1Beto’s: Natives like to argue the inerits of Mineo’s versus Aiello’s pizza, which sit six doors apart on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill. But there’s another Pittsburgh original, Beto’s pizza in Dormont. Unlike every other slice you’ll find in town, it won’t scorch your tongue when you eat it. That’s because all the toppings, including the shredded mozzarella, go on after the sauce-topped homemade crust comes out of the oven. Also, it looks different because it’s sold by individual cuts instead of a whole pie. – Gretchen McKay
2BreadWorks: A good meal starts with a basket of BreadWorks’ crusty, fresh-baked bread. One of Western Pennsylvania’s premier bread makers, the North Side bakery stoked Pittsburgh’s love affair with bread when it introduced its European-style breads in 1979. Today, its artisanal breads are served at many of the city’s best restaurants. You’ll also find its rolls, loaves, salt sticks and rustic flutes at Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. in the Strip District and a slew of neighborhood groceries. During the holidays, BreadWorks also trots out sweet egg bread, chocolate babka, buccalato and Irish soda bread. BreadWorks tastes even better when it’s 50 percent off the regular price a half-hour before closing: 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays. — G.M.
3Burnt Almond Torte: Want to be on cloud nine? Then bite into a piece of Prantl’s Bakery’s Burnt Almond Torte. The light and airy yellow cake, filled with custard and topped with almonds, dates back to the 1980s when the bakery’s original owners, Henry and Jane Prantl, went to a baking trade show in California. The Almond Board of California had a surplus that year and was adding the nuts to anything and everything. “Henry had some sort of an almond cake, and that planted a seed in his head,” said owner-emeritus Lara Bruhn. “But he felt that that cake wasn’t sweet enough for Pittsburghers, and so he tweaked and tweaked the recipe to meet the standard.” For the holidays, Prantl’s is featuring a centerpiece version that is just as square but taller than the regular ones, and decorated with ribbons and a sprig of holly berry. It serves 16 and is $54.99; orders need to be placed 10 days in advance. — Arthi Subramaniam
4Cheese at Pennsylvania Macaroni Co.: Besides the olives, olive oils, pastas, sauces and baked goods, Penn Mac has an extensive selection of cheeses — at least 350 on any given day. They come in wheels, pins, mandarins and blocks, and are soft, aged, mild, sharp and everything in between. Made with milk from cows, water buffalos, goats and sheep, there are high-quality domestic cheeses, artisanal ones from small farms in Spain, France and Italy, and truffle cheeses. Next month, an extra-sharp Christmas provolone will be featured. “Every pound is cut fresh off the wheel,” owner David Sunseri said. The wait time in the cheese area can be anywhere from one to two hours in the week leading up to Christmas, with customers requesting samples and pondering what to buy. If you want to avoid the lines, “come early around 6:30 a.m. or around 4 p.m.,” Mr. Sunseri said. During the two weeks prior to Christmas, Penn Mac also will hand out free homemade wine by the glass. — A.S.
5Chipped-chopped ham: It took nearly three decades for Isaly’s, a family-owned dairy business that started in Mansfield, Ohio, in 1902, to open its first stores in Pittsburgh. Yet once here, the chain’s chipped-chopped ham would become as legendary as its Klondike ice cream bars and “skyscraper” ice cream cones. The processed luncheon meat — a mixture of ham chunks and trimmings and seasonings — is sliced razor thin for sandwiches and often mixed and heated with barbecue sauce for a Pittsburgh ham barbecue, a tailgate favorite. But “chipped ham,” as it’s also known among generations of families, has made its way into countless lunch bags, too, dressed with mayo and pickles. — G.M.
6Church Brew Works: For 20 years, the Lawrenceville brewpub has been drawing the faithful with its handcrafted ales and stouts. The ruby-hued lager-style Pious Monk Dunkel and the malty Thunderhop IPA are crowd favorites and so is sitting in the sanctuary of the former St. John the Baptist Catholic Church on wooden pews under the high-vaulted ceiling and surrounded by stained-glass windows. Just in time for Thanksgiving, Church Brew is bringing back its Imperial Pumpkin Stout “made with real pumpkins that are chargrilled and then aged for one year in bourbon barrels,” owner Sean Casey said. A Belgian-style Christmas Ale, made with fresh ginger, clove and orange peel, will be available in December. The brewpub also serves an eclectic regional American cuisine, and pierogi flavors range from the traditional cheese and potato to cactus, buffalo, duck and black bean and, yes, rattlesnake. — A.S.
