August 19, 2022


Food for all time.

At Mulberry Italian Ristorante, prime pasta purveyor persists | Restaurants

5 min read


Joe Jerge couldn’t help that he wasn’t born Italian, but he did what a German kid from Lackawanna could to make up for lost time.

Before launching Mulberry Italian Ristorante with partners in 2005, Jerge ate his way across New York City to broaden his understanding of Italian cuisine. From Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s Little Italy, to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, Jerge learned about a culture full of wonders that lay beyond quotidian spaghetti and meatballs.

Back in Lackawanna, Jerge and company aimed to build a restaurant with the carefully exuberant pasta of three-star Ai Fiore and the cachet of Rao’s, the portrait-lined Frank Sinatra haunt where tables are “owned” by regulars.

Photos of satisfied customers line Mulberry Italian Ristorante

The main room and entryway at Mulberry Italian Ristorante in Lackawanna.

Robert Kirkham

Over the years, as photographs of prominent Buffalonians lined the walls, they were joined by a solid contingent of Buffalo Bills players. With Jerge in charge of the food, and partner Tim Eberle running the bar and overseeing service, Mulberry became something of a Bills clubhouse. When star quarterback Josh Allen was asked in a recent interview if there were dishes named after him in Buffalo, he invited Jerge to take a shot. That is how “Josh Allen’s doppio agnolotti” ($28) joined the specials card.

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Agnolotti are plump postage stamp-sized dumplings, the handiwork of skilled pasta artists. Short rib agnolotti ($21.99), already on the daily menu, posits bites of luxe beef inside whispers of pasta, paired with baby mushrooms and glazed with sticky beef reduction, thrillingly lifted by a touch of champagne vinegar. One of the most enthralling dishes on a menu full of characters, it should be ordered for the table, to avoid hard feelings toward a hoarder.

Short rib agnolotti at Mulberry Italian Ristorante

The braised short rib agnolotti at Mulberry Italian Ristorante in Lackawanna.

Robert Kirkham

For Allen, Jerge went the extra yard. Doppio agnolotti are double-barreled dumplings, with two chambers in each bite. One side contains shrimp, stracchino cheese and lemon, the other has braised beef short rib, fontina cheese and mushrooms, served in butter, Parmesan and cracked black pepper.

Though Allen hasn’t been by for the new dish yet, Jerge said, it keeps selling out.

Joe Jerge, co-owner of Mulberry Italian Ristorante

Joe Jerge is proud of his restaurant and staff at Mulberry Italian Ristorante in Lackawanna.

Robert Kirkham

Handmade pastas like that – Mulberry makes everything but the linguine – are the main reason reservations are required. It’s not the chance of glimpsing a famous person that fills the room, but the all-star performances on their plates.

Arancini is Italian for oranges. On Buffalo Italian menus, it means fried risotto balls. Mulberry’s version ($10.99), a pair of Valencia-sized orbs clad in golden crumbs on a lake of bright tomato sauce bordered with emerald basil pesto, comes with a secret. These arancini are orange inside. That’s from the chile-powered spreadable Calabrian pork sausage called nduja, rendered out and mixed in to give the risotto a savory glow-up.

More satisfied customers at Mulberry Italian Ristorante

Cousins Artie Trifilo, left, with a vodka sauce pasta, and Michael Thompson enjoying Lasagna, both of East Amherst, couldn’t resist the urge for some of their favorite Italian food at Mulberry Italian Ristorante in Lackawanna.

Robert Kirkham

Mulberry doesn’t just go through the motions. Chicken wings ($16) come in Calabrian honey, a sweetly stinging nectar hotter than standard medium or “Tre White’s spicy BBQ.”

Stuffed mushrooms al forno ($10.99) brings coaster-sized fungus caps bearing sautéed Tuscan kale, shallots and scallions under a snowy quilt of fontina and mozzarella cheeses brûléed under a salamander. The amiable appetizer gave us a vegetarian dish to cheer ahead of the coming meatstravaganza. Bowties and broccoli ($16.99), manicotti ($15.99) and ricotta gnocchi ($16.99) are vegetarian, too.

Chiles spice up gnocchi Mulberry at Mulberry Italian Ristorante

The Gnocchi Mulberry at Mulberry Italian Ristorante in Lackawanna.

Robert Kirkham

Not the gnocchi Mulberry ($18.99), though. Pillowy ricotta dumplings were baked with spicy cherry peppers, sausage, a blanket of melted mozzarella and a ladle of tomato sauce.

Mulberry Italian Ristorante's gnocchi Mulberry

The Gnocchi Mulberry at Mulberry Italian Ristorante in Lackawanna.

Robert Kirkham

For sheer carnivorous exuberance, it’s tough to beat a pounded-out bone-in veal chop ($34.99) bronzed in crumbs, presented napped in melted cheese with a dollop of fruity tomato sauce that is judiciously applied to avoid sogging the crispy perimeter. It comes with a side of pasta as a palate cleanser.

Veal chop parm at Mulberry Italian Ristorante

The bone-in veal chop parmigiana at Mulberry Italian Ristorante.

Robert Kirkham

Even the lasagna ($24.99) is an indulgence. Made with silky sheets of house-rolled pasta, Vermont Creamery ricotta and a pork-rich ragu jumped up with guanciale and fortified with more nduja, it makes an impression and never gets left behind.

Goulash ($18.99) here brings cavatelli pasta, little hot dog bun-shaped noodles, instead of the elbow macaroni of your youth. This ragu melds veal, beef, sausage, mushrooms and just a dab of nduja, hearty as the day is long, even if you don’t get it parmed ($1.99), which we did. No regrets.

Scallops Amore at Mulberry Italian Ristorante

The Scallops Amore at Mulberry Italian Ristorante in Lackawanna.

Robert Kirkham

Seafood choices include scallops Amore ($28.99), a trio of fat diver scallops, expertly browned and presented around linguine suffused with creamy shallot, mushroom and green pea sauce. Pasta Joseph ($24.99) offers creste de gallo pasta with rock shrimp, artichokes and roasted red peppers in a cream sauce aglow with the heat of cherry peppers.

A solid lineup of housemade desserts include crème brûlée ($8.99), cannoli ($4.59) and tiramisu ($6.99).

Besides profound pastas, Mulberry delights because it hasn’t gotten too big for its shoes. That veal chop parmigiana and the Jack West Ribeye ($35.99) are the most expensive dishes on a menu chockablock with high-roller food at everyman prices. Football players come and go, but Mulberry knows Buffalo pays its bills.

Mulberry Italian Ristorante in Lackawanna

Mulberry Italian Ristorante in Lackawanna.

Robert Kirkham

Mulberry Italian Ristorante

64 Jackson Ave., Lackawanna (822-4292)

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday (kitchen break from 3 to 4 p.m.), 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Prices: appetizers $7.99-$16.99, entrées $13.99-$34.99

Atmosphere: convivial hum

Wheelchair accessible: yes

Gluten-free options: pasta and more

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