July 21, 2024


The Food community

Rio Bamba was Rochester NY swankiest restaurant. What happened to it?

4 min read

The Rio Bamba was Rochester’s swankiest restaurant and a pillar of the city’s “Restaurant Row” for more than a half-century.

Corporate bigwigs and government officials were among the regular customers. Newspaper columnists name-dropped of hobnobbing with actresses and movie moguls who stopped by the Rio.

A reputed mobster once was charged with beating a man with a tire iron in the posh restaurant.

The Rio Bamba was in a converted 19th century Victorian home on Alexander Street, between Park and East avenues. The place won international awards for its wines and was listed among Rochester’s landmark restaurants.

As Pat Dougherty wrote in a 1983 Upstate review, “I have heard it said more than once — and by knowledgeable and discriminating people who enjoy fine dining — that Rio Bamba … is the best restaurant in town. It may well be.”

The Rio Bamba.

Alfred Greene founded the Rio Bamba in 1949. News accounts said Greene copied the name of his favorite New York City restaurant.

Henry Clune and Bill Beeney, who were columnists for the Democrat and Chronicle, wrote often of the Rio in those early years. Clune mentioned the restaurant in a 1949 column when he wrote of artist Colleen Browning, who painted murals for “a new and novel Alexander Street restaurant, the Rio Bamba.”

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