My history with Tom Cavallo’s dates back to 1989, when as a freshman at Utica College, my entire dormitory floor would head over there on Monday night for the $1.99 all-you-can-eat pasta special. Fast forward a few years and the Tuesday night Buffalo wing special was a big draw for my friends and I. In the past 20 years I have been back countless times while visiting the area and it has been the post-race lunch spot the last two years for my friend Doug and I after running the local Boilermaker Road Race.
Cavallo’s has a focus on Italian-American food and I still love their spaghetti & meatballs after all these years. The chicken parmigiana comes served on a hot metal plate, cheese browned, sauce bubbling and with a crispy exterior. I’m a chicken parm hound from way back and this is one of the best I have ever tried. They also feature many local specialties such as chicken riggies, greens, hats & broccoli, “tunnel” sandwiches, mushroom stew, Buffalo wings, roasted long hot peppers and “upside down” pizza. While it is a few hours from Buffalo, the Central NY region has a wealth of great places for Buffalo wings and for me, Cavallo’s is right at the top. Crispy, meaty wings doused in a buttery, tangy, vinegary and spicy sauce are a “must-have” every time I go there.
Chicken riggies are a local dish that can be found on the menu at just about every Italian-American restaurant in the region and each one has its own recipe. The combination of rigatoni pasta, sauteed chicken, mushrooms, roasted peppers, olives and a cream-based tomato sauce is a very comforting dish and Cavallo’s gets it right. My new favorite though has to be their “tunnel” sandwich. The inside of the bread gets tunneled out somewhat and mine was filled with meatballs, sausage, roasted long hot peppers and marinara sauce, then covered in mozzarella and basted with butter and garlic and baked in an oven. Not an everyday sandwich but an indulgence that must be had more than once.
Cavallo’s has been around since 1949 and it is definitely a local neighborhood place. On my last visit, Doug’s aunt was reminiscing of the times she came here with her high school and college friends many decades ago. Everything is just as good (or better) than I remember and I hope they are around for another 65 years.