Feast to West, part II: Marco’s Fine Italian Dining
blog by S.J. Velasquez • October 28, 2011 @ 7:00am
The food at Marco’s was fine, I must say. Not fine in the sense that it was superior to all other Italian food joints, but it was good. That was the general consensus after Ben K., Ben T. and I went to the West Side restaurant for lunch Thursday.
Marco’s, the original location at 1085 Niagara St. in Buffalo, is a charming little place. So charming, in fact, that three other Marco’s deli locations have become neighborhood staples in Kenmore, Amherst and North Buffalo. Even the restaurant’s calling card includes the description: “comfortable, casual atmosphere.” That’s a pretty accurate depiction of the place, which is warm and welcoming. The interior walls are painted a soft, rosy red with a glossy wooden finish. Walking inside for the first time, I got the sense that this place was prim yet cozy.
We walked past the bar and straight into the dining area, where we were seated and placed our orders. Ben T.‘s getting pretty good at these food tours, and he likes to ask for food suggestions from employees—he defends this undeniably adorable move by insisting, “I just want to know what’s good.” I laughed because he unintentionally sounded like a thug. But I digress. Our waiter didn’t hesitate to talk up the Jersey boy, chicken cutlet and mezzaluna dishes.
Ben T. went for the Jersey boy, I ordered the mezzaluna and Ben K. went against the waiter’s word and opted instead for the eggplant parm sandwich. Way to stick it to the man, bossman.
The mezzaluna—described in the menu as “baked penne pasta with sauce and Sorrento cheese and melted mozzarella topped with a grilled chicken breast”—was a good deal for the $10 it cost. In my opinion, it was a nice balance of quality and quantity. The portion size was generous, and I ended up taking more than half of my lunch home for dinner. I liked seeing the pride in using a cheese from Sorrento, a company founded in Buffalo with headquarters still in South Buffalo. I also liked that the ricotta cheese was mixed into the pasta sauce, making it appear orange in color, and it gave the sauce a sweeter taste and creamier texture. I’m not sure how other Italian families cook, but when I visited my extended famiglia in the Lombardy region of Italy, this is how they served pasta. As for the flavor, it wasn’t overpowering or all too memorable, but the meal was satisfying. I really can’t complain. I’d go back for more.
Ben T. was into his sandwich, the Jersey boy, which comprised sausage, sauteed green and red peppers, cheese and lettuce, all topped on a toasted hoagie roll. Ben said the lettuce was a surprise to him, and it was a welcome addition to the otherwise slightly oily sandwich. He said the sausage was flavorful enough to stand sans condiments, but he loves ketchup too much to leave it off a sandwich. The sandwich was served with a side of fries, which Ben may or may not have described as “delightful.”
Ben K. wasn’t totally blown away by his eggplant parm sandwich, which could’ve had a little more flavor. He said the dish was a bit “bread-y” for his liking, making the fried vegetable almost indistinguishable from the toasted roll in both flavor and texture. But he did dig the fries.
We’ve made several attempts to reach out to Marco’s to discuss the restaurant’s experience on the West Side and how Marco Sciortino, the owner, has witnessed the area develop in recent years. Hey Marco, we know you’re a busy dude, but feel free to drop us a line! (btsujimoto [at] buffnews.com).