7DeLallo: Started in 1950, the company pioneered the olive and antipasti bar concept in the 1980s, and it is now the largest importer and distributor of table olives in the country. The grocery store in Jeannette is known for its olive oil, sauces and cornucopia of pastas and also makes its own bread and prepared foods from scratch. But what sets it apart is the close family environment it emphasizes, which extends to its employees. “We’re family,” said Anthony DiPietro, general manager of DeLallo and grandson of founder George DeLallo. The entire DeLallo family is involved in the business. Mr. DiPietro’s uncle, Francis DeLallo, runs the company, his sister Niccolena Nestico works in the store multiple days a week, while his late grandmother, Madeleine, worked the cheese counter up until the week before she died. They grow as a family and work as a family, while being close to their customers, Mr. DiPietro added. — Dana Cizmas
8Elysian lamb: When Elysian Fields Farm tweeted, “If you like our lamb, don’t thank me. Thank the lamb,” owner and farmer Keith Martin said he meant it. “The contribution is really coming from them.” He and his wife, Mary, have had the farm in Ruff Creek since 1989 and raise their 3,400 animals holistically, “caring for them with compassion all the way until they are harvested.” The lambs are on a diet that is 80 percent grass and includes a small amount of grains.No antibiotics or hormones are used in the feed, Mr. Martin said. Elysian lamb is featured on 11 Pittsburgh restaurant menus, including longtime customer, the Duquesne Club. It’s also a staple at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry and Per Se restaurants in California and New York, respectively. The lambs are harvested according to the orders, and so no meat is frozen. “When you are eating the lamb, don’t think of it as just the product; be aware of the sacrifice it made,” Mr. Martin said. “Every breath the animal took is eventually represented in the product.” — A.S.
9Gobblerito: Who says Thanksgiving dinner has to be served at a relative’s house? Or that you have to wait until the third Thursday in November to savor its tastes? Mad Mex struts its gut-buster Gobblerito in mid-September. Billed as the “fabled feast that launched a thousand food comas,” it features everything you associate with the holiday, in one, big glorious bite. House-roasted turkey, black bean mashed potatoes, corn and bread stuffing are all crammed into a ridiculously huge burrito and doused with a river of gravy. It’s so big that the cranberry sauce has to be served on the side. Gobble, gobble. They are availabe at all Mad Mex locations through Thanksgiving. — G.M.
10Greens and beans: Antipasti is a must at Pittsburgh’s many Italian restaurants, and one dish above all is a favorite with locals — greens and beans, so named because the starring role of its two main ingredients. Milky white beans, usually cannellini, but sometimes great northern or navy, are a given. So is lots of garlic and more than a little olive oil. If you’re lucky, spicy Italian sausage, a few banana peppers and sprinkling of red chili flakes might also make an appearance. As for the “green” part? That’s up to the chef’s interpretation. Depending on the restaurant, the dish could include sauteed escarole, spinach, kale, radicchio or endive, or some combination. Ask for bread — You’ll want to soak up the garlicky juices. — G.M.
11Jamison lamb: John Jamison quoted the late chef Jean-Louis Palladin of Watergate when he talked about his meats: “A happy lamb is a tasty lamb.” And by that he means his animals are outside all the time and are moved from one pasture to another, so they always have fresh grass. That in turn translates to good, tender meat. He and his wife, Sukey, have owned Jamison Farm in Latrobe for 40 years, 30 as a business. They have about 400 lambs at any given time, and 50 to 70 are slaughtered every week. They hope to expand the animal family to include beef cattle, goats and pigs next year. Jamison lamb is found on restaurant menus from Chicago to New York to Washington, D.C. In Pittsburgh, it can be found at the East End Food Co-op in Point Breeze and the newly opened Block 292 in Mt. Lebanon. Mrs. Jamison holds cooking class dinners almost every month. At the four-course, BYOB meal, she talks about the farm, different cuts of a lamb, and encounters with celebs like the late Julia Child and Alice Waters. The next dinner is from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 11; the tab is $75. — A.S.
