By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — For Barbara Skaros, aka The Pie Lady of Kenmore, there only a few rules she insists on following: Always use vegetable shortening, glass pie plates are a must and never, never serve a pie with a soggy bottom.
Other than that, the proprietor of the Kenmore Village Restaurant says all bets are off when it comes to making pies and other sweet treats.
“I try to give them something different each and every day,” Barbara said. “My mind is always going. If I see something I’ll always think ‘How can I make that work?’ “
Barbara and her husband, Manny Skaros, have owned and operated the restaurant on Military Road for about 14 years. While at first glance it may seem like an average Greek diner, good for an omelete or souvlaki, Barbara said they like to keep their specials and recipes unique to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. And of course, everything must be made from scratch.
“I want something homemade when I go out. Our philosophy here is if you wouldn’t set it front of your mother father, husband, wife, etc., don’t serve it here. Be proud of what you serve,” Barbara said.
Of topmost priority for her is fresh, homemade pies, cakes, cupcakes, canolis and cream puffs. But really, it’s all about the pies, said Kenmore Village Improvement Society President Melissa Foster.
Speaking about Skaros’ pie creations, Melissa admitted it was making her a bit hungry.
“She makes a homemade crust, which is crispy and flavorful, not greasy and soggy. She makes her own filling ... they’re not overly sweet but they’re not sour, they have just the right balance,” she said.
She could go on.
“They’re thick and tall and sumptuous,” Melissa added. “She really is a true artist with it.”
Barbara, who says she spends about an hour to four hours each day baking, said getting the pie crust just right isn’t all that difficult. Of course, she admits, she’s got it down to a science at this point after years of baking tips imparted to her by her mother as a child. She still uses the same recipe her mother used when she was growing up.
“I use straight-up Crisco,” to mix with her flour, salt and ice water, she said. “The secret is in not over-mixing it and not over-handling it. It’s not as hard as you think.”
The pies — everything from coconut custard and double crust apple cranberry, to peanut butter chocolate cream and Dutch cherry — draw attention.
During an interview last week, each and every person who entered the diner stopped briefly to take in the rotating case of sweet treats.
“This is a stopping point for people when they come in,” Barbara said.
Her desserts have such a following, in fact, that she keeps a list of regulars and what their favorites are.
“We know what everyone likes,” she said. “We even have a list in back and people leave us their names and phone numbers saying “When you have this kind of pie or if you’re making eclairs or cream puffs, please give us a call’ “
Customers can special order whole pies to go, but they come with a $5 deposit and a warning to return her glass pie plate. Because Barbara only uses glass, not metal plates, she’s willing to part — at least temporarily — with one of her more than 100 plates to make sure her customers get a quality product.
“To me metal reflects heat, therefore your bottom crust is going be soggy in my opinion. My crusts are nice and brown on the bottom,” she said. “With glass, every time I take a pie crust out of the oven it gets lifted up and checked.”
Barbara said she does most of her special order business around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, at one point baking more than 75 pies in just a couple days. She has a list of about 25 pies she makes for special orders, including eggnog cream, mincemeat, pumpkin, an assortment of fruit pies, lemon meringue and the chocolate peanut butter cream, which she said is a customer favorite, along with the double crust apple.
“I think what a lot of people are doing is they are buying hers pies and passing them off as their own,” Melissa speculated with a laugh.
Barbara’s creativity isn’t just limited to what she can fit in a pie plate or cupcake tin. She spends each week dreaming up recipes and specials to wow her customers for weekend breakfasts and brunches.
A recent specials menu shows more than 13 different kinds of stuffed french toast, a slew of flatbread toppings, specialty pancakes and omelets.
“Her creativity seems infinite,” Melissa said.IF YOU GO • WHAT: Kenmore Village Restaurant • WHERE: 827 Military Road • MORE INFORMATION: Call 871-1092 Contact Sunday Lifestyle editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.