Archives For western new york

A few weeks ago while I was in Los Angeles for The GRAMMYs, I received a Facebook message from Mary Friona. She is from my hometown of Niagara Falls and was a reporter at the NBC affiliate in Buffalo, WGRZ. Mary now runs a website called “Totally Buffalo” which features people, places and events throughout Western New York. She occasionally will interview someone who works in or hails from the area and holds a unique job; I was honored when she reached out to see if I would participate.

There are definitely a few “frequently asked questions” in this one (people almost always inquire when first meeting me about my favorite and least-favorite interview) but there are also a few stories that I rarely-if-ever tell. Check out the post here!

Took me what, almost 10 years? But I finally figured it out. When I return home to visit family in Western New York for Christmas, I should stick around for about four nights.

Here was my issue in years past: I would only visit my parents back in Niagara Falls about three times a year. Also, I would usually end up with a ton of vacation to use before the end of the year otherwise it would be lost. So between not wanting to give up too much of my free days (I would inevitably lose some anyways) and falling victim to my mother’s guilt trip, I would stay home around Christmas for close to a week.

And by the sixth or seventh day, I would end up singing the same tune: next year, I can’t stay home for this long. I love my family but hanging out back in the house I grew up in just makes me a bit stir-crazy.

So this year I switched it up. First, I spread out my remaining vacation days over the final month-and-a-half of the year to ensure that I wouldn’t lose any. This also gave me a bunch of long weekends and quite frankly, one of my most enjoyable holiday seasons in recent memory. Then, I scheduled my trip to WNY around Christmas but made sure to just give myself enough time to see my family and attend an extra event or two, nothing more.

Mission accomplished. Saw all of my family plus a bunch of my friends, attended a few holiday parties, visited Orchard Park to watch my Bills lose to the Dolphins (don’t get me started) and drank a few Labatt Blue Lights in the process.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


Other food highlights included my favorite meal of the year: Christmas Eve’s Feast of the Seven Fishes and a final night pit-stop to GoodFellas’s in Niagara Falls for my favorite pizza and wings.

Of course the most important part of the trip was my time at home. Almost as enjoyable was leaving Niagara Falls and not thinking that next year I should spend any less time there.

Labor Day weekend has become a weekend that I really, really look forward to.

I’ve always enjoyed the holiday because it serves as a nice bridge between a hot-and-humid summer and a busy fall. Autumn is usually the most hectic time of year for me; ratings are most important this time of year, many artists are on promotional runs gearing up for holiday releases and there are a number of big events to cover – ranging from The Rockettes to the American Music Awards to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (the latter two usually fall in the same week on different coasts).

Fall is also my favorite time of year, and no it’s not because of UGGs or Pumpkin Spice Lattes. We have the start of football, meaningful baseball, great fashion, scenic views and the best weather of the year.

OK, I like pumpkin beers as well. Sue me.

Anyways, LDW serves as a chance to rest, relax and reset before the busy season. In what has now become an annual tradition, I take a bus to Scranton on Saturday and drive with my buddy Danny to Niagara Falls. Brews, barbecues and pool time are a-plenty over the three days.

We usually throw a wrinkle or two in to that mix as well. Last year, it was clubbing in downtown Buffalo and attending the Chicken Wing Festival. This year, it was hanging with my cousin Anthony at his engagement party, which was catered by the venerable Niagara Falls restaurant The Como. From there, we went to the Seneca Niagara Casino downtown where I lost a little bit of money in Blackjack, and then made it back ten-fold by learning to play Craps! If you know what you’re doing (and you’re winning), it’s a really fun game.


But like I mentioned, the trip is really centered on the beer and the pool, both of which were prominently featured on my Instagram that weekend.


God bless Niagara Falls. And Western New York. And Labor Day Weekend.


And, fall.

Chatted with DJ Pauly D, Aubrey O’Day, Willis McGahee and Jessica White – all stars of the new E! reality show “Famously Single.” We had a bit of fun.

On a normal year I spend the first weekend of the NCAA Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas. I traditionally travel alone but upon landing west, am greeted by a group of guys that I grew up with in Niagara Falls, NY. Now what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but specifics withheld, the three days are usually filled with lots of sports, casino chips and the occasional alcoholic beverage (read: bottle).

However, 2016 would prove to not be a normal year. I’m 30 and most of the fellas in my group are at least a year or two older than me. They also all live back in Western New York. So while I’m still single and relatively care-free, my boys are now proposing, closing on houses, having kids or taking care of their young ones.

And this year, essentially all of those things happened at once, creating the perfect storm to cancel our annual Vegas excursion.

But, I’ve grown so accustomed hanging with the guys for March Madness, and we’re so used to seeing each other that we quickly decided something had to serve as a placeholder for Vegas until 2017. With a founding trip member and their wife was expecting a baby that weekend it was decided that we’d rent out a suite in North Buffalo, set-up three TVs, stock up the kitchen and bar and enjoy all of the Cinderella stories and buzzer beaters we could handle.

Perhaps keeping with the Vegas spirit, not many details of this trip will be publicized either; however I documented a modicum of it on Instagram. The fun began after an all-nighter Wednesday night, with a first-class Delta flight to the 716.


Of course I represented for my Syracuse Orange – who advanced to the Sweet 16 after thumping both Dayton and Middle Tennessee State.

And when in Rome… well, you know. On Thursday’s menu: La Nova pizza and char-grilled barbecue hot chicken wings.