12Marburger buttermilk: So what makes Marburger Farm Dairy’s buttermilk a taste from the past? “It’s the real deal,” said Jim Marburger, president of the dairy farm in Evans City. “It’s just milk and the culture.” His great-grandfather, George, who emigrated from Germany, started the farm to raise draft horses, and his grandfather, Adam, transitioned it to a dairy farm. Today the farm sells milk, chocolate milk, eggnog and ice cream among other dairy products, but it is most famous for its rich buttermilk, which has flakes of butter and a shelf life of 45 days. The farm takes so much pride in its buttermilk that it even has a “Marburger Farm Dairy Buttermilk Cookbook,” with family recipes for biscuits, breads, muffins, cakes, floats and even a Jell-O salad. Its cost-saving Ranch Dressing calls for just three ingredients — half gallon buttermilk, half gallon mayonnaise and 3.2 ounces of dry Ranch Dressing mix. — A.S.
13Mon Aimee Chocolat: “I’m not a chocolatier. I call myself a collector of chocolates,” said Amy Rosenfield, owner of the chocolate store in the Strip District. After being part of the chocolate and confections industry for 11 years, Ms. Rosenfield decided to seek out hard-to-find chocolates by traveling to various trade shows in the U.S. and around the world. “We offer probably one of the largest selections of small craft, artisanal chocolates in the country,” she said. The store not only carries quality and specialized chocolate varieties from Europe, South America and all over the United States but also is known for its hot chocolate. Its most recent additions include brands such as Leonidas from Belgium and Montecristi from Ecuador. For the holidays, it will feature an assortment of cookies and chocolates from Germany and Austria, exotic bonbon combinations and seasonal flavors such as cranberry, peppermint and Christmas pudding from the English brand, Rococo Chocolates. — D.C.
14Monk’s Bar: The Priory Hotel, which once functioned as a Benedictine monastery in the Deutschtown section of the North Side, has a pint-size bar aptly called Monk’s Bar. The bar measures 25-by-10-feet, and all the liquor is stored in a vault. “It’s the safest place in the building,” Tim McGlothlin, director of guest services, said, laughing. The claim is that the room, which used to be the priests’ office, is the smallest pub in the commonwealth. There are three benches at the bar, two church pews and a couple of tables. Monk’s opened six years ago, when the hotel expanded, and is a full-fledged bar, that offers “10 to 20 different kinds of wines, 12 Scotches, six to seven vodkas and anything you can think of,” Mr. McGlothlin said. — A.S.
15Monterey Bay Fish Grotto: All the Mount Washington restaurants on Grandview Avenue serve a wonderful view of Pittsburgh. But the skyline looks even more spectacular from Monterey Bay because it sits on a higher point than its peers on Grandview, faces the city at an angle and overlooks the juncture of the three rivers — presenting a breathtaking panorama. The restaurant will turn 20 next year, celebrating the milestone with its new executive chef, Eric “Spudz” Wallace. For the holidays, he will feature a porcini-crusted walleye served with a rutabaga sauerkraut, along with favorites such as sesame-crusted ahi tuna, a Caribbean-style Chilean sea bass and the Angel Food Grilled Cheese Sandwich, which sounds like a savory but really is a caramelized cake filled with cream cheese and a berry compote. — A.S.
16New Year’s Pretzel: If you are looking for lots of luck in the new year, ring in 2017 the Pittsburgh way, with a New Year’s Pretzel. The pretzel-shaped coffeecake is associated with bringing good luck, long life and prosperity because it is believed that many moons ago monks rewarded children with pretzels if they said their prayers properly by crossing their arms across their chest. Bethel Bakery, which has shops in Bethel Park and North Strabane (recently opened), plans to make at least 4,500 this year. The bakery says if you buy one pretzel, you’ll have luck; two will bring you even more luck; and three will get you the best year ever. Owner John Walsh said his father, Morris, started the tradition in 1960, after being inspired by a competitor down the road but wanted “to go one better.” So Bethel Bakery’s pretzels are made with Danish dough or sweet dough with a nut filling, cinnamon filling or apricot filling. The cake-ish pretzel serves 10 to 12, and is $11.50 for the Danish and $12.50 for the filled one. — A.S.
17The Original Oyster House: You’ll find fried fish, shrimp baskets and other seafood at The Original Oyster House on Market Square, the oldest bar and restaurant in Pittsburgh (it dates to 1870). The most unusual offering, however, is the “original” breaded oysters. It’s kind of like a deep-fried hush puppy, only denser, with an oyster tucked deep in the middle. (There’s so much breading, you might have to look for it.) Regulars insist the balls are best washed down with a glass of buttermilk, below, which offers a nice counter-balance to all the fried goodness. But an Iron City does the job, too. — G.M.
