Starry Night Cafe reopens at NACC | Local news


The Big Dipper sandwich is what Chef Joe Zarrillo finds the brightest at his newly opened Starry Night Cafe.

It’s the star of its cafe menu at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center on Pine Avenue and Portage Road.

The chef does something special when he grills the Italian bread by sprinkling the butter that is applied on the outside of the grilled bread with grated Parmesan cheese, which allows the bread to bear its own weight against the tender beef pieces braised in Cabernet homemade horseradish aioili, white cheddar and grilled onions, served with a dip from ju.

The $ 13 sandwich has competition from other menu items and specials, including a recent tomato braised pork with garlic aioli and provolone cheese sandwiched between slices of this hearty parmesan crust grilled bread.

“His cuisine is art,” said NACC spokeswoman Kelly Lang Buckly when she recently had lunch in the first floor cafe.

Your assessment is appropriate because at the NACC, a communal arts center with a constantly changing art constellation, there is art everywhere, including several communal theaters, art galleries, museums and affordable studio spaces.

The cafe is named after a famous painting called “The Starry Night” by the Dutch impressionist VIncent Van Gogh and is decorated with artwork that pays tribute to this very popular piece of art.

The cafe, which opened a few years ago, finally went dark when the NACC restricted public access during the pandemic. When the NACC was fully reopened in November with the gallery show “Native Voices”, the Starry Night Cafe was reopened for business.

A redesigned gift shop shares space with the cafe, which has an upgraded kitchen that allows Zarrillo to get the food out faster than ever. “The food is thrown out now. I’m happy to say that, ”said Zarrillo.

New to the menu are Mexican dishes, including authentic tacos and burritos the chef learned while living in Los Angeles.

Zarrillo, a bass guitarist, moved to California at 19 to pursue a music career but eventually missed the flavors of his Niagara Falls home. He called his aunt to find out the way, and the first thing he won over at the stove was his grandmother’s sauce. From there his cooking career developed and he eventually worked as a chef for two high-end country clubs in California. His time in California also increased his love of authentic Mexican food.

“I’ve lived in California for a long time and I’ve bought a lot of good Mexican food,” he said, adding that authentic Mexican food “is hard to find in downtown Niagara Falls.”

His slowly roasted carnitas made from pulled pork consist of homemade salsa verde, pickled red onions on a corn tortilla or burrito bowl with beans and ranchero-style rice.

Mark and Diane Kraft of Lewiston are loyal customers. “We’re glad it’s back at the NACC,” said Mark while enjoying his Big Dipper. “When COVID closed, Chef Joseph was making his keto meals for delivery and we drove by and stood in front of Portage Road and picked up our dinners, which were also delicious,” he said.

“We love Joe,” added his wife, Diane, while eating a “half and half” lunch of pumpkin soup and half a chicken salad sandwich. “He’s a great guy and the food is fabulous,” said Diane.

The Starry Night Cafe will be open on Saturday, December 10th, when the NACC holds its annual membership meeting and a preview of two gallery shows celebrating western New York artists and their pets. The main gallery will host “The Artists and Friends Showcase,” and the renamed Kudela Gallery will host the Pet Pals exhibit, which will showcase the furry, feathered, and gill companions of the artists who kept artists company during the pandemic.

The NACC is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The café is open every Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The new exhibitions will be open from Sunday to January 22nd Sunday from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., with catering from the Starry Night Cafe.

Michele DeLuca is a correspondent for the Niagara Gazette. She can be reached at [email protected]


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