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Tips Up Cafe: The Beginning

Chef Thomas Kneeland takes us back ... plus this month's Menu Pick

According to recent studies, about 60% of restaurants will fail in the first 3 years of business.  You will need more than Grandma’s recipes to survive.  New restauranteurs don’t realize how demanding owning a restaurant can be, and that bringing on experience will not always save a sinking ship. You will need to motivate, oversee and balance the staff, all the while managing food and labor costs, balancing checkbooks, planning menus, following health and safety codes and greeting customers, with the hopes that they will want to come back.  Balance is important and can become frustrating for families, though sometimes dreams do come true with the help of loyal employees, hard work and perseverance.  

Tip Up Café celebrated its 36th anniversary on Feb. 16.  Let’s take you back to the beginning: Judy and Ken Roush, who were married for just one year, had high hopes of one day opening a restaurant.  Ken was a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.  Judy Morabito grew up in Buffalo. Her father was a “green grocer” owning “The Main and Transit Market” which supplied many restaurants with produce from the early 1950’s.  Both Judy and Ken had a lot in common and were searching for the perfect location for their dream restaurant.  They debated two locations:  The “Lucky Dollar” (now the Nickel Inn) and “Herbie’s Derby” - a shot and beer joint in Ellicottville.  Ken grew up just over the hill from Ellicottville, in Cattaraugus, NY, which influenced the introduction of Tips Up and Ellicottville as the winning location.

The first year and the years to follow were deemed a success. (However, the hours were long; luckily they lived upstairs.) They started out with a chalkboard menu and began making delicious things to eat which people loved.  Many of the restaurant’s signature dishes today are those from the early menu.  Some of the menu items were served in a basket … that is until one day when local businessman John Northrup suggested that the food was too good to sell in baskets. 

Other popular dishes that have carried well through the years: Orange Whiskey Chicken, Manicotti, Veal Scaloppini, Chicken Parmesan – all undoubtedly customer favorites.  Even the cheesecake today is that of yesteryears, and a very popular choice following the main course.  Tips Up’s commitment to serving quality meals and making people happy is what it is all about.  They are a success!

Judy and Ken loved their new restaurant.  What ensued?  A family of course!  Meryl and Anton were born.  Both would work in the restaurant.  Anton especially enjoyed working in the kitchen washing dishes, folding pizza boxes, and learning how to cook with his dad at his side.  One time Anton told local Junior Lafferty, “My dad will pay you 5 cents to fold a pizza box and a dollar to foil wrap a case of potatoes.”  What Anton liked best about working was getting paid so he could buy candy bars and take them on fishing trips with his dad.  The family was committed and it shows today, as Anton and his mother Judy are now running the restaurant while building upon the past and creating new memories for the future.

This month’s recipe celebrates the traditions of their Italian heritage.  The Florentines are said to have taught the French how to cook.  Viva Italia!  Catherine de Medici brought her cooks to France in the 16th century.  She married Henry II of France who would become King.  Her many Florentine cooks were schooled in preparing the most elegant dishes.  She introduced these foods to the French table and the first ladies were welcomed to the dining table, decorated in the finest of silver, Venetian crystal, and her culinary wonders.

In the early 1800’s Italian immigrants from the coasts of the Mediterranean would move to America.  Many of them settled in the San Francisco area.  They brought with them the traditions of their homeland.  The fishermen of these Italian port cities would make seafood stew on their ships with the catch of the day; they named it Cioppino meaning “chip in” or “little soup.”  Cioppino became a staple in the many Italian restaurants throughout the San Francisco area.  Cioppino is made from what was on hand - clams, shrimp, scallops, Dungeness crabs - and combining it with fresh tomatoes, herbs, fish stock, white wine garlic and onion.  Alioto’s #8 is the restaurant that is said to have brought Cioppino to the fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.  In 1925 Nunzio Alioto began to sell lunches to the many Italian laborers.  After he passed away, his wife Rose would become the first woman to work on the Wharf.  She opened Alioto’s Restaurant.  It’s the oldest restaurant in the city and little has changed.

Cioppino is featured at Tips Up Café.  It is classic, simple to make and will have your guests talking about your culinary skills. Most importantly, you will need fresh seafood.  Wegmans will have all the supplies you need.  Buon appetito!



2-3 T. olive oil

2 T. chopped Shallots

2 T. chopped garlic

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup tomato herb sauce

1 cup white wine

1 cup fish stock (or clam juice)

Fresh basil

Lump crab

1 doz. uncooked shrimp

1 doz. little neck clams

1 live lobster (cut in half and cleaned)

8 large fresh dry scallops

1-2 6oz. fish fillet (such as salmon, tuna, halibut)



Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan.  Add the clams, shrimp, lobster and scallops. Deglaze the pan with white wine when the clams begin to open.  Add the tomato herb sauce, fish stock and pinch of red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and simmer 5 minutes.  Add the fish fillet.  Simmer for another 5 minutes. Add the fresh basil and ladle into bowls.  Serve with garlic herb bread, focaccia or sourdough bread.  Enjoy.

ABOUT THE CHEF: Local area chef and long-time family friend Thomas Kneeland currently works as Executive Chef at Tips Up Café.  He is the creator and franchise developer of the famous Tom’s Mom’s Cookies and is known for his award-winning chocolate chunk cookies supplied to the Ronald Reagan White House.  In 1984 People Magazine awarded him with a first place for the best “fancy” chocolate chip cookie in America for his Pistachio Chocolate Chunk cookie.  Tips Up Café is located at 32 Washington Street, downtown Ellicottville, NY, phone 716-699-2136.