Tommy, November 2 2020

The Story of Wings

Upon returning from her friend's house, my then 12-year old daughter told me that she had wings for dinner. "I love me some chicken wings!" I told her, "What kind?"

"Daddy, these weren't chicken wings," she answered. "They were buffalo wings."

This short conversation got me to wondering at what age human beings actually figure out that buffalo wings do not come from actual buffalo. We'll, I mean they do, but not that buffalo.

Just as the hamburger was invented in New Haven, CT at Louie's Lunch, it's fairly common knowledge that the buffalo chicken wing was "officially" invented at a restaurant called Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York.

Anchor Bar started as an Italian restaurant back in 1935, owned by Frank and Teressa Bellissimo. It moved to its current location on 1047 Main Street in 1942 (the year my father was born) and in 1964 (the year I was born) Frank and Teressa's son Dominic was tending bar one cold March night.

Some of Dominic's friends stopped in and asked if there was anything they could eat other than Italian and, as any good Italian mother would do, Teressa began rooting around in the kitchen where she found some chicken wings which she was intending to use for a stock.

Back in those days, nobody ate chicken wings. They were either used for stock or thrown away as scraps.

But Teressa Bellissimo fried them up, covered them with a cayenne pepper -based sauce with garlic and vinegar. She added butter to calm the heat, and put out some celery and bleu cheese dressing to do the same. Rumor has it she said, "Wings up, boys!" (Not really, I made that part up)

The boys looked at them funny, but once they started eating them they became the original Wingaddicts (they wish!)  A few months later,  Anchor Bar added this item to its menu and word started traveling around the Buffalo area. They were initially served free of charge to customers waiting for their orders.

By the 70's wings were beginning to pick up steam and by the 80's became mainstream. Today, the Anchor Bar has over a dozen franchise locations around the country, but its original Buffalo restaurant serves roughly 5,000 people 2,000 pounds of wings per day!  It's orginial buffalo wing sauce is also sold in over 4,000 supermarkets nationwide.

In 2006, Anchor Bar (and Frank & Teressa Bellissimo) were the first-ever inductees into the National Buffalo Wing Hall of Flame.

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