by DeAnna Kajfasz
Niagara Falls has long been considered a tourist destination because of its natural wonder of the world. This area also continues to expand in the retail industry and is visited by people from all over the world. But, the best-kept secret in Niagara Falls is the abundance of family-owned restaurants.
Because my ancestry is half Italian and the other half Polish, I decided to focus on two local restaurants specializing in both cuisines: The Como Restaurant and The Polish Nook.
For Italian lovers, the Como Restaurant, which is located on Pine Avenue, was established in 1927 and has been owned and operated by family members since then. Some of the house specialties include: homemade pasta sauce, homemade breads, pizza and more. Other specialty dishes include: chicken parmesan, stuffed clams a la Como and veal francesca. The food portions are very generous and the prices are great for accommodating a family of any size. You will be certain to leave with a full stomach as well as leftovers for the next day.
The Como is not only open for lunch and dinner, but there are also breakfast options available for those who make reservations for a party or larger group. If you are not looking to dine in, the Como also offers a deli take-out, which includes the same menu items.
"I feel so proud to have been able to carry on our family tradition," says Mario Antonacci, co-owner of the Como Restaurant. "I am honored that many celebrities and politicians from around the world have heard about our restaurant and have dined with us. I hope we will continue to grow throughout the years, not only with local residents, but with tourists as well."
In addition to the warm and inviting décor of the restaurant, the Como's main hallway is accompanied by an impressive display of all the celebrities and well-known people who have dined at the establishment. One of the most recent additions to the display is Nik Wallenda, who successfully crossed the Horseshoe Falls on a tightrope in 2012.
If you're in the mood for some polka music, the Polish Nook Restaurant, which is located in a small neighborhood on Cudaback Avenue, is a definite place to consider. Family owned and operated since 1964, a young couple from Poland started the business as a small bar with the hopes of expanding to a dining area one day. Today, the restaurant can accommodate a large number of people in its dining area, and banquet celebrations are offered as well.
The Polish Nook has recently expanded its menu to include American cuisine, such as its well-known surf-n-turf dish and its popular pumpkin ice cream pie. The most talked about Polish dishes include: homemade pierogies, golambki, pork chops, Polish sausage and sauerkraut. The portions are plentiful and the prices are a steal. Once a year, on the Monday after Easter, the Polish Nook celebrates a Polish holiday known as Dyngus Day. Many locals, as well as others from surrounding areas, take part in this annual event. A full buffet accompanied with polka dancing, music, drinks and friends are a guarantee for having a good time.
"Over the years, the number of people interested in attending our Dyngus Day celebration has continued to increase," says co-owner Liz Szafran. "We are no longer able to accept walk-ins and have requested that our guests purchase tickets well in advance in order to guarantee their reservation."
The Como Restaurant and the Polish Nook are only two of the frequently visited, family-owned restaurants in the Niagara Falls area. Some of the other well-known family-operated establishments specializing in homemade cuisines include: La Hacienda, Michael's, Latina's, Fortuna's, Viola's Submarine House and DiCamillo Bakery.