aroma if it’s Sunday because I love a good Sunday brunch. Fun sites to see might include the Albright-Knox Art Gallery or Darwin Martin House, and a walking or driving tour to see the beautiful architecture downtown too.
What are some food memories you have from growing up?
Nina: Growing up, we cooked and baked and ate a lot! My mom and dad taught us the importance of making a home cooked meal and sitting down together at least once a day, and that has stayed with me to this day. We didn’t go out to eat much at all, since my dad never thought highly of the options. It’s hard to blame him when you compare most standard fare to the simple handmade goodness he ate back home in Calabria, Italy, but he has gotten better with trusting us on the best the area has to offer! My mom and I have always baked together, and since I was a kid, she and my grandma made an enormous amount of cookies each Christmas. To this day, my mom and I still conquer an impressive list of Christmas cookies — we typically make at least a dozen kinds, and about 1,000 total — to share with family and friends throughout the holiday season. It’s really special to be able to share something from your own hands and kitchen with a loved one or a total stranger for that matter. I love having people over for dinner and parties for that same reason.
Where do you find inspiration for your recipes and have you always enjoyed cooking?
Nina: I enjoy cooking more and more everyday. Since childhood, I hung out with my mom in the kitchen and watched her make certain recipes, like sauce and Italian cookies, literally thousands of times. I just jumped in and started making things with her at some point. When I was a teenager and in college, it was fun to experiment and try everything from reinterpreting family favorites to making unusual or complicated things. I loved trying new recipes on my family and friends, and I started to combine recipes and write my own, and I’d read tons of recipes and bookmark them and print them from websites. The first recipe I wrote myself was a cheesecake, and then a seafood pasta dish, zucchini cupcakes, and more savory dishes. I guess I’ve never been afraid to tweak recipes and ad-lib because my mom and grandma taught me tricks for how to know when and how you can do that — and they helped me realize it’s not the end of the world if a recipe doesn’t work out, which is important! I think cooking and baking are intimidating for a lot of people.
One reason I started my blog, buffalofoodie.com, was to share recipes with family and friends, and to share notes and tricks that might help them feel more comfortable trying a new recipe. When my husband and I were dating, I got really into making special desserts and meals for him, and I look forward to planning my menu (as best I can!) and cooking for him each night. He’s a great sous chef too, and is always willing to pitch in to help me in the kitchen if I need another set of hands.
What types of restaurants/cuisines do you wish Buffalo had more of?
Nina: Moroccan, Middle Eastern, Ethiopian and Argentinian would be great additions. Another real Italian pasticceria would be lovely, although I do love Romano’s on Kenmore Avenue, which more people should know about for authentic Italian sweets, such as cassata cake, cannoli, pasticiotti, etc. I would also love a gourmet cheese shop, fish monger and butcher/deli in the city. Entrepreneurs out there, any takers??
We’d like to thank Nina for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for us, anyone who follows Nina on twitter has seen just how busy she’s been baking cookies this week. You can read all of her recipes on BuffaloFoodie.com and can follow her on twitter @BuffaloFoodie for the latest updates about new posts.