Mr. Pita, 7500 Transit, Williamsville NY 14221, 716.204.8065
Web: Pesci's Pizza & Wings, 8065 Main, Williamsville NY 14221, 716.635.4400
Rating: [learn more]
One of few local restaurants offering hawg wings, a pork alternative to the area's classic chicken wings, in your choice of several sizes. Good chicken wings.
Pizza is only passable, fries are bland, and wing sauce falls on the comparatively mild side. Otherwise great web site omits hawg wings as option; telephone ordering is necessary.
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Chicken Wings Pitas Pizza Williamsville
"For some reason, Pesci's otherwise comprehensive web site menu doesn't even list Hawg Wings amongst its offerings, but a quick call on the phone confirms that they're available."
In the months that have passed since WingFest '08, we've been thinking about Hawg Wings - the pork version of chicken wings, apparently invented at Braun's but spreading like wildfire to other restaurants inside and outside of Buffalo. Last week, we tried unsuccessfully to replicate them ourselves, so this week, we returned to Pesci's Pizza and Wings, the Main and Transit restaurant that had served them so deliciously to us at the Festival.
For some reason, Pesci's otherwise comprehensive web site menu doesn't even list Hawg Wings amongst its offerings, but a quick call on the phone confirms that they're available in quantities of four and up, in several types of sauce. We ordered half of our eight ($13) with "hot" chicken wing sauce, and half with BBQ sauce, hoping to find that the latter ones possessed the same thick, tangy flavor we recalled from WingFest. As expected, the Hawgs came out grilled rather than fried, drumstick-like bone still in place, and slathered in sauce; Pesci's included extra sealed cups for dipping on the side. Our Hawg Wing order also included some bland french fries.
Unfortunately, neither of the sauces we tried was as strong as we recalled; the wing sauce tasted fine, but seemed a bit too thin on the grilled pork, and wasn't especially hot. More regrettably, the reddish barbecue sauce wasn't what we'd had at WingFest - it was similarly a little on the thin side, lacking the strong flavor necessary to counterbalance the meaty, tender chunks of pork meat underneath. We're wondering at this point whether the thick brown sauce served at WingFest was another flavor - chipotle - or just a result of better basting at that event, but in any case, our quest for the best local hawg wing continues. The ones we ordered from Pesci's are good, not fantastic.
The traditional chicken wings were better. We ordered 10 ($8.29) with Pesci's hottest sauce - "Killer Hot" - to see how the place stacks up to other local options, and while they weren't distinctive, both our spice nut and our increasingly spice-tolerant second wing fan found them to be tasty, if not profoundly spicy. Pesci's Killer Hot would just be Hot at some places; the plain Hot sauce found on the pork was something closer to a medium or mild. We weren't as impressed by the pizza, which we ordered by the slice ($1.85 each) with pepperoni, and found to be indistinct, with salty pepperoni, plain cheese and sauce, and a less than memorable, but thankfully non-soggy crust. If we were ordering again, which we intend to do, we'd stick to the wings here, but the menu does have other options - subs, quesadillas, and salads.
For now, we consider a 2.5-star overall rating appropriate for this place; it's a nice neighborhood wing and pizza joint with a $3 delivery service and generally very good ordering web site, apart from its omission of the hawg wings. That should change, and Pesci's should keep working on the hawgs' recipe: with a little practice, it could easily become the Duff's of pork.
This week's other take-out pick is Mr. Pita, the first New York State location of a Michigan-based chain specializing almost exclusively in various takes on an obvious item: the rolled flatbread pita. Recently opened on Transit across from the Eastern Hills Mall, Mr. Pita's menu is very simple: though there are a few salads to choose from, along with oven-baked versions of chicken tenders and fries, virtually all of the choices are pitas. You can pick them in 7" ($4), 9" ($5), or 12" ($6.50) sizes.
We were almost entirely pleased with the Jamaican Jerk Pita ($6.50), delivered as a 12-inch, soft bread pita served substantially cold with chunks of chicken, sliced red peppers and lettuce, and small bits of tomatoes inside. What won us over in this pita was the boldness of the Jerk sauce, which was brown, sweet and spicy, dispensed generously enough to give each bite a nice punch of flavor to complement the cold, crisp lettuce, soft bread, and fresh chicken. Notably, we opted to omit a second House Dressing - mayonnaise, we were told - in this pita, and were glad that we did from both a caloric and flavor perspective; it wouldn't have added anything, as what was here was spot on in taste and plenty filling.
Our only regret was that this pita wasn't quite what we'd expected. The Jamaican Jerk Pita is shown on one of two Mr. Pita web site menus in a healthy, low-calorie "UltraLites" section, directly underneath a description of "Lettuce DeLites," the restaurant's low-carb lettuce wrap replacement for pita bread. We took this to mean that the UltraLite versions came wrapped in lettuce rather than bread, but they turned out to be separate healthy alternatives; once you've ordered the "UltraLite" Jamaican Jerk Pita, you have to separately request the "Lettuce DeLite" lettuce wrap as an option, a confusing distinction that is somewhat but not entirely clearer on the other version of the menu. We enjoyed the Jerk chicken in the bread pita for what it was, but would have preferred to sample the healthier version. Maybe next time.
Ordered with the bread exterior, the seven-inch Steak Pita ($4.29) was praiseworthy, if not quite as distinctively flavored. Served "baked," this one came out hot and slightly crisped on the outside rather than cold, and packed with beef, mozzarella cheese, lettuce and Italian dressing; we held the tomatoes on this one. Thanks to some good steak and a judicious quantity of cheese, every warm bite was delicious, and there was no question that the bread here was very good: even when slightly baked, Mr. Pita's wraps had no hint of the stale hardness that too often makes pitas less than fully enjoyable.
Not everything in our meal was delicious. The least impressive of the items was the Buffalo Chicken Quesapita ($4), an oven-baked thin, crispy pita with American cheese and spiced chicken inside. It only took a couple of bites of the dry shell and bland fillings to determine that we didn't want to finish the rest; sadly, as the dogs don't do well with cheese, most of the Quesapita went straight into the trash. A 12-inch Lamb Gyro ($7), served "hot," was acceptable but not great; it had the requisite quantities of creamy Tzatziki-style cucumber sauce, onions, and tomatoes, and there was similarly enough sliced, ground lamb to fill the shell, but it could have stood to be grilled; as-was, it tasted more like hot lunch meat than a lamb gyro.
Like Pesci's, Mr. Pita merits a 2.5-star overall rating: though we found its offerings somewhat hit-and-miss, we generally appreciated the quality of the ingredients and the reasonable value of the pitas for their prices. Our advice would be to steer clear of the Quesapitas, and be sure to know in advance of your order everything from the sizes of your preferred pitas to how hot you'd like them, and whether you want traditional or lettuce-wrapped versions. Going in well aware of your options will increase your chances of satisfaction.