For decades, Chippewa was known as Buffalo’s Red Light district, where Ladies of the Evening would ply their trade.
Then, in the 1990s, several bars sprang up along the stretch of the street between Elmwood and Pearl, and the Red Light District slowly became known as the Chip Strip party district.
Now, the street is slowly evolving again, from being a place to party to an area that incorporates fine dining and upscale hotels.
One of the newest signs of that evolution is the opening of Frankie Primo’s +39, which serves refined, modern takes on Italian classics. The new bar and restaurant opened December 3rd for lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Frankie Primo’s is the sister restaurant to Soho Burger Bar across the street. Both are owned and operated by Jay Manno. On a recent visit, Manno told me he sees Frankie Primo’s as a kind of mirror image of his burger joint across the street.
“Whereas with Soho – when it’s done being a dining destination, it turns into more of a party bar” in the late evening, he said,” this is will be kind of the opposite. So the older crowd, that maybe is at Soho for happy hour but want to leave and go somewhere else for dinner – we hope they consider (Frankie Primo’s) for their rotation.”
“For the younger crowd that wants to get dinner before a night of partying, hopefully they come here or just go to Soho and stay at Soho,” Manno said.
The menu includes more than 40 Italian items, including six red and six white brick-oven pizzas. Manno said several of the menu items are designed to be shared. For example, the shrimp scampi includes many medium-sized shrimp as opposed to just a handful of jumbo shrimp.
Currently, the gnocchi is the only pasta made in-house, but Manno said he plans to focus on housemade pasta once the kitchen has been up and running for some time. The pasta at Frankie Primos will still be made in Western New York, as the restaurant is sourcing the starch fresh from a local producer: Francesca’s pasta. From the jump, the restaurant will feature in-house desserts including gelato and cannoli.
“We’re going to do as much in-house as we can to start, with eventually looking to graduate to all of it being in-house,” Manno said.
He added that, like Soho, people should expect fine dining quality to come out of the kitchen, but expect the vibe to be relaxed and casual. It’s the same vibe were starting to see and hear about elsewhere in the former Red Light district.
“I think we’re just kind of evolving into a dining and nightlife destination,” said Manno, who has worked, operated and owned bars on Chippewa for around two decades. “It’s a lot less college kids, revelry and that kind of craziness. It’s just more of a mixed crowd.”
He noted that the nearby hotels are almost always at capacity and tourists or businesspeople now make up a significant chunk of the clientele on Chippewa. In fact, Manno said Frankie Primo’s is very much a family friendly place where people can gather for an old-school Sunday Italian dinner.
“If you don’t feel like making up sauce or a bowl of macaroni on a Sunday, we’ll be here,” he said.
Frankie Primos +39
51 W Chippewa, Buffalo, NY
Kitchen Hours: Monday to Wednesday 11 am – 11 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11 am – midnight, Sunday 12 pm – 9 pm
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