878 Cleveland Dr., Cheektowaga
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Buffalo Cheektowaga Salads Subs Wings
Though we've visited some of the restaurants featured in Buffalo Chow over the course of two or three decades, they're not necessarily the same places today that they were back when they first opened. That's one of the reasons that we actually re-visit every place before we review it: covering, say, a roughly fifty-year-old restaurant such as Lunetta's based on ten-year-old recollections wouldn't be fair. And in our experience, it wouldn't be smart, either - sometimes memories are a little too generous, or a little too hazy, and need to be updated. So we paid Lunetta's a fresh visit, parking at its interesting Cleveland Drive location right at the I-90 overpass; a Hertel Avenue location remains in business, as well.
We actually wish that we hadn't, as Lunetta's was one of a number of places we remember fondly from our teenage years here: as we recalled it, the wings, the garlic bread, and the subs all used to be real highlights. That's not so true these days.
On a positive note, our most recent visit started with some fine salads, presented quite attractively - a Chef Salad ($3.10) with a nice balance of lettuce and field greens, carrots, onions, and croutons, plus an Antipasto ($6.05) with the usual balance of pepperoni, ham, onions, olives, cheese, and greens; both were good in the quantity department but nothing special in quality.
The items we were really looking forward to were lackluster. Our order of Garlic Bread with Mozzerella Cheese ($1.60) was plain in every way, the cheese seemingly slab-cut and deposited on some decent bread that had been buttered up with garlic spread. So too was an Italian Meatball Sub ($4.10/half), which was similarly given a token quantity of boring cheese, alongside too little tomato marinara sauce and some meatballs that tasted good, but fell apart as the sandwich waited to be eaten. It wasn't a good rival for Subway or Quiznos, a surprise as we'd recalled the subs being more universally appealing.
That said, the Turkey Sub ($4.65) was a real standout, and Lunetta's knows as much. Its menu notes that it's famous for its "fresh carved off the bone roasted turkey," and the sub that arrived was reasonably well appointed with it - moist and obviously new, rather than days old - as well as some fresh tomatoes and lettuce. It's this sub that has generated the most recent discussion of the place's assets, and for certain, if we were to redo the meal, we'd order more Turkey and less Meatball.
The Chicken Wings we'd recalled as being great? We ordered 20 of them ($11.95) hot, and weren't thrilled. Only moderate in meat, they were spiced relatively mildly, to a level that only one of the three of us thought was close to right; the others would have called them medium at best. They also sat somewhere in the middle of the crispiness scale, for those who care about such things. Overall, they weren't bad, but we had more fun drinking the Birch Beer ($1.25) we'd ordered to wash them down than we did eating the wings themselves.
Though we're not super enthusiastic about Lunetta's, it's obvious that the place continues to have a lot of regular customers, and it seemed like the small dining area was filled with them during our visit; the server was responding by name to requests called out from the dining area, and most of the people we saw there seemed to be doing just fine with their meals. Even if we wouldn't rush back, Lunetta's looks to have settled into a comfortable groove serving its neighbors, and we suspect that it'll be around for a long time to come.
On an unrelated note, some news: fires have an odd way of claiming this area's better restaurants - Chang's Garden comes to mind - so we weren't completely surprised to learn that the Niagara Falls Boulevard location of Saigon Bangkok is out of commission due to a $250,000 fire, its kitchen ravaged by flames after some rags sparked up in an on-site dryer. Buffalo Chow readers know that this Saigon Bangkok location is one of our highest-rated local Asian restaurants; its newer Transit Road location has been a couple of steps behind. We're on pins and needles wondering how the fire will ultimately affect both locations.