Somehow, along the way to trying all of the different restaurants that serve up falafel in Buffalo, I gave up eating the stuff.
When The Falafel Bar was still in Allentown, I would frequent the place because I enjoyed their version of falafel served in a wrap. Then I discovered falafel paradise on Hertel, with a number of Middle Eastern eateries serving up top-notch falafel dishes that were to die for. Eventually, I guess you could say that I burned out on falafel and just needed to take a break from the stuff.
It was only when when Janelle Dubenion, co-owner of Presto! on Allen, suggested that I try their falafel, that I decided to jump back onto the falafel train. Having never eaten at Presto!, I was not familiar with their style of cooking, other than what they told me in an interview before they opened (see here). Having tried most of the falafel joints in the city, I figured that I needed to see if Presto’s version stood up to the test.
As my meal was being prepared, I stepped into the kitchen to talk to co-owner Lucille Altieri who was already busy working her magic on the falafel. “It’s 100% homemade,” she began to say. “Nothing is frozen. I wanted to create this falafel (served in a pita) in a similar manner to a NYC food truck. So it’s not prepared the usual way (fried falafel balls), instead its loaded with falafel made from scratch, chopped veggies and a lot of love.”
When I first bit into the sandwich, I could see what she meant about being prepared from scratch. The falafel was moist and flavorful, and the rest of the ingredients – pickled cabbage, cucumber, sweet pepper, tomato, red onion, feta cheese, tahini dressing – were perfectly proportioned. It was like eating a falafel salad in a super fresh pita. I can honestly say that while I had been searching for the best, authentic, traditional falafel, I ultimately fell for a version that indeed resembled something that a food truck might serve up. The only thing that I would add next time is a little hot sauce to spice it up, or maybe some Middle Eastern horseradish.
While the interior appearance of Presto! still needs to warm up a bit (it’s a bit of a blank canvas), my foray into the food department was a smashing success. I am told that the grilled chicken primo is out of this world. And I did get to sample the vegetarian chili which was also very good.
I believe that the girl’s mantra of “community through culinary craft” comes through in the cooking. There is a mixed bag of cultures represented, from a Morroccan sweet and spicy vegetarian stew served over Turkish couscous, to a simple BLT. Then there is the nachos with vegetarian chili, and the African bean fritters (which I couldn’t resist trying). It’s healthy cooking for the most part, and completely satiating at the same time. When looking at the menu as a whole, I would have to say that there is something very soothing about the dishes. Maybe it all comes back to the love of food and community that both Lucille and Janelle share.
I find that this mixed bag of tricks at Presto! will warrant a few additional stopovers in order to get a better handle of the offerings. The only problem is that I’ll be thinking of the falafel, and will have to make a concerted effort to try other items. I guess there’s nothing wrong with a little presto change-o when faced with so much diversity.
Presto! | 59 Allen St | Buffalo, New York | (716) 768-0160 | Facebook