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New: European-Sicilian Bistro, Blue Cave, is Bringing a Contemporary Flair to Italian Classics

Food & Drink, Food & Drink News

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Written by Brett Llenos Smith

Published on June 15, 2022
Blue Cave / Photo courtesy of Blue Cave

Made out of repurposed shipping containers, the restaurant space at 128 Genesee Street in Buffalo has rarely had a dull moment and now it is home to another unique concept: Blue Cave, a European-Sicilian bistro.

First, it was Rocco Termini’s whimsical Dog e Style – a fancy wiener spot. Next, it played host to a rotating cast of owners, ultimately becoming the very successful Casa Azul for four years. And now, the restaurant hopefully has another long-term tenet in the form of chef-owner Mario Bianca and his bistro concept.

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Blue Cave / Photo courtesy of Blue Cave
Blue Cave / Photo courtesy of Blue Cave
Blue Cave / Photo courtesy of Blue Cave

In a tale as old as time, the Sicilian-born Bianca met his now-wife — a Western New York native — while both of them were living in Virginia. Bianca had spent years cooking in Washington, DC when the couple made the decision to move up to Western New York just before the pandemic. Bianca spent the past couple years cooking at the Niagara Frontier Golf Club and SunCliff on the Lake before throwing open the doors on Blue Cave.

The Sicily native says he’s more than ready to strike out on his own, and do so feature some of the dishes he ate growing up.

“This menu, I’ve been working out for two years, as I got to understand what people here like to eat,” he says, with a strong Sicilian accent.

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Blue Cave / Photo courtesy of Blue Cave
Blue Cave / Photo courtesy of Blue Cave
Blue Cave / Photo courtesy of Blue Cave

If you grew up in Western New York, you likely spent some time in ‘red sauce’ joints. You know the ones – places where parents took their sweaty kids at the end of a long hockey season or where the family took grandma for her birthday. Comfort and tradition served with the occasional splash of awkwardness.

As you get older, chicken parm just doesn’t hit like it used to, and thankfully, Blue Cave will be a departure from the classic Italian-American formula. The opening menu features Sicilian classics like arancini, chickpea fritters, grilled octopus and rigatoni alla norma. Greater Italy is also represented here, in gnocchi bolognese and brasato di manzo — braised short ribs with gravy and mashed potatoes.

But Bianca isn’t strictly wedded to Italy’s classics. Dishes like duck a l’Orange and salmon en croute have Bianca flexing some Gallic flair.

“We have duck a l’Orange in Sicily,” he points out.

In addition to the food menu, there’s also a full bar, featuring a Europe-focused wine list. The restaurant has inside seating for around 45 people, and six tables outside during the summer months. Expect Sunday hours and an Italian-style brunch to be rolled out some time this summer.

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Blue Cave / Photo courtesy of Blue Cave
Blue Cave / Photo courtesy of Blue Cave
Blue Cave / Photo courtesy of Blue Cave

While having good food and drink is essential, Bianca says long-term success at the Genesee Street location will depend on providing good service.

“For me, providing hospitality is very important,” he says. “I’ve worked in this field for 25 years. I know what it means to be a server, manager, GM, dishwasher… Every part of the restaurant, I know. I know what the servers like and I know what the guests like.

“The staff is what brings success to the business. You can have a great chef, but success comes from the team.”

Hours at time of publishing (Subject to change): Tuesday to Thursday 4:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 4:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. Sunday and Monday CLOSED

Blue Cave

128 Genesee St Buffalo, NY 14203 • $

Italian

Buffalo

Contemporary Italian Cuisine which offers a variety of modern Italian/European dishes as well as Sicilian style offerings prepared by Chef/Owner Mario ...

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Written by <a href="https://stepoutbuffalo.com/author/brett-smith/" target="_self">Brett Llenos Smith</a>

Written by Brett Llenos Smith

Brett Llenos Smith is a freelance writer based in Buffalo’s Allentown neighborhood who has been covering local food and culture for the Step Out Buffalo over the past six years. As someone with a multi-ethnic background, he has a passion for exploring and understand the many diverse corners of Western New York.
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