St. Joseph's Table at The Armory
This is the first year in my life that family has not done a St. Josephâ€™s table. My mother is out of town, my house is too small and every year more family members move away. Anyway, I was feeling kind of sorrowful (it is, after all, my favorite holiday), then my father told me that the Armory Restaurant does a table every year. I promptly called them and was informed that dinner was sold out but there were lunchtime seats left.
As a bit of background on the Armory Restaurant, it's on Connecticut Street, near Plymouth. It looks like a neighborhood bar from the front and it's a place one could go by all the time and not register its existence. A few years ago, someone told me they have really good Italian food and by that I mean, spaghetti and meatballs and Chianti in a straw-covered bottle. I, like most Italian-Americans, am pretty partial to how my family makes that kind of food. I'm not saying other styles are bad, but it's just to each his own. Some like a sweet sauce, some only use tomato paste, my grandmother would die if someone put oregano in the sauce (that's only for pizza sauce!). The point is, I've never been there and had no idea what to expect.
Well, I was pleasantly surprised. We were quickly ushered into a banquet room in the back, with row after red-checkered row of tables. We immediately struck up a conversation with our neighbors; a young woman and her 90-year old grandmother. She promptly whipped out a massive, framed picture of a St. Joseph's table they had in 1985 while explaining that she just moved back here from Virginia where (gasp!) they have no Italians or cardoons to speak of!
The food was set up on a table in the center of the room, and tables were called up for their turn, wedding-style. I have to say, I was impressed with the offerings. Here's a list of each dish; lentil soup, pasta with beans, pasta with peas, pasta with clams, pasta con sarde, pasta with eggplant, pasta with broccoli, and omelets featuring dandelion, artichoke, cauliflower or cardoons. I was a little sad to see that my favorite vegetables were not battered and fried but instead cooked to make omelets (fritatta).
Actually, the dandelion omelet was great, and although the others were fine, I thought the vegetables retained too much moisture. Plus, if you've ever prepped cardoons, you know it's really time-consuming. After all that work, I want them fried! But all the pasta was cooked and seasoned well, not overdone.
The pasta con sarde was actually very good and the eggplant was great. It sort of reminded me of caponatina, with ample capers and a slightly smoky flavor. Even the pasta with clams was surprising; the clams seemed to be fresh, they were definitely not those small ones in a can!
I loved the jovial, frenetic vibe of the staff and listening to snippets of other peoples' conversations about how they celebrated St. Joseph's Day. I miss being with family and get nostalgic and misty, but I really enjoyed my hour at the Armory. Although you will have to wait until next year to experience the Armory's St. Joseph's Day feast, there's no reason you shouldn't stop in and check out their menu and great atmosphere today.
311 Connecticut Street, Buffalo 14213