5199 Sheridan Drive, Williamsville NY 14221
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Buffalo Desserts Italian Williamsville
"The questions we asked were addressed with care by the staff; the overall impression we were left with after each visit was that this was a place we would want to visit again."
As you might guess from the continued flow of dessert reviews on Buffalo Chow, we've been on a real sweets kick over the past few weeks, thanks in part to a quest to find the area's best cannolis. Last month, we followed a tip - "Buffalo's best cannoli" - and visited Romeo & Juliet's Caffe, a full-service restaurant on Sheridan Drive near Evans in Williamsville. While we didn't find exactly what we were looking for, we did find an eye-popping dessert display case packed with cakes, cannolis, cookies, and other desserts, enticing enough that we had to come back for a second visit. Our abbreviated "desserts only" review, currently minus a rating because we haven't yet tried the entrees here, follows.
The Story: Hertel's original location of Romeo & Juliet's has scored raves for its thin crust pizza and other Italian specialties for nearly 10 years, starting as a bakery and then expanding to offer two sides: the bakery half Romeo's with authentic Italian paninis, pizzas and desserts, and the more romantic and sophisticated Juliet's cafe. Converted fully inside from an old chain Mexican restaurant, Williamsville's location fuses the items from both parts into a single cafe with a small- to medium-sized dining area and a kitchen-side counter with coffees and desserts. Mood-lit and clean, Romeo & Juliet's Caffe has a decent parking lot - a complaint about the Hertel location, common to many Hertel businesses - and reasonable prices of roughly $5 per dessert.
Highs: Up front, we have to note that we were impressed by the friendliness of the people at Romeo & Juliet's; on the two occasions we visited, we felt as if the items we were ordering and the questions we were asking were being addressed with care by the staff - the overall impression we were left with after each visit was that this was a place we would want to visit again. For whatever reason, this particular family-owned, "we care about satisfying you" attitude really comes through more at certain Italian bakeries than others, and like Pino's in East Amherst, we really felt it here.
Over the course of two visits, we tried a wide range of Romeo's desserts. Our favorite of the bunch was the carrot cake, loaded by tradition with three sweet, spiced layers of moist, tasty cake that were mixed with just the right type of sweetened cream cheese frosting, ground nuts, and a beautiful-looking frosting carrot on top. There are lots of great local carrot cakes, so we wouldn't call this the best we've ever had, but it was unquestionably good.
Another very good item was Romeo's take on the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, a hockey puck-sized mound of peanut butter filling wrapped in chocolate and covered in crushed peanuts. The sheer density of the filling made this dessert memorable; it looked smaller than a piece of cake, but took longer to get through because we found ourselves shaving slices off the center with a fork. This was a nice treat for fans of peanut butter.
A biscotti cookie was described as "very nice," if not memorable, by the member of our group who tried one; it didn't survive long enough to be photographed. We shared and enjoyed Romeo's version of a chocolate bomb - a thin pastry layer with a big gob of light chocolate mousse on top, covered in dark chocolate and sprinkles. Like most chocolate mousse desserts we've had, it was extremely easy to finish without thinking much, though like all of the items we tried, this appeared to be as much for reasons of sugar content than anything else.
Lows: A fair summary of many of the desserts would be that they were surprisingly a bunch sweeter than we would have expected, the sort of chef's trick that is hard to criticize because it satisfies the craving that led to a dessert being ordered, yet seems to either overwhelm or take the place of greater richness and depth of flavor. The aforementioned chocolate-covered desserts, while unquestionably tasty, had a certain sugar-to-chocolate ratio that we'd identify more with Hershey's syrup than with a block of melted Ghirardelli's. As such, if you like your chocolate desserts sweet, you'll be thrilled at Romeo & Juliet's; if you like them rich, there are other places we'd recommend first.
What about the cannolis? We tried both of the versions that were available - one that was loaded with chocolate chips on both ends, and another that wasn't, stuffed just with the sweet Ricotta cheese filling that is typical of this treat. Both were sweet and tasty, their cones dusted with more than enough powdered sugar, but neither was otherwise distinctive or memorable. It's a tribute to the overall quality of Romeo & Juliet's desserts that even the ones that appear in our "lows" section were good enough to pass muster. That said, our search for the area's best cannoli didn't end here.
The Verdict: There's no doubt that Romeo & Juliet's desserts are some of the most picturesque in the area, rivaling Dessert Deli's, though with a decidedly more ethnic slant; they also legitimately tasted good from item to item. While we'd personally vote to trim back the sugar content a little in favor of small depth-enhancing tweaks to the creams and spices, most people will find these desserts to be thoroughly satisfying, if not quite the best they've ever had. Where we wouldn't change anything is in the sweetness of the service, which was memorably good and certainly will lure us back for more visits. Love might be a strong word to use about this particular take on Romeo & Juliet, but we're looking forward to continuing the story, and will update this review when we have.