A hot new chef in Buffalo, pasta made in-house, a menu that not only inspires, but leaves you fully satisfied…just a few of the things that come to mind when thinking of the long-awaited, and highly anticipated opening of Inizio.
Chef-owner Michael Gibney has been on my radar since devouring his novel, Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line, a few years back. Some weeks ago, at a friends-and-family menu tasting, I got a true sense of his skill and vision – old world meets contemporary sensibility, offered at a quaint locale in the heart of the Elmwood Village.
So many restaurants claim to offer “thoughtful cuisine” that it’s almost become meaningless industry marketing jargon. But after talking to Gibney and tasting his food, I think he has the expertise and determination to pull it off. He has a unique sensibility. Sure, Inizio will be Italian, and pasta-focused, but that’s where similarities to other area restaurants of the same cuisine begin and end.
Gibney has been influenced by Japanese, French, South American, and Mexican cuisines, just to name a few. He feels there is no need to pigeonhole himself – he’s developed an incredibly diverse set of techniques through his travels and cheffing experiences.
Gibney recently returned to Buffalo after a series of cooking stints in NYC (including Executive Sous Chef at Tavern on the Green), and most recently Boulder, CO.
It’s not often that you get a chance to talk about a restaurant’s food before it even opens, but Gibney invited me to not only try his food, but to write about it. The tasting went well beyond what I was anticipating, and when I spoke with Gibney later, he told me that it was not at the level that customers will experience once the restaurant is officially open, which happens to be today!
The Bolognese I tasted was unlike any I’ve had before. The pasta was handmade and cooked to perfection. And with the dish, Gibney achieved what I found to be just the right balance between pasta and sauce—harmony versus the seperation found in so many other restaurants’ sauced pasta dishes, where pasta and sauce are two distinct parts. The duck and lamb melted in my mouth, along with the most tender pasta. The unexpected blend of seasoning—cumin, coriander, caraway, cardamon—turned this dish into something of a calling card for Gibney and Inizio, one that’s been calling me back ever since.
Another stand-out was a traditional saffron risotto topped with a lusciously smoked bone marrow. The simplicity of the dish coupled with its impeccable preparation is what I found unique. A risotto should be toothsome, a touch underdone, creamy but not mushy or runny. And that’s what Gibney delivered – a bit of a bite paired with the unctuous quality of the buttery, smokey marrow. A higher level of thought and consideration has also been given to gluten-free diners. Risotto and other dishes, naturally free of grain, have been developed a step further. Gibney ensures each ingredient is safe and suitable for those with a sensitivity. The wine used to make risotto, the tamari (instead of soy) – all the elements have been carefully selected with all diners’ sensitivities in mind.
There is something in the air at Inizio that radiates beyond the food. It’s a real sense of a new beginning, much more than what’s being served on a plate. When all of the elements at play combine seamlessly into the perfect bite, the perfect night, the lingering thought of when can we experience this again comes to mind. And that is what I genuinely believe we have here. One of those special neighborhood spots we’ve all visited in other cities, always eager to visit again the next time in town. Thankfully Inizio is in our town, which means there will be plenty of opportunities to visit whenever the fancy strikes.
Inizio | 534 Elmwood Avenue | Buffalo NY | ADA compliant with electric lift