Friday’s menu: Breakfast pizza from La Nova (highly recommend) along with spicy Bloody Marys that lasted until our early dinner: a huge fish fry with the fixings from WNY-staple Wegmans.


On Friday night, the trip’s itinerary took a turn: snow and rain were projected to hit New York on Sunday, the day I was supposed to fly back. I’ve become all-too-familiar with delays in-and-out of the tri-state area. In the interest of not spending all day Sunday at the airport or getting stranded in Niagara Falls, I proactively called Delta to have my flight bumped earlier. The airline was not as accommodating as they should have been but they did switch me to a Saturday flight.

That plane departed at 5:45 am. I found this out at about 1 am. So, I did what anyone else on vacation would do: I called my buddy Shawn who was working downtown at a nightclub, took a cab to meet him with my luggage in tow, hung out, grabbed food at Elmwood Taco and Subs (ETS!) and then Shawn drove me to Buffalo Niagara International Airport.


Sure my weekend wasn’t spent in Vegas, but most importantly it was spent with my friends. And besides, with the eating, drinking and sleeping habits that ensued, I don’t think my body could tell the difference anyways.

How did I spend my #LaborDayWeekend2015? Well, given that it’s the last time before Christmas I’ll get to visit my family in Niagara Falls, I traveled back to Western New York. This trip was a bit different from past years; my colleague in Scranton Danny had NEVER BEEN to Buffalo before. So Saturday I hopped on a bus from Port Authority headed towards Scranton. He picked me up at the bus stop in the Electric City, and we drove up I-81, across 690 and the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse (Go Orange!) and over to I-90 where we drove to Niagara Falls.

After dropping off our bags on Saturday night we headed to downtown Buffalo for a few drinks and so Danny could experience the piece of Heaven that is a Jim’s Steakout Chicken Finger Sub (medium, lettuce, tomato, blue cheese on wheat).

On Sunday, we went for a jog from my house to the scenic campus of Niagara University, spent some time at the pool and then drove back to Buffalo for the National Buffalo Wing Festival.
wing
It is everything we thought it would be, and then some. We tried wings from WNY’s big three: Duff’s, Anchor Bar and La Nova. There were pubs serving up the deep fried (or in some cases, dry rubbed) delicacies from across the country and even from across the pond – a wing spot from England was there!

Duff’s is without question my go-to.


After a few hours of stuffing our faces, we were off to see THE Niagara Falls. I grew up about 10 minutes away from the rapids.


Still pretty gorgeous. We followed up our visit with a trip to Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls. My buddy Vinnie is the OM there so we said hello to him and partook in our first Oktoberfest (Samuel Adams) of the season.

Then we returned to my house, where my Mother had prepared my favorite meal: Chicken Francese with a side of my Mom’s patent homemade pilaf. YAS.


Labor Day, sans a run, was rather Labor-Less.


For the most part, the same could be said for Tuesday (I took an extra day, sue me!)


Another highlight of the trip: Tuesday night. My Dad and I went to one of his favorite watering holes, Stadium Grill on Hyde Park Blvd. We downed a few beers and watched the Yankees game together.

I flew back early Wednesday morning so I could interview a one Justin Bieber.

The trip home was everything I wanted it to be and then some. Next up on the #RalphieOTRA itinerary: Scranton for Mohegan Sun Pocono’s Oktoberfest and Atlantic City for Miss America – all in the same weekend.

The wait is almost over for legions of Goo Goo Dolls fans everywhere: the Buffalo, NY band completed its ninth studio LP, for real this time.

“I’m going to New York tomorrow to do the mastering, so I guess it’s finished,” revealed lead singer John Rzeznik. The front man along with fellow founding band mate Robby Takac sat down on “The Ralphie Radio Show” Sunday afternoon. Takac added that he’s heard a June release is planned, but is unaware of an official date. The LP is entitled, Something for the Rest of Us.

Even though the band has sold over nine million albums in the states alone, the standard for a successful LP hasn’t changed too much.

“I think at this point it’s one of those things where, you just have to be satisfied with the work that you did, and hope that you craft it into something that you’re proud of,” said Rzeznik. He then reaffirmed his first statement, but added, “That’s fine, but it would be really nice if it sold a bunch of copies. That always helps. If it gets on the radio… but, we’ll see what happens.”

Download the interview



Yes, the music landscape has changed quite a bit since the ’96 release of Let Love In. In an interview last September with The Buffalo News, Takac noted that radio isn’t “there the way they were before.” Certainly the influence of the medium has decreased a little, but Rzeznik feels the airplay can still play an instrumental role in the band’s success moving forward.

“Even if you don’t sell a lot of records, getting played on the radio, yunno, keeps your touring business going and then you get out and play, make a living on the road.”

When I caught up with The Goo Goo Dolls, the band was in the midst of doing exactly that. The Goos extended the current tour to over 40 dates, playing mostly smaller, theater-type venues. Rzeznik confirmed that after the LP’s release, summer dates at primarily outdoor venues will be announced.

Coincidentally enough, my third concert ever found me sitting on the lawn of Artpark in Lewiston, NY watching The Goo Goo Dolls – right before Dizzy Up the Girl hit stores, in August of 1998. If I need another reason to head back home and visit the parents, Rzeznik did confirm that the show for the nearby Darien Lake Performing Arts Center is already booked.

Read this story on a kid from back in Western New York, who was picked up on suspicion of DUI. The article appeared in my hometown newspaper and first media employer, the Niagara Gazette.

Please, don’t drink and drive.