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The essential chicken wings: Readers weigh in

The essential chicken wings: Readers weigh in

Bricklayers Pub and Pizzeria gets plenty of rave reviews
The essential chicken wings: Readers weigh in
Garlic Parm chicken wings, veggie pizza and a la vodka pizza dress up a table at Bricklayers Pub and Pizzeria.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

People generally will not find chicken à la king at Bricklayers Pub and Pizzeria in Rotterdam.

But they will find chicken à la wing.

Chicken wings are deep fried and deep flavored in the Bricklayers kitchen, and owner Joe Grega has earned a reputation for producing tasty and tangy bites of poultry.

READ MORE: The essential pizza: Readers vote for their favorites

Bricklayers received the most votes for chicken wings during an informal and unscientific poll conducted earlier this month by The Daily Gazette. Readers were asked to use Facebook, e-mail or their telephones to cast votes for essential places to order wings.

The newspaper received more than 100 votes for wings and pizza, with many places notching just a single vote. After Bricklayers, located at 2612 Guilderland Ave., the rest of The Gazette's essential five are:

  • Isopo's Downtown Pizza, 176 Erie Boulevard, Schenectady (the top finisher in the pizza category).
  • 20 North, 20 North Broadway, Schenectady.
  • Prima Pizzeria, 3610 State St., Schenectady.
  • Visco's Vley Road Pizzeria, 149 Vley Road, Scotia.

Grega believes people like Bricklayers' wings because simple rules are followed. Sauces and breads are homemade and wings are delivered fresh. Chicken never arrives frosted.

People in the newspaper poll voted with their taste buds. 

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Joe Grega, owner of Bricklayers Pub & Pizzeria on Guilderland Avenue in Rotterdam. (Peter R. Barber)

"Their wings are awesome," wrote Kristin Savoy in an e-mail note. "Garlic Parm and honey barbecue are my favorites."

"Bricklayers for sure, best wings and pizza ever," wrote Diane Cappello Boswell in a Facebook post. "Trust me, we drove across country this summer and Bricklayers has the best wings and pizza out of every state we've been through."

"Watch out for the new guy on the block," added Jean Marie, also on Facebook.

Other places received support.

Michele Lupe goes to 20 North for chicken wings. "The absolute best wings in the area, bar none," she posted on Facebook.

Tricia Bove e-mailed her vote for Prima pizza and wings. "We love the homemade fresh bread and homemade buffalo sauce," she wrote. "They put a lot of love into their food, just like your mama would."

"Visco's Pizza in Scotia!" offered Caitlin Krauser on Facebook.

Grega believes fresh is best.

"We build a (sauce) base here, and it's the same thing with the pizza sauce," said Grega, who opened his business - once the Ferris Tavern - in February 2017. "We get chicken wings from different purveyors, we don't use anything that's going to be frozen. We don't buy anything in bulk and have to freeze them, we're always getting wings here."

Grega serves only jumbo-size wings. The garlic Parmesan wing is the most popular, but people also order medium- and hot-sauced chickens to dip in homemade blue cheese dressing. And pizza is also popular.

"Sports and chicken wings go hand-in-hand," Grega said. "They're easy to eat at a bar, at a table, with your friends."

Started in Buffalo

The wing sensation started in a bar. While Buffalo is famous for its Bills, Sabres and snowstorms, people who don't care about football, hockey and 12-foot snowbanks will boast about the city's culinary contribution.

Buffalo wings — fried chicken wings in spicy, tomato-based sauce — were first served in Western New York in 1964.

The first plate of wings was served at the Anchor Bar, located on Main Street in Buffalo's downtown.

According to Anchor history, the night of the chicken took place on Wednesday, March 4, 1964. Dominic Bellissimo was tending bar at the family business when a bunch of Dom's friends showed up. They were starving.

Dominic asked his mother, Teressa, to prepare something for the gang. Teressa had chicken wings in the kitchen, a piece of chicken the Anchor kitchen cooks always used for soup.

The story says Teressa deep fried the wings and flavored them with a homemade sauce. Dom's crew loved the late-night dish and the Bellissimo family had a new - and unique - entry for the menu.

Fifty-four years later, chicken wings are all over the world. They're a natural in bars and restaurants as appetizers or main dishes. They often show up on banquet tables at home parties.

The Anchor has made chicken wings a key part of the business marketing plan. The sign on the company web site, www.anchorbar.com, comes with a sign that reads: "Frank & Teressa's Anchor Bar. The Original Chicken Wing."

In addition to the original location, there are nine other Anchor bars. Six are open in the Buffalo area, three are situated in California and one is located in Texas.

People all over the United States can try the Anchor deep fries, if they have deep pockets. The Anchor offers 50 wings - complete with blue cheese and celery - for $119.99. The price also includes priority overnight deliver.

The 100-wing package, at $199.99, is probably the better value.

People will be eating chicken wings everywhere next Sunday, when the Philadelphia Eagles meet the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

According to the National Chicken Council's annual chicken wing report, released last Wednesday, football fans and their friends will eat 1.35 billion chicken wings during Super Bowl weekend. 

Chicken council publicists competed a bunch of statistics:

  • The total of 1.35 billion wings would circle the globe nearly three times.
  • The world-sized order of wings would put 625 wings on every seat in all 32 NFL stadiums.

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Chicken wings (left) at Isopo's Downtown Pizza in Schenectady, and at Prima Pizzeria. (Marc Schultz)

"There will be no wing shortage," said council spokesman Tom Super, who managed a joke about Philadelphia Eagles fans' usual choices for game day plates. "We anticipate an uptick in chicken cheesesteaks."

Big wing numbers will show up Friday, when Philadelphia radio station WIP-FM (94-WIP, a sports talk station) sponsors its 26th annual "Wing Bowl." This eating contest, similar to hot dog contests held at Coney Island each Fourth of July, is always held the Friday before the Super Bowl.

Last year, winner Bob Shoudt chewed and swallowed 409 wings. His labors earned him $10,000 in cash and a Hyundai Santa Fe sports utility vehicle.

In Schenectady, the sixth annual Wing Walk was held last October. A total of 1,500 people sampled chicken wings at 20 city restaurants.

"We love wings, we always order wings wherever we go," said Steve Ference of Saratoga Springs, who was on the chicken trail with his brother Scott.

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected].

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