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Chef's Restaurant celebrates 90th anniversary

by jmaloni

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Wed, Sep 11th 2013 12:30 pm
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Buffalo broadcast legend Dave Thomas, former host of "Rocketship 7" on WKBW, to host "World's Largest Pasta Dinner"

Mary Beth and Louis J. Billittier are proud to announce that longtime family friend and legendary Buffalo broadcaster Dave Thomas will be at Chef's Italian Restaurant tonight to host the "World's Largest Pasta Dinner."

For 90 years, Chef's Italian Restaurant, at 291 Seneca St., has been a place where "Family and Friends Meet To Eat!" in Buffalo. To celebrate, the Billittiers are not just throwing a party, they are hosting "The World's Largest Pasta Dinner."

"When we looked at celebrating being in business for 90 years, my sister and I wanted to throw more than just a party. We wanted to stage a record-breaking event everyone could participate in. Our family is so appreciative of the support from everyone in Western New York," Lou Billittier said.

"The World's Largest Pasta Dinner" will begin at 6 p.m. under the tent at Seneca and Chicago streets. Everyone in the Western New York community is invited to attend. Tickets are $10 per person. Chef's "World's Largest Pasta Dinner" will include bread and butter, salad, pasta with chef's world-famous pasta sauce, dessert, and a non-alcoholic beverage.

Dave Thomas has been a friend of the Billittier family for more than 50 years. He and the late Lou Billittier Sr. were together at Chef's Restaurant more than 40 years ago when they created the signature dish of the restaurant, spaghetti parmesan. A recent Business First article noted, "As the story goes, Mr. Billittier and Dave Thomas, from Ch. 7, were bored when they experimented and invented the dish. While Billittier Jr. won't reveal the recipe, he said it includes lots of butter and cheese."

Dave Thomas - his real name is Dave Boreanaz - is a Buffalo native who joined WKBW-TV in 1961 as an announcer. He was soon chosen to host the new children's program, "Rocketship 7," that went on the air Sept. 10, 1962. Western New York baby boomers grew up with this morning institution that featured cartoons, guests and "Promo the Robot!" Thomas hosted the afternoon "Money Movie" and added co-hosting duties with "Dialing For Dollars" in 1964. Thomas was at WKBW until 1978 when he moved to WPVI-TV in Philadelphia to co-host "AM/Philadelphia," and then later become the main weather anchor. He was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcast Hall of Fame in September of 2001. Thomas retired from television Dec. 11, 2011. He and his wife, Patti, continue their residence in the Philadelphia area.

One of Dave and Patti's children is popular actor David Boreanaz, star of the hit FOX series "Bones." David Boreanaz was born in Buffalo, and remains a fan of Western New York and Chef's Restaurant. He is expected to send a video greeting from Hollywood.

In addition to meeting Dave, everyone who attends the "World's Largest Pasta Dinner" will be entered to win a trip for two to beautiful San Francisco, California which includes a tour of Napa Valley. The grand prize will be awarded at the conclusion of the evening, and the winner must be present to claim the trip.

The restaurant will be closed for dinner that evening in order to host the party.

Proceeds from the "World's Largest Pasta Dinner" will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. This organization helps thousands of injured warriors returning from the battlefield and helps provide assistance to their families. Information can be found at www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

"With the date of the party falling on 9/11, we thought it would be appropriate to make a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project, in honor of the brave men and women who fight for our freedom," Mary Beth Billittier said.

Chef's opened its doors in downtown Buffalo back in 1923. This was the neighborhood the parents of Mary Beth and Lou Billittier Jr. - Lou and Ann Billittier - grew up in. In 1941, Lou Billittier was hired to wash dishes. He worked hard, became a manager, then half owner in 1950 with original owners Gino Silverstrini and Lee Federconi. In 1954, he became sole owner, with financial assistance from his father, Anthony Billittier. Lou, his wife Ann, and a dedicated staff, built Chef's Restaurant into a legacy destination. In the early days, Chef's offered just spaghetti, ravioli, chicken and veal cacciatora.

Later, Chef's would become known for an expanded menu, which continues to include its signature dish of spaghetti parmesan, created by Lou Billittier and then Dave Thomas. Today, the menu includes everything from gluten-free pasta to lighter fare such as pasta broccoli and salads.

Chef's sauce became available to purchase in supermarkets in 1997. Chef's famous bread continues to be baked on the premise every morning.

 In the early days, the restaurant was just one room, including the kitchen and bar. A second dining room was added in 1966. Another followed that, three years later. Today, Chef's Restaurant has a dining capacity of 325, with the LouAnn banquet room able to accommodate groups of up to 125 people.

A few years ago, Chef's Restaurant underwent a major renovation, with kitchen upgrades and the installation of a new bar made from items that were once part of Memorial Auditorium.

Chef's has been connected to Buffalo's hometown hockey team since the puck first dropped in the 1970s. Chef's added the "French Connection Room," named in honor of the popular Sabres "French Connection" line of Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert and the late Rick Martin. This special room is filled with rare hockey memorabilia.

The restaurant also has a popular pick-up window for customers to drive through and pick up their lunch or dinner orders, and offers drop-off catering for parties all over the area.

The guiding lights of Chef's Restaurant were the late Lou and Ann Billittier. Their passion for running the restaurant was as strong as their passion for the Western New York community. Over the years, the family has been instrumental in supporting organizations such as Buffalo Hearing and Speech, Variety Club, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Mikey's Way, March of Dimes, Women and Children's Hospital, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Heritage Centers, Music Is Art and many more.

Lou Billittier passed away in August of 2000. Ann Billittier passed away Mother's Day weekend this past year. Now, Mary Beth and Lou Jr. continue the Billittier family tradition at Chef's Restaurant.

Reservations for the "World's Largest Pasta Dinner" can be made directly to Carla LiVechhi through email at [email protected] or by calling 716-856-9187, ext. 209. 

"Like" Chef's Restaurant of Buffalo on Facebook, or follow it Twitter @ChefsBuffalo.

Chef's Restaurant is located at 291 Seneca St., Buffalo. Call 716-856-9187.

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