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Adrian's Custard & Beef's management team, from left: Alexis Byron, a manager; owner ToniMarie Amantia; and restaurant Manager Patrick Antonelli. Also on the management staff is Janeen Capon, not seen in the photo.
Adrian's Custard & Beef's management team, from left: Alexis Byron, a manager; owner ToniMarie Amantia; and restaurant Manager Patrick Antonelli. Also on the management staff is Janeen Capon, not seen in the photo.

Adrian's Custard & Beef opening: A rite of spring

Sat, Apr 20th 2024 07:00 am

Article and Photos by Karen Carr Keefe

Senior Contributing Writer

There’s no question that Adrian’s Custard & Beef is a popular seasonal restaurant for Grand Islanders. In fact, plenty of customers wish they’d be open year-round.

But that would deprive the owners of that big thrill that comes with opening the doors for the first time each year – a rite of spring that occurred this year on March 11.

“The excitement when we announce we’re opening and the celebrating on the first day – it’s not something I’m willing to throw away. I think it’s important,” owner ToniMarie Amantia said. “Spring is here; Adrian’s is opening their doors. And we kind of like that!”

Amantia said a lot of people say, “ ‘You’re in that big, beautiful building now; you could be year-round’ – and we could. I guess I always fall back to ‘that’s not who Adrian’s is.’ ”

The restaurant’s season usually closes around mid-October.

Original owners Peter and Adrian Figliotti founded the restaurant in 1989 at a small venue across the street, at 2335 Grand Island Blvd. Amantia purchased the business in 2006, then moved it across the street in 2019 to a building that used to be Town Café, that was run by Lynn Alessi. Adrian’s new building has a spacious, sparkling dining room, as well as outdoor dining on picnic tables.

Amantia’s son, Patrick Antonelli, is the manager. He’s the only one of Amantia’s four adult sons – all Islanders – who decided his career path led right to the restaurant. He and his mom are hard-working and integral parts of the success of Adrian’s.

Antonelli said, “I think we pride ourselves on having the best product every single day. There’s no off days.” He said that goes for the product, as well as their both being there every single day “to make sure that everything’s perfect every single time. And if we had to do that year-round, it’s not sustainable for us to be here 365 days a year.”

His own family will be growing by one. He and his wife are expecting a baby in July. “It will be a learning experience, for sure,” Antonelli said.

The management team has come up with different ideas to try for the winter season, Amantia said. These include smaller Christmas parties and birthday parties in-house. They also sell beef by the pound during the holiday season “when the Bills do well,” Amantia joked. “We advertise the beef sale at Christmas and people literally go crazy.” They sell hundreds of pounds of the beef.

“I would say the base recipe is still what it was way back then,” Amantia said.

She noted the original recipe was good, and top-quality beef has always been the basis.

“We’re not going to change that. ... We have recently toyed with making our au jus tastier just by adding a few more homemade ingredients to it. And we think the au jus is much better today than it’s been in the past,” she said.

Each customer gets a meal that is made fresh to order.

“When you step up to the restaurant and order, and the ticket prints, that’s when we’re going to put on your burger, drop your fries, slice your beef. None of that is done before the order is placed,” Amantia said.

Antonelli calls their serving style “fast casual.”

Amantia feels that her ownership has really made its mark with the community, touching a wide demographic that includes families, seniors, sports teams – the whole gamut.

“I think the Grand Island community supports us. The support is huge,” Amantia said.

That includes the sports teams that stop at Adrian’s after the game to celebrate.

Win or lose, what team doesn’t like ice cream?

“The sports teams – we still do the player of the game for Grand Island Little League,” Amantia said.

The coach chooses a team member to receive a “Player of the Game” certificate, and that can be redeemed Adrian’s for a free kid-sized ice cream cone.

“We sponsor two Grand Island High School graduating senior scholarships, $1,000 each,” Amantia said.

One recipient is an Adrian’s employee and the other is a high school senior in the community.

“We do have a lot of young employees,” Amantia said. She stated the tally is about 35 to 45 employees each season. “My staff works hard – and we clean hard.”

“We love our community, and they, in turn, love us,” Amantia remarked.

Adrian’s has had a full-service bar since moving across the street in 2019 for the adults who may want beer, a bourbon or a glass of wine with their meal, Antonelli said.

Amantia added, “But I have to say, it’s not who we are, because there’s no alcohol outside. So, when your sports teams are here, we are still Adrian’s, right. We are family-friendly first.”

Both mother and son agree the biggest draw is mentioned right in their business name.

“It’s beef on weck,” Amantia said.

They also serve hot dogs, chicken, burgers, Italian and Polish sausage, barbecue beef and pulled pork sandwiches. Other menu items include Reubens, BLTs, grilled cheese and club sandwiches. There are a number of vegan/gluten-free menu items, as well.

Sides include fries in unexpected combos with chili, cheese and bacon; there also are fried pickle spears and “frings,” a combo of onion rings and fries.

Milkshakes, sundaes and ice cream floats are a staple, as well.

Amantia said that, once they moved to the current building, they added to their offerings.

“We do a lot more homemade, in-house, so, all our salads are homemade, our soups are homemade,” she said.

Manager Patrick Antonelli and his mother, Adrian's owner ToniMarie Amantia, show some of the freezer treats available for customers to buy.


Of course, the other big draw for customers is the “custard” side of the name.

Adrian’s serves Perry’s ice cream, and the number of flavors is dizzying. There’s hard ice cream, custard (vanilla, chocolate or twist) and homemade lemon ice.

And there’s a “treat freezer” that features homemade ice cream crafted into specialty desserts for customers to buy and take home.

“All of our treat freezer novelties are all made here – whether they’re ice cream cakes, ice cream cupcakes, homemade cookies filled with custard. It is all done here,” Amantia said, crediting employee Lisa Courtney for the ice cream creations. “And that’s kind of what we pride ourselves on – fresh and homemade, handmade here – that’s a big part of who we are.”

“That’s probably where we’ve expanded the most, in the last year or so,” she said.

Delicacies from the treat freezer also can be part of the catering jobs that Adrian’s does.

Antonelli said the catering business has been pretty steady since Adrian’s has been under their management.

“We usually get a kind of uptick right around the graduation party time,” he said.

Mother’s Day and Fourth of July also see an increase in their catering business, Amantia said.

“Our peak season is quite busy,” she added.

As for the 2024 season so far, it started four days earlier than last year.

“The picnic tables went out sooner than usual because of the eclipse,” Amantia said. “Once we know that the bad winds of winter are gone, the umbrellas will go up.”

Adrian’s Custard & Beef is open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for dine-in, takeout or delivery. The phone number is 716-773-9242. To order online, go to www.adrianscustardandbeef.com.

Adrian's has opened its 2024 season and will put up the colorful umbrellas outdoors as soon as winter winds make their exit.

Adrian's Custard & Beef welcomes customers with its outdoor sign.


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