Updated April 2020
Many of us amateur cooks have this romantic idea of what it would be like to open a restaurant.
You start small, doing pop-ups or catering. Then, your food is so good, you get more customers through word-of-mouth alone. Eventually, you need to expand, and after you do, word gets out: All of a sudden every local media outlet is knocking on your door.
Daniela Kayser has lived out that culinary daydream, to a ‘T’. She’s both thrilled to have done it — and a bit overwhelmed. After growing a fledgling catering business over many years, Kayser recently opened ‘daniela.’ — a small cafe on Forest Avenue in Buffalo across from the Richardson Olmsted Complex. Initially just an extension of Kayser’s commercial catering kitchen, daniela. got major attention recently when it debuted a little-known style of pizza known as “pinsa.”
Pinsa is a style of pizza popularized in Rome during the early 2000s, and local pizza-heads collectively lost their minds upon finding out this style, known for its lightness and crispness, had come to Buffalo.
“I didn’t expect all this craziness, what I call Pinsa-mania,” Kayser told us over the phone. “I just wanted to have my commercial kitchen to do my catering and then have this little cafe. So if I’m not busy catering, I can still sell some sandwiches and the Italian stuff that I like, kinda keep it simple. But now it’s crazy, and I’m just trying to find this balance.”
Like many amatuer cooks turned professional chefs, Kayser said she grew up in a house that celebrated cooking and good food.
“My parents are from Italy, and I say that not every Italian knows how to cook, but my mother was really kind of an exceptional cook,” she said. “When I was a child, I would bring, funny food to school. Like, I would bring Nutella sandwiches, the other kids would make fun of me, and other things. And now, (this food is) what everybody wants to eat. I don’t know. I guess (cooking is) in my blood.”
Walking into daniela., you have two options: full service at the bar or counter service. If you choose counter service, you place your order and get a number. Your food is then run out to you when it is ready. You have to walk you to the counter if you need something else, and you’re expected bus your own dishes.
The staff at daniela. are well trained and actually Kayser brought a pinsa expert over from Italy to train her staff on how to make the unique pie. More recently, she brought over a gelato expert, and the cafe recently began offering the frozen Italian treat, including in classic flavors like Gianduia (chocolate) and Nicciola (hazelnut).
From talking to her and experiencing her food, it’s clear that Kayser obsesses over detail, and obviously that’s a good thing for her customers. It’s also clear Kayser has a hit on her hands right now, and while she’s happy to take it all in; there is a part of her that misses her simpler catering-only days.
“I liked the anonymity that I had before,” she mused. “Everything I did for catering was very customized and I loved my clients. We used to sit down and talk about doing all this beautiful stuff, or maybe not doing so much — whatever they wanted. I was like their little secret. Nobody knew about me, and I kind of liked being in the background. Then, all of a sudden I didn’t think it would be crazy like this. Oh my god, it’s so overwhelming.
“I was thinking I want to go back to where nobody knows me, and now I’m in trouble,” she chuckled. “I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”
387 Forest Ave., Buffalo, NY, 14213
Hours: Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday and Monday CLOSED