When I first heard the news that Sinatra’s Restaurant was planning on relocating across the street from its original location on Kenmore Avenue, I had mixed emotions. I always loved the old school Italian vibe of the original restaurant, but from a business perspective, knew an upgrade was probably necessary.
I have been frequenting Sinatra’s for as long as I can remember. It was established in 1981 as “Sinatra’s Trilogy”, by John Sinatra. John always dreamed of expanding the restaurant. John passed on in March of 2017. Michael, John’s middle son, now owns and operates the restaurant. Up until this week I have never had a conversation with Michael. I would simply show up, savor the amazing cuisine, have some fun conversation with Lenny (legendary bartender), and leave extra full and extremely happy.
When writing about restaurants (and I have been doing so for about 15 years), I often weigh the experience and energy of the establishment over the strength and caliber of the food. I am not a food critic, but in this case think I am pretty well qualified to comment on the authentic food experience. My mom grew up in the Lovejoy district of Buffalo which used to be of heavy Italian decent. Growing up, every Sunday I would visit Grandma and Grandpa Nunciato for red sauce and memorable cooking. Every Sunday.
Sinatra’s was one of the only Italian restaurants in Buffalo that could hold a candle to my Grandma’s home cooking. Whenever I dined at the original Sinatra’s location, it was like being home. So it was a bit surreal to walk into a new “Sinatra’s” – I was not sure how I would feel about the new experience. At the same time, I eagerly entered the restaurant, checked in with GM David Ortolano (always positive and passionate), mindfully looked around and didn’t say a word for about 7 minutes. I knew the meal would be awesome, so I honestly didn’t care if the atmosphere might disappoint. The food is that good, period.
My opinion on the new location? I love everything about it. It’s a perfect blend of past and present. From the Jim Beam rail cars that sit high atop the bar (fiber optics coming soon) and the showcased ornate dishes that liven up the dining room wall, to the painting of John (the founder) that greets guests upon entering and artist Peter Fowler’s interpretation of Sinatra’s that adorns the back of the bar, there is an immense attention to detail woven into the look and feel. The space is simple, clean and somewhat timeless.
I really like the flow of the restaurant as well. The spacious bar sits in-between the banquet room and main dining room. A private dining room is located adjacent to the main dining room, and the restrooms bookend the main dining area. Everything about the look and feel of the restaurant seems exemplary.
Dinner was magnificent, as usual. Sinatra’s never disappoints. I have yet to taste a better red sauce in any city, state or country. Sinatra’s is my benchmark when it comes to Southern Italian Cuisine. I am very happy that the menu stayed pretty much the same, with some add-ons. A couple new dishes have been dreamed up, and lobster now accompanies the Shrimp Fra Diavolo and Shrimp Scampi (bonus). My date and I enjoyed a couple antipasti dishes – the artichoke Français (always a favorite), and clams casino. For our primi, the veal Bolognese (special), and shrimp and lobster scampi. I would have felt guilty if I didn’t order Buffalo’s best meatballs (Meatball Street Brawl) as well – I craved a red sauce fix. I usually go with the Sunday pork with rigatoni… there’s always the next visit for that dish. I can’t emphasize enough how delicious the food is. I know red sauce taste can be subjective – some like a sweet red sauce and some favor a pork/meat based sauce. For me, if you want sweet sauce… order pizza!
I always enjoy and appreciate the great service that Sinatra’s offers, and Monday was no different. Barbara, our server, was excellent – really nice and personable. It was nice to see Danny behind the bar, along with popular industry veterans, who have recently joined the team, such as Kevin Kirby and Dicky Manke. This made the Sinatra’s experience all the more enjoyable.
Michael’s father would be very proud if he saw the job that his sons pulled off (Nick Sinatra is a partner in the building.)
As it stands, I showed up, savored delectable southern Italian cuisine, had some great bar conversation and left completely content.
Everything “changed”, but nothing changed.
I jotted down some notes during my visit:
- Bigger bar
- Dinner served at the bar every night, including Saturday
- Dining tables near the bar for a more casual experience
- Outdoor patio (coming soon) with seating for approximately 40
- Additional parking across the street (coming soon)
- Extensive wine list – 6oz & 9oz options
- Private dining room (I hope to take advantage of one day)
- Separate banquet room
- I tried really hard, but honestly can’t think of one.