Rather than spending his time ordering cocktails to go and eating it all on Netflix, John Sweeney has spent COVID developing a fast-casual restaurant concept, and recently that concept opened on Main Street in Williamsville.
A’mano Fresh Pasta has a lot in common with restaurants like Chipotle or fresh poke. These concepts use rice as a platform for different flavor combinations, and Sweeney thought the same could be done with pasta. Drawing on his 11 years of experience as a restaurant manager at UB, Sweeney has applied his industry know-how to bring A’mano to life.
“I knew a quick and casual concept with pasta was doable,” he says. “But I decided the right way to be different is not to use canned noodles. So I spent time during COVID learning how to make fresh pasta and realized how fast you can cook them.
Sweeney wasn’t the only one starting a new business during COVID. A lack of work combined with government assistance allowed many people to activate the business plans they were sitting on. More than 4.4 million American companies were created in 2020, according to the Census Bureau. This is the highest annual total on record and 51% above the average for the past decade.
Creating A’mano during the pandemic took a lot of research. After developing its fresh pasta process, Sweeney recruited collaborators and began developing its menu. Sweeney started with 30 courses, an initial cut reduced to 15 courses. These dishes went through a blind tasting process that assigned ratings to each dish. Ultimately, the menu was narrowed down to eight signature dishes. A standout dish is the rigatoni alla norma ($9.49 small, $14.49 large) — with eggplant, ricotta and basil in a seasoned red sauce. Another is bucatini all ‘Amatriciana ($9.49, $14.49) – with pancetta and Romano cheese in red sauce.
You can also opt for a buildable option ($8.49 small, $12.49 large) which includes a choice of pasta, a choice of sauce; choice of seasonings such as white wine, basil or oregano; four choices of ingredients such as spinach, grated parmesan or fresh red pepper; and two choices of toppings, such as fresh basil or toasted breadcrumbs. Additional gourmet ingredients like Italian sausage or shrimp are available for $2.99 each.
In addition to pasta dishes, A’mano also offers sandwiches, salads and desserts. Sweeney said A’mano’s cooking is based on the idea that good Italian cooking demands fresh ingredients.
“It’s not about having a lot of different ingredients,” he says. “It’s all about the quality and how you put the ingredients together.”
There is also a good range of drink options designed to suit different types of customers. People who want a quick meal on their lunch break might want sparkling water or a cappuccino. Those who grab pasta on their night out can opt for beer or wine.
Creating a fast-casual concept around fresh pasta is a great idea, but it’s also a spin on an already successful concept. Frankly, it’s a bit shocking that we haven’t seen one before. Sweeney says he’s still tweaking the formula, but he’s confident Williamsville will support it.
“We thought this place would be a perfect starting point for us,” he says. “With our focus on fresh pasta, I thought people in that area would be ready to explore what we offer immediately.”
Hours of operation at time of publication (subject to change): Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday CLOSED
5429 Main Street, Williamsville, NY 14221 • $$
Take-out, Fast Casual / Counter Service
Fresh, locally sourced ingredients, combined to create delicious made-to-order pasta dishes in a fast casual setting. Read our article on opening them[sm_anypost[sm_anypost
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