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Building Blocks : Nick Pitillo, Osteria 166

Chances are, you’ve been to the charming little Italian restaurant in the middle of downtown Buffalo that has won numerous awards, throws street festivals and never fails to make you feel like one of the family. That’s exactly what owner Nick Pitillo was going for.

Opening its doors six years ago, Osteria 166 was one of the first new institutions to take a chance on a once forgotten neighborhood. Sitting just across from the Convention Center on Franklin and West Mohawk, it has become a lively venue for anyone looking to grab a quick delicious downtown lunch with healthy portions of salads, pastas, and fresh in-house flat bread pizzas. At night, you’re best to make a reservation – the date night atmosphere boasts a menu covering everything from traditional Italian spaghetti and meatballs to terrific fresh seafood and unique features like wild boar and ox tail ragu. All of which is delivered by a friendly and knowledgable staff.

On top of that. The place is known to throw a party. A few times a year Osteria 166 shuts down West Mohawk and throws an old fashioned block party. The now acclaimed “Meatball Streetbrawl” festival challenges restaurants from all over the region to put forth their best meatball and be judged by the masses. Their anniversary parties quickly turn into dance parties as some of Buffalo’s best musicians play in the street. And definitely don’t miss the Thriller dancers come Halloween.

“That was the vision, it’s how we drew it up. Good food, good service, good music, let’s have some fun with it.” Nick Pitillo is not a “silent owner” by any means, in fact quite the opposite. You can usually find him – mic in hand – at the end of Thursday night happy hour singing the restaurant’s unspoken theme song “Soul Shine” in tribute to his nephew.

Nick, a native of Ellicottville NY, started his career in the industry at 13 washing dishes for Madigan’s Bar. He has since been involved with just about any industry job you can think of; opening up a brewery in Arizona, managing sporting arenas in Indiana, mountain side catering in Vermont, and the Niagara Falls Casino, there’s not a whole lot he hasn’t gotten his hands on. In fact, if you get the chance, ask him about a fun little venture capitalism spree he had at Woodstock 99… it gets interesting.

But when the time came to take a chance and pursue his dream, Nick knew it was all about one thing. Family. So, he and his wife Kendra (who he met slope-side in Vermont) threw it all down on the corner of Franklin and West Mohawk. Nick’s sister Kim designed the room, his nephew Mike managed the bar and his mother “Nani” rolled ravioli. His daughter Olivia would soon join the team to bus tables and hostess.

Beyond that Nick hired and trained a reliable staff that had the same enthusiasm for the industry that he had . When you talk to him or his staff, one thing is clear. Character matters. You will not be bored or ill-advised. They want you to have a good time, and they are gonna join ya. “It’s a business, so we are looking to make money obviously, but more than that we have to take care of each other and our guests, you can feel when you walk into a restaurant and the staff doesn’t want to be there… that’s not us, my job is to make the business strong enough and the environment fun enough so that when my people come to work they trust in me, they trust each other and from there, we hustle.” With that kind of backbone it’s no wonder that he has had loyal employees who follow him on all of his endeavors.

When you ask Nick about the future, his eyes begin to beam. Nick currently runs Osteria 166 in Buffalo, Villaggio in Ellicottville, and Occasions Catering.

Occasions works with over 20 venues across western NY to cater weddings, parties and other events. He is expanding his Buffalo location to push the catering business to the next level. He has built a brand new catering kitchen along with a brand new a la carte kitchen (in the former The Buffalo House – 172 Franklin). To add to that, Nick is working on a final design of a mobile kitchen that he hopes to have online by the end of 2019, which would be a trailer that could be dropped at any location to cater any event. He is offering exclusive liquor services to be provided on site at any event and he is looking to expand his à la carte seating. Not stopping there, Nick has entered into negotiations on a new restaurant location in the village of Hamburg in 2020.

Next up on his list of things to do? Nick will be taking a breath and heading to Italy next month to do some research on Italian street food concepts… something we are really looking forward to following up with.

One thing is certain, Nick Pitillo is far from done.

Thank You Nick for being a Building Block and an example to all of those who work in the industry!

About Building Blocks:

A renaissance is not built solely on the shoulders of the big and powerful, it is the workings of the commoners of society coming together and pushing small blocks up against the big ones to set a solid foundation for change. In the midst of the new, vibrant and ever-expanding Buffalo, we find ourselves needing to know more about it! Who are we missing? Who is behind it? Who are the unsung heroes responsible for the rebirth of our great city. Who do you know that has made a difference?  We are calling on you to send us candidates for our upcoming series of interviews titled “Building Blocks”.


Know any Building Blocks?

What we are looking for:

  • Individuals or organizations that have withstood the test of time. The ones who have stayed true to their values in the slow times and have now pushed forth and flourished in the new.
  • People who have initiated successful start-ups in the areas of business, energy, arts or education.
  • People who have given their free time for the good of our community.
  • People who have created better situations for their fellow Buffalonians.
  • Basically, anyone that you think deserves a mention in the progress of our great city.

Please email me at evjthomp@gmail.com with subject line “Building Blocks” for any recommendations, along with contact information if you have it.

It’s time that the foundation of our rebirth, big or little, is recognized and appreciated for the efforts put forth.

Also see:

Building Blocks: Prish Moran
Building Blocks: Nick Sinatra
Building Blocks: Steve Baczkowski
Building Blocks: Rahwa Ghirmatzion
Building Blocks: Anthony Caferro
Building Blocks: Kevin Gardner

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Written by Evan Thompson

Evan Thompson

Evan Thompson moved from Melbourne, Australia to Buffalo, New York when he was 13 years old. After consistently relocating to different countries around the world, his family fell in love with the charm of the City of Buffalo and the people who call it home.

After high school, Evan attended Indiana University and studied politics. Upon returning to Buffalo he became an Adult Education Instructor for BOCES before teaching ESL to refugees in the Buffalo Public Schools. Evan then taught and volunteered abroad living in South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

He currently works in adventure tourism and plays music in local bands.

View All Articles by Evan Thompson
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