While working as the Assistant Athletic Director at Niagara University in the early 2000s, I was introduced to the amazing selection of “mom & pop” restaurants in Niagara Falls, New York. My guide back in those days was fellow NU staff member Paul Barker, a self-proclaimed connoisseur of Cataract City cuisine. From pizza joints to neighborhood pubs, we would travel off campus looking for the cheapest and best tasting lunches available.
One of the more unique foods discovered, not found in other parts of Western New York, was the steak & cheese italian sub found at places like Viola’s, Mariposa’s and Jon Fre’s. There was enough continuity in the ingredients used in these steak & cheese subs to revel that this sub was not just a one location anomaly but perhaps a “signature” food of Niagara Falls.
Marty Biniasz, Forgotten Buffalo
What Goes Into A Niagara Falls Signature Steak & Cheese Sub:
1) Freshly baked sub roll; like Italian bread, a crispy crust with soft center
The Grandfather of all Niagara Falls sub shops, is Viola’s Submarine House. Viola’s was established in 1958 by original owners, Luigi Ricciuto, Otto Viola, and Joseph (Rita Viola) Tardibuono. The original location is 1717 Elmwood Avenue in downtown Niagara Falls, NY. In 1960, the second location was created in the town of Niagara located at 1539 Military Road, Niagara Falls, NY. Over 20 years later, Joseph and Rita Tardibuono became the sole owners and current day operators of the business. Viola's Submarine Shop is family owned and operated since 1958. The restaurant is symbolic of a true family business. Joseph and Rita had 6 children: Sandy, Rose, Tom,Sarah (Gioia), Peter, and Gina, whom today all share the responsibility of the daily operations and management of the business. Over the years, multiple generations of grandchildren have worked at the sub shop while also employing the kids' high school and college friends as well. When you visit Viola's, you are sure be waited on by a family member or a family friend. Viola's started off with only cold cut sandwiches and later experimented and perfected the famous "steak and cheese sub" that is sought out from all over the country and even various parts of the world today. The Elmwood avenue location has spent years serving the downtown Niagara Falls business district while the Military road location was a popular lunch spot for the LaSalle Senior High School students and staff in the 70's and 80's and now serves a variety of area businesses and patrons daily.
Viola's Elmwood Street location, right behind the Niagara Falls Public Market
Steak is sliced on location daily.
A wrapping of tight plastic keeps the goodness together
Elmwood Avenue location behind Niagara Falls Public Market