Tonawanda News

October 13, 2013

Local Restaurant Week pumps millions of dollars into local economy

By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Loosen those belt buckets and schedule some extra time at the gym. It’s time for Local Restaurant Week again, and with some 200 restaurants participating in the event’s 10th celebration, diners just might find their waistlines suffering.

This year’s fall edition of Local Restaurant Week — from Oct. 21-72 — is the 10th of its kind since the biannual event first began in 2009. 

When the event first started out, only 60 restaurants participated and now co-organizer Christa Hobart said Local Restaurant Week has had to cap the number of participants at 200.

“It’s quite a testament to the people of Western New York that we like to eat,” she said. “It’s a well-embraced celebration. We can put ourselves up there with other great things in Western New York like Wing Fest.”

The event is held twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall when the restaurant business experiences a dip in diner turnout, Hobart said. Local Restaurant Week encourages diners to pump their money into the local economy when it needs it.

“We figure that about $4 million pumps through the local economy everytime we run it. That’s a lot of cash,” she said. “Restaurants almost always sign up for it again and again because it’s such a great boon for their business.”

Which is exactly why Peter Calieri, owner of the Village Eatery and Italian Bistro in the City of Lockport, has signed up for Local Restaurant Week repeatedly. Calieri said he was among the restaurants that first signed up for the inaugural event in 2009.

“It brings a lot of people out who maybe wouldn’t normally dine out during the week,” as opposed to the weekend, he said. “It’s about bringing people out. It started when the economy was bad and it was a good shot in the arm for restaurants.”

Calieri said he loves that Local Restaurant Week brings new customers to his business that will hopefully return again and again.

Fortuna’s Restaurant & Banquets owner Joseph Fortuna agrees. His Niagara Falls Italian restaurant has participated in Local Restaurant Week six times.

“It brings people in,” he said. “It gets new people to try our food and see our place ... we’re off the beaten track. It gives people a chance to try different things on our menu.”

For Local Restaurant Week, restaurants must devise a menu special — or multiple specials — for $20.13. It may be two meals or one, it may be a lunch or dinner special, or both. 

Fortnua’s $20.13 special is for one three-course dinner that includes a choice of appetizer — either shrimp cocktail, or greens and beans — a choice of soup or salad and an entree. Entree choices include chicken parmigiana, pork parmigiana, chicken piccata, vegetable manicotti with meatballs or fra diavolo over rotini. An alternative special is a 10-ounce strip steak and 4-ounce lobster tail with choice of potato and vegetable for $30.12.

Kenmore’s Gigi’s Cucino Povera is participating in Local Restaurant Week for the first time, and owner Mary Ann Giordano is excited to share her specials menu with new customers. The Mediterranean and Sicilian restaurant first opened its doors this summer and while it already has a loyal base of regulars, Giordano is looking forward to welcoming new customers.

“We’re hoping a lot of people will come check us out,” she said.

For the restaurant’s $20.13 menu, customers can choose one item out of three of four categories. The appetizer category includes a fennel, orange and olive salad, a caponata dipping plate, and panelle; the pasta course features pastina risotto, ravioli pomodoro and spaghetti mezzanotte; the entree category includes chicken saltimbocca, sausage and Tuscan white beans, and roast cod parmesan; and desserts include cannoli, gelato with biscotti and limoncello.

“I think it’s going to be a fun menu,” Giordano said.

A red and a white wine from Gigi’s reserve cellar will also be available by the bottle for $20.13.

For Giordano, her involvement in Local Restaurant Week echoes her efforts to purchase and use fresh, locally sourced foods in her kitchen.

“I’m a huge proponent of buying locally and dining locally and I really want to see us keep our money in our community and give it back to local business owners,” she said.

For a full list of restaurants participating in Local Restaurant Week, visit

Contact Sunday Lifestyle editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116 or follow her on Twitter at @DanielleHaynes1.

IF YOU GO • WHAT: Local Restaurant Week • WHEN: Oct. 21-27 • MORE INFORMATION: Visit PARTICIPATING NIAGARA COUNTY AND TONAWANDAS RESTAURANTS Grand Island • Dick & Jenny's -- 775-5047 Kenmore • Gigi's Cucina Povera -- 877-8788 • Jovi's Italian Grille & Bistro -- 874-9103 • Manzella's -- 874-1133 • Marotto's Restaurant -- 873-0551 • Orchid Asian Bistro -- 877-8880 Lockport • Village Eatery Italian Bistro -- 433-0688 Niagara Falls • Fortuna's Restaurant & Banquets -- 282-2522 North Tonawanda • The Hideaway Grille -- 694-2710 • Webster's Bistro & Bar -- 264-4314 Town of Tonawanda • La Hacienda Brighton -- 832-3026 • Saigon Bangkok - 837-2115

Contact Sunday Lifestyle editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116 or follow her on Twitter at @DanielleHaynes1.