Buffalo’s January freeze met its match this year when Saint Neri—a toasty retreat named for the patron saint of good times—flung open its doors, turning up the heat on the night scene. More than just another addition to the city’s burgeoning bar scene, Saint Neri signals a shift towards a design-centric era in Buffalo’s cultural evolution. Deliciously over-the-top in the same vein as the trending “mob wife aesthetic,” the moody jewel-box bar—cloaked in gold, clad in animal prints, and radiating exuberance—promises to deliver a Buffalo-style bachannal that would make its namesake proud.
Saint Neri was born from the creative minds of acclaimed interior designer Samuel Amoia and entrepreneur Michael Woltz, both Buffalo-bred talents with a shared goal: to concoct an unparalleled nightlife spot right in their own stomping ground, fusing the extravagant flair of European Art Deco salons with Buffalo’s unapologetically gritty soul. The result is a venue that elegantly nods to the glamour of elite clubs while also resonating with the deep architectural roots of Buffalo. “Buffalo is a melting pot of design styles, from Art Deco to Romanesque,” Amoia tells Forbes. “That diversity is in our city’s fabric, and it’s reflected throughout Saint Neri. Our city is home to seven Frank Lloyd Wright houses. Architects like Henry Richardson and Wright, both pivotal in American architecture, have left their mark here in Buffalo.”
Enter and find yourself in a realm where history merges with modernity, and European sophistication meets New York’s upstate charm. The lounge, with a capacity of 70, is a showcase of luxury and whimsy. Picture yourself enjoying an expertly mixed drink beneath the soft illumination of Murano glass lights, their subdued glow casting reflections on the walls adorned with 24-carat gold leaf. Each element here sparks dialogue, from the tortoiseshell bar to the leopard print carpet snaking through the area, complemented by matching bar stools. Black lacquer tables add over 50 more seating options, with the black lacquer theme extending even to the bathroom countertops.
“Art Deco is where I excel, and a lot of my personal clients are avid collectors,” reveals the designer. “Blending and merging different styles is my specialty.” This expertise is evident in his selection of Venetian Rubelli fabrics for the walls, with their Baroque patterns reflecting Buffalo’s architectural charm. To honor Richardson’s influence, he cleverly incorporated an arch and dome, creating a unique feature in line with Richardson’s design ethos. He further explains, “Given the size and structure of the venue, it was vital to adopt Renaissance architectural principles, focusing on elements like scale, symmetry, and balanced proportions.”
Saint Neri offers more than a visual, vibey delight as it delves deep into the Buffalo roots of its founders. Amoia shares, “From the start, we wanted to combine luxurious touches with a playlist of 90s hip hop and R&B—the music that shaped us from rough urban schools to when we met at a Jesuit high school.” The atmosphere is further enhanced by staff in sleek white tuxedos and 1920s flapper dresses, adding a layer of elegance, as well as a custom scent with warm, herb-like notes similar to Palo Santo. “Scent has a powerful connection to memory,” notes the designer. “I’m a regular user of Astier de Villate incense and light candles every night. Our aim was a fragrance that feels refined, inviting, and warm.”
Then, of course, there’s the feast. Curated by esteemed local chef Steven Gedra, the menu is a gastronomic extension of the venue’s design philosophy. Southern-Italian classics—along with caviar service—are seamlessly intertwined with modern bites, mirroring Amoia’s globally-influenced yet locally-anchored design approach.
Take for instance the 24k gold chocolate budino – a dish that epitomizes Saint Neri’s spirit, marrying Buffalo’s authenticity with a hint of luxury. The beverage selection, crafted by Beverage Director Jessica Benham and Head Bartender Megan May, is a tribute to Buffalo’s essence with a global twist. Each cocktail is a carefully concocted ode to the places and experiences that have shaped Amoia and Woltz, blending familiar local tastes with exotic international touches.
In Buffalo, a city that’s made an art of bouncing back, Saint Neri emerges not merely as a fresh entrant in the nightlife scene but as a torchbearer of daring design. But more than anything, it’s Amoia and Woltz’s loveletter to their hometown, reproduced as a mixtape of memories, where every luxe detail is laced with a beat from their shared past. Amoia describes it best: “Essentially we’re fusing contrasting worlds, creating a space that glows golden and warm, while the anthems of our youth set the backdrop.” It’s a universal tale, one where everyone finds a bit of themselves in the glow of Saint Neri’s golden light.