Johnny D’s revives old downtown Buffalo standards with steak, sushi and song

Johnny D’s revives old downtown Buffalo standards with steak, sushi and song
Johnny D’s revives old downtown Buffalo standards with steak, sushi and song

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – It’s an ambiance you don’t get much of in Buffalo anymore: the soothing sounds of the 40s, 50s and 60s while you enjoy your dinner supper club style.

It’s back at a new restaurant in downtown Buffalo.

Jackie Jocko, best known for the albums “Lover, Come Back to Me” and “Like Wow!” », once entertained himself on this same piano; The one with the late Jocko’s notes above the keyboard, a keyboard that now belongs to Jocko’s protégé, Howard Goldman.

Goldman and his wife, Mary Kunz Goldman, are the main attraction around the piano every night inside the former EB Green’s Steakhouse at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Buffalo. While the hotel is getting a facelift, the restaurant has been remodeled, reopened under new ownership and renamed Johnny D’s.

“This is it,” Goldman said. “We have achieved the objective. We are here where Jackie Jocko played for so many years on his piano, keeping this room alive in the same spirit where people can gather regularly and see each other.

People gather to hear Howard Goldman play

“What we want to do is create a great restaurant for locals. If we do that, we know we’ll have a great hotel restaurant and we’ll have lots of choices,” said Chris Harter, owner of Johnny D’s.

Harter describes this line as steak, sushi and adventurous American fare. But the piano, and the people around it, are the icing on the cake.

The people around the piano agree: Goldman’s music is essential to bringing everyone together. He calls them his “living room cadets”.

“If you want to meet interesting people in Buffalo, who have interesting conversations, interesting backgrounds and are interesting to talk to, this is the place to be,” according to Buffalo violinist Janet Mazzio.

“We meet extremely eclectic people, film producers that I met here, musicians, people from Europe. Everyone has a great story to tell,” said Jay Farquharson, a childhood friend of Goldman.

Owner Chris Harter discusses the new restaurant with Jacquie

He doesn’t just entertain people face to face. Every Friday evening, Goldman opens his Facebook page and contacts his social media followers who love the old standards.

“We all see ourselves as preservationists, in a sense,” Goldman says. “We preserve these old songs because if they skip too many generations, you’ll never be able to get them back.”

Mary Kunz Goldman was a longtime classical music critic for the Buffalo News and a singer in Buffalo churches. She has now made the leap into lounge entertainment.

“It’s a big adventure for me,” she said. “I love it.”

In a city with no shortage of musical styles, the Great American Songbook has found a familiar home in downtown Buffalo, bringing new friends together around an old piano that still has plenty of life left.

“It’s a wonderful group of friends,” says Frederick Gazoli, a regular at the salons. “But others can join us. It’s a very nice, safe environment. A very good place to come and just chat, it feels good.”

“My father was a veteran of the Second World War,” explains Andrea Seitter, “armchair cadet”. “He was a radio on a B-17 bomber and all the music Howard played was what I grew up with. Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, big band stuff. I love it, and no one plays it like Howard. I really appreciate it a lot.

Howard Goldman looks around and talks while continuing to play Jocko’s legendary piano. “It’s really kind of a dream come true, because that was really my vision, that people would want to come together and do this as a regular part of their lives. And that would become important to them. And that’s the case.

Howard Goldman plays the piano

If you’d like to hear Howard and Mary Kunz Goldman entertain, they are currently scheduled to perform nightly from 5-9 p.m. at Johnny D’s Restaurant inside the Buffalo Hyatt Regency, although that schedule is subject to change.

Jacquie Walker is an award-winning presenter and journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 1983. See more of his work here.