The Taste of Diversity, Osteria 166, and Buffalo’s City of Night

As I was attempting a sweltering early morning walk yesterday, I flashed back to my time in Italy, an entire year ago. It’s crazy to think a year ago today, I was sittin’ pretty on the cliffs of Amalfi. I miss Amalfi. Do you miss Amalfi?

[The Daily Sampler Abroad: Italy]

Then, I zoom back to the moment and feel so grateful to be exactly where I am. Even when I was able to spend time in Buffalo during my years away, it was always rushed, and I was always missing something. It’s a great feeling to finally make up for lost time, and have the ability to capture a bit of everything.

This weekend, I had my first experiences at the West Side’s annual Taste of Diversity Festival, a fine dinner at Osteria 166, and an unforgettable time at City of Night. They all left me pinching myself. I don’t care if you think I’m riding on the gushy mushy train. I am, and I love it. I just have to say, we are having a hard time keeping up with all the really incredible new things going on in this town. It’s a whole new world from when I left in 2009.

So, the Taste of Diversity festival grabbed me from the moment I stepped out of my car. (PS I had a great, free parking spot.) Stretching the block between Lafayette and Auburn on Grant, the street was filled with the delicious sights, sounds, and smells of a vibrant ethnic community. At one end, a live band. In the middle? A live dancing demonstration. At the end? A DJ spinning great Latin beats. The worst part of my time wandering all of the offerings was when I had to make a lunch decision. From Ethiopian to African, Peruvian to raw foods, you felt as if you were transported to an exotic locale, far, far away, and you wanted to sample a little of everything. You’re going to be mad at me for this, (I was a little mad at myself,) but I opted for a salad. Here’s why: it was hot as hell, and the idea of downing what looked to be giant plates of meats and rices just didn’t sound appealing to me in that moment. And, all the more reason to spend more time on the West Side, eating. Right? The fresh, raw falafel salad I ate from Press Raw Food & Juice hit the spot, and as promised by Esther, the owner, it was the spicy, tahini and pepper dressing that made the salad bowl-licking worthy. That and my Ethiopian blend cold brew from Public Espresso + Coffee, and I was a happy lady. Did I mention I bagged a loaf of BreadHive sourdough? I cannot stop eating it. Ah, gluten. My BFF/nemesis. ❤

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My already-steamed up raw falafel salad.
My already-steamed up raw falafel salad.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t send a shoutout to two of the very hardworking organizers, Joe and Jeanenne from West Side Stories book store. I’m honored to call them family, too. It was a beautiful event. Is it next June, yet?

I continued my Saturday with some work at the always lively Caffe Aroma. I forgot about the World Cup, I know, I’m working on it. It was fun to hang out with the soccer “hooligans” and sip an ice cold green tea. CA continues to be the best representation of a European cafe, and great people-watching, as always.

Later in the evening, some dear friends of ours introduced us to Osteria 166 on Franklin. This was a double date months in the making, as our friend’s family runs the joint, and does ever so lovingly. After a yummy and very reasonably priced Pinot Noir at the bar, we sat down and began our tour of rustic Italian dishes. Our table ordered, well, a lot, but it was worth it, and again, there was plenty more to choose from that we simply could not make room for.

Oh look, my favorite sausage and campanelle pasta dish! via The Buffalo News
Oh look, my favorite sausage and campanelle pasta dish! via The Buffalo News

The samplings: Braised, char-grilled octopus nestled in endive, “The Carl” which was a giant homemade meatball (fabulous,) a meaty homemade Italian sausage patty, sautéed banana peppers, onion, and mozzarella, the arugula and zucchini pizza (outstanding,) and a few family-style plates of pasta, including the sausage and campanelle, and eggplant and sun-dried tomato ravioli. FYI- Nona Pitillo comes in to make said ravioli and sauce herself!

We desperately wanted dessert, but it physically was not an option.

Instead, we drove over to the Cobblestone district, parked our car (free, again,) and hopped the well-timed shuttle to City of Night at Silo City. We had no idea what to expect, but what we found was a packed event, filled with artists, revelers, beer consumers, musicians, and show men and women. I’m not really sure how to describe City of Night to someone that’s never been. My honest to goodness first thought was, “They should have Halloween here.” It’s a tad creepy, walking through the dark and imposing silos, boarded up accompanying buildings, with an eery, post-rain summer sky. Once you got past that and became accustomed to watching where you walk (not a heels-friendly environment, ladies!) you started to take in the industrial, rave-esque surroundings. There was a great live band playing when we arrived, and we were anxious to explore. Hubs kept saying things like, “I just want to start climbing things.” Strangely, we never did find the elusive rock wall that I’ve heard so much about, but in the second silo, particularly, we were enthralled by the art exhibits in every nook and cranny. I tried to capture some of it with my sad little iPhone but again, you kind of just had to be there. If you’ve never checked out City of Night, I highly recommend putting it in your calendar for 2015. You’ll also find, there aren’t enough words to describe how Buffalo took some old grain storage and turned it into useful, people-filled space.

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My favorite silo nook, the "rave party" room.
My favorite silo nook, the “rave party” room.
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