The Difference Kitchen, which opened in December 2018, is the passion project of Lucille Altieri, who has been in the restaurant business for quite some time. Her past restaurants have since disbanded, and she’d been working in education in place of that. She has decided to leave her teaching job to pursue the restaurant business again because she wants to focus full time on making a difference in the world.
The Difference Kitchen gets its name from Altieri’s energetic motivation to change the world. She acknowledges that this might be somewhat cliche, but she really does want to make a difference for her community, the environment, and her former students.
“I’m just that kind of person,” she said. “I have a lot of personal responsibility and I really do want to make a difference just by serving food.”
Her former students have been involved in the process of Altieri’s restaurant since the beginning. She got the space to open The Difference Kitchen from a former student whose dad owned the restaurant that had occupied it previously. The owner of the building saw Altieri’s vision of the new restaurant and was willing to rent her the space.
In addition, she may be done with conventional teaching, but Altieri is still helping and building kids into their best selves. Two of her former students work in the kitchen, one of them she taught since fifth grade.
As far as the food goes, The Difference Kitchen makes virtually everything they serve by themselves and in house. The menu is healthy, there are no deep fryers or soda and they use very little plastic and styrofoam.
“I want to be able to feed people food that they’ve seen before but don’t necessarily see in restaurants,” Altieri said. It’s a high end menu in an accessible setting.
Altieri grew up on the West Side and attributes a lot of her culinary passion to learning from being immersed in the West Side community. She recalls helping her mom with Sunday meals as soon as she was able to hold a spoon and asking her neighbors about their cuisine from different heritages.
“I let the world come to me,” she stated.
While the West Side offers a diverse community, full of immigrants and refugees, this is also home to Altieri. She tries to make it as comfortable as it is for her by being very personable with customers, asking them how the food is, cracking jokes, and really making them feel at home.
“It feels a lot more natural. I like something a little more chill, so this was perfect,” she said. “I lived in this neighborhood for a long time, so it feels like home.”
One of the other great things about the location for Altieri is that there aren’t many other restaurants nearby. While she is filling a void for the neighborhood, she also gets a lot of freedom and flexibility without the stress of much competition.
Altieri is passionate about being “ubiquitous and accessible” for the neighborhood. She values the existing dynamic of the area and wants to enhance it rather than disturb it.
“Accessibility is important,” she added. “If you look at my menu you can come in here with a couple bucks and you can eat something. Being able to feed everybody is really important. I feel like everything here is real. That’s my thing. I’ve always kept it real and I keep it real with my food. I’m just trying to do good.”
The Difference Kitchen | 272 Hudson Street | Buffalo, New York 14201 | (716) 370-0011 | Facebook | Delivery or take-out