This summer has been a little overwhelming for us so far. It seems like every week there’s a new restaurant opening or a festival/food event to attend. In an effort to keep track of what we still need to try, we printed out a proper “to do list” and posted it on our fridge. The first restaurant to be crossed off that list is Osteria 166, an Italian restaurant in Downtown Buffalo that only recently came to our attention. Aside from a couple twitter followers reaching out about their experiences, we had no idea what to expect from their food.
Osteria 166 is located in the old Frankie Mohawk’s, right across the street from the convention center and the Statler. It’s a nice location for the downtown lunch/happy hour crowd. Not surprisingly, when we arrived to the restaurant for an early Friday dinner, the bar was absolutely packed with a local company’s happy hour. There seemed to be some drink specials and some live music as well. We lucked out and grabbed the last table outside. Even though we were outside and it was crowded, our server was very attentive (almost overly so) and made sure that we were all set with everything.
- Restaurant Type: Casual
- Cuisine: Italian
- Location: Downtown
- Prices: Appetizers $7-10, Pasta $8-20, Sandwiches $7-11
After an initial look at their menu, we knew that we had to order the House Burrata ($8, below) and Potted Pig ($8, top). There aren’t many things in the world that we love more then pork rillete or burrata. The burrata was decent; the fresh mozzarella on the outside was a little stiff but had a good flavor and was filled with a generous amount of creamy ricotta. The menu had advertised the burrata was supposed to be filled with marscapone but either we didn’t notice the cheese (I doubt that, since Alli loves marscapone) or they have to update their menu. The Potted Pig was probably the best thing we ate on our visit and included a small glass jar filled with slow cooked pork and topped with a layer of creamy fat to spread on toasted pieces of bread. I loved the flavor of the pork, it was rich and salty and the creamy fat on top was even better. I still wanted more after we finished the entire thing. If I find myself at Osteria in the future, I’d definitely order it again.
Sadly, the entrees were less impressive. I ordered the Porchetta Sandwich ($9) after seeing some comments on foursquare and Alli was in the mood for some Spaghetti and Meatballs ($7/$13/$19 depending on size). First of all, the Porchetta sandwich did not look like I expected. It included thinly shredded pork instead of the more traditional slices. In addition, it was incredibly salty. Yes, I know porchetta is supposed to be heavy on the salt, but this was to an extreme degree that really ruined the flavor. The sandwich needed something to cut the saltiness of the pork, there was a little arugula on top that provided some bitterness but that didn’t help too much. In addition, the ciabotta roll was really tough to eat and the sandwich had a bad bread to meat ratio. Overall, not a good dish. Alli’s Spaghetti was nothing spectacular. The sauce had a mix of salty and sweet flavors that didn’t quite click for us and the large meatball didn’t have much flavor at all. The only real highlight of the dish were the spaghetti noodles, which tasted like they were freshly made. We enjoyed that you can still order their lunch portions even during dinner time (which Alli did), which is a very affordable way to try out more of their menu.
We normally don’t order desserts but when our waiter mentioned Cinnamon Sugar Ricotta Donuts, we decided to go for it in hopes of overcoming our lackluster entrees. Our waiter presented the donuts in a brown paper page with a side of warm chocolate dipping sauce. They were very good, but you really can’t go wrong with freshly made donuts and chocolate sauce.
While we didn’t have a great meal, there were a couple dishes that we enjoyed and it was nice to eat outside on a warm Friday evening. If you really want to become a destination restaurant downtown and pull people in from the ‘burbs, you’re going to have to really impress with the food. That didn’t happen at Osteria 166, but that doesn’t mean that the restaurant can’t become a viable lunch spot if you work downtown or want to grab a post work drink at the bar. Right now, that seems to be Osteria’s focus; the menu even has a section of dishes that are specifically geared towards people who have a limited amount of time for lunch. I can see myself visiting for happy hour, but if Alli and I are craving Italian for dinner, we’d probably go somewhere else instead.