Duo- A Duet of Food and Design
For a few weeks, the signs have been up, taunting curious passers-by. I was one of them. After a week or so, I made a few phone calls. The former Brownstone Bistro's windows sporting posters showing an iconic pizza wedge and the word â€śDuoâ€ť, led me to Paul LaMorticella, the man with the answers I was looking for. He told me he was in the process of remodeling the property, molding it into a restaurant unlike any other in the city. LaMorticella is a very well-known interior designer with offices in Buffalo, Florida, and California, and a client list that criss-crosses the globe. He transformed the Brownstone over a decade ago for owner Mark Croce, along with Croce's other Franklin Street destination restaurant, Buffalo Chophouse.
LaMorticella's busy schedule made it difficult for him to find time to talk, but I was able to take a moment with him on Monday morning. â€śDuoâ€ť is slated to open at the beginning of August, and from what I gather, it is going to be unlike any other restaurant Buffalo has seen. LaMorticella envisions an establishment with a NY cabaret vibe.
A piano bar on the first floor will set a theatrical tone, as will the staff, dressed head to toe in white with the exception of the times when the barkeeps are dressed to match the theme of the latest show at Shea's. â€śDon't be surprised if your hostess grabs a seat at the piano and gives a performance.â€ť LaMorticella tells me, â€śExpect to be surprised, that's what we're going for, expect to be surprised.â€ť
The inside of the restaurant will be completely redecorated, and from the fabric and hardware samples that I saw laid out on the banquette, no expense will be spared on the embellishments. The bar will be lengthened and augmented by a full-scale wood burning oven which will be used to bake pizzas, fish and fowl. Upstairs the back patio will get a bar of it's own and will be redesigned to feel more roomy. Additionally large heaters will be installed to lengthen the season in which patrons can enjoy a drink outdoors. The third floor, previously office space, has been reworked to accommodate a chef's table that will seat 12. The view of Franklin from this room is really great, and any of the private parties fortunate enough to enjoy this room will be happy with the result.
David Hoffman, chef at the Saturn Club for the the last 18 years is on board as Duo' s Executive Chef and promises a menu that showcases seasonal ingredients used in simple, rustic and delicious ways. â€śWe'll be doing a lot of one pot cookery,â€ť Hoffman tells me. â€śOver the years, people are moving away from fine dining. Casual dining has evolved, people want simple foods using basic procedures with a contemporary feel.â€ť Some of those simple offerings include neopolitan style pizzas, a â€śfree-styleâ€ť bruschetta, where the diner composes the dish table side, rack of lamb, filet with sliced red bliss potatoes, and garlic shrimp served to the table in a giant iron crock. Sandwiches, salads and soups made from scratch will also be offered.
LaMorticella plans to be open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, adding lunch deliveries at some point in the future. Theatre-goers will dine on special prix fixe menus, but lunch and dinner prices will run between $7 for soup and sandwich to $45 for surf and turf. The restaurant seats 95, but with the patio open, that number climbs to 145.
â€śDuo is going to be as visually stunning as it is culinarily,â€ť LaMorticella said. â€śOne of the main motivations in my career is to repay Buffalo for what it has given me the ability to do. I've always wanted to own a restaurant, and people can expect quality.â€ť
Photo by Christa Glennie Seychew