Chef’s Still Going Strong After More Than 100 Years of Fine Dining

By Tony Farina

The mere mention of Chef’s Restaurant in Buffalo brings back a flood of wonderful memories of times gone by with great friends when I worked downtown from the mid 1960’s until 2010.  My downtown days are long gone but the memories are still alive and when I return to Chef’s from time to time I find the spaghetti parm and the rest of the delicious food offerings are still as good as I remember.

Chef’s was born 101 years ago at Seneca and Chicago, making it a little older than me but still vibrant with life. It may not be as busy as it used to be in my downtown days, given changing work habits with many working from home, but it is still a warm gathering spot with ample parking for those hungering for a lunch with friends and a warm dish of the many items on the still very enticing menu.

Take your pick on the food choices and there is something for everyone at Chef’s, including Irv’s (Weinstein) Special–spirals with sautéed mushrooms, pepperoncini and onions in a light cacciatora sauce—named for the legendary broadcaster who is long gone but his special created in his name is still very much with us and still popular.

“We’re still busy and going well,” says Lou Billilttier Jr., who took over operations along with sister Mary Beth after Lou Billittier Sr. passed away 24 years ago.  While Lou Jr. is officially retired, he’s still very much a presence at Chef’s where he and his sister carry on the legacy of the Billlittier family started by their father who borrowed $8,000 from his father in 1954 and bought the restaurant from Virginia and Enrica Chiari, the eatery where he started as a dish washer.  The family legacy is still going strong thanks to Lou Jr. and Mary Beth.

The walls are covered at Chef’s with a photo history of that legacy with pictures of many celebrities both local and national who have dined there, including Lou Sr. and Dave Thomas (Rocketship 7 at Ch. 7 back in the day), who were having lunch one day in 1962 and together added butter and cheese to their spaghetti, creating what remains a staple at Chef’s, spaghetti parm.


We are including a number of pictures of the Chef’s wall to help tell the story better than anyone can.  It is all there to enjoy while you eat your food and enjoy the warm friendship and service that is always on the menu.  The names need very little description.  They are pretty much household names and faces as you’ll see.

Chef’s takeout, catering, and events in the Lou Ann Banquet Room which can accommodate groups of up to 125 people are also part of the show and the dining capacity in the restaurant is an amazing 325 people with plenty of room for all.  Chef’s, as described in the menu book, comes down to a happy story of a local boy, Lou Billittier, who made good in his hometown and who’s legacy is still being carried on by his family.

One of biggest events every year, and this year is no exception, is the Motorcyle Run for the Louis J. Billilttier Foundation which will be held this year on Sunday, June 23.

As described by John DiSciullo whose daughter Jade Billittier is part of the Chef’s family, is when hundreds of motorcycle riders gather for the Foundation’s Motorcycle Run and Raffle, leaving at 10 a.m. from Chef’s Restaurant led by representatives of the law enforcement community.

Bikers take a “Poker Run” with stops along the way back to Chef’s for a fully catered feast of Italian favorites, hamburgers, hot dogs, and cannoli at the outdoor street party.  Raffles, a 50/50 split club, silent auctions, and a motorcycle giveaway are all part of the event Hosted by Lou Jr. and Mary Beth and organized by Lou’s daughter Ashley Billittier to raise money for Western New York charities supported by the Foundation.

The motorcycle event was founded after Lou Sr. passed away in 2000 and associates from Chef’s join volunteers and board members from the Foundation including Chris Aronica, Cochise Redeye, and Matthew Burke in supporting the run.

As I’ve attempted to capture some of the Chef’s magic in this article, the real experience is in going to the famous restaurant and enjoying the sights and sounds and the tasty Italian meals that are ready for the taking.  It is a wonderful experience that I have had the pleasure of enjoying for many, many years and I hope to continue to go for the spaghetti parm and all the other great dishes that are on the menu for a few more years.  I’m sure Chef’s, given its enduring legacy, will be around long after I’m gone to serve some of the best food anywhere.

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