18Picklesburgh: Pizza topped with pickled vegetables, pickled mozzarella and corned beef; sauerkraut brownie; pickled funnel cake; chicken burrito with pickled vegetables served with pickled peach-habanero salsa are among the pucker-powered foods featured at the two-day Picklesburgh fest in the summer. The pickle mania extends from the sky, with a humongous flying Heinz pickle balloon, to across the Rachel Carson Bridge between Downtown and the North Side, where vendors peddle pickled-themed foods, souvenirs and crafts. You can chow down on Grilled Kim Cheese sandwich (kimchee, Sriracha mayo and cheddar cheese), The Piggle (dill pickle wrapped with bacon) or Pickles Burger (pickled pepper relish, salami, provolone and Italian dressing) while sipping on pickled lemonade or pickled fruit sangria. And you could finish your pickle binge with ice creams flavored with dill pickle, pickled ginger, and we kid you not — capers and salmon. — A.S.
19Pierogies Plus: For a food that inspires such a cult following, the ingredients that constitute the pierogi are quite simple: flour, eggs, water, salt, and — if we’re talking traditional — potatoes, cheese and sauerkraut for the filling. Pierogies are practically a religion in Pittsburgh, and one of the best places to buy them is as humble as the dumpling itself: in a converted gas station in McKees Rocks. Owner Helen Mannarino, who emigrated from Warsaw, Poland, in 1974, started Pierogies Plus in 1991 with a loan from the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. Today, her staff of mostly Eastern European immigrants offers more than 30 varieties of pierogies, both at the shop (open Monday-Friday) and online. The dumplings also are dished up at many local restaurants. — G.M.
20Potato Patch: Kennywood’s Potato Patch stand had just two windows when it opened in the early 1970s. Today, guests can order the famous french fries from nine windows at three stands spread across the West Mifflin amusement park. And order they do, to the tune of 500,000 servings every year, making the fries the No. 1 food item in sales at the park. Each morning during the summer, the park gets a delivery of 8,000 pounds of Idaho potatoes (double on Saturdays). They’re terrific when simply dipped in ketchup but even tastier when smothered with a mountain of toppings; fries with bacon and cheese on top make up about half the orders. — G.M.
21Smiley cookies: Even on a bad day, these cookies made by the Homestead-based restaurant chain wear a smile. The inspiration for the sugar cookies topped with icing came from Warner’s Bakery in Titusville, Crawford County, where a young Jim Broadhurst, who is now the chairman of Eat’n Park Restaurants, would stop by to have one on his way home from school. It takes about three hours to make the cookies from start to finish. They are baked for 10 minutes and then let to cool for a half hour. A basic icing is then applied and then are let to cool again for an hour after which the eyes, nose and the signature smile are added. In addition to Eat’n Park’s Caring for Kids Campaign, the cookies are sold to raise money for the Youth Football Team and handed out at the end of the Pittsburgh Marathon and Great Race. Of the 8 million cookies made annually, nearly 300,000 are donated to community organizations, said Kevin O’Connell, senior vice president of marketing. — A.S.
22Speakeasy: To step into Speakeasy at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown, is to step back into history — specifically, the Prohibition era, when Pittsburghers had to seek out hidden gin joints and back-alley speakeasies to enjoy alcoholic beverages on the sly. The subterranean space isn’t large, but it is a gem. The curved bar lies exactly where it used to in the ’20s — tucked beneath the lobby in a stairwell, where a back staircase opens onto Oliver Avenue in case the cops come knocking. Dark and cozy, with tufted scarlet seating and retro noir wallpaper, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a classic Rob Roy, Gin Rickey or Old Fashioned. — G.M.
23Tessaro’s: You smell them blocks away, before you even enter the landmark restaurant in Pittsburgh’s Little Italy. We are talking about Tessaro’s half-pound burgers, sizzling on a hardwood grill. These beauties are hand-ground, and cooked to juicy perfection over a fragrant mix of maple, oak and cherry woods. The grain-finished burgers — made from a proprietary blend of seven meats, including brisket and shoulder — are so beloved that it’s not unusual for the restaurant to serve more than 500 of them on a busy Friday night. — G.M.
24Trax Farms: The Finleyville-based farm has consistently grown over six generations and its 150 years of existence. Today, it features 15 departments, which include a garden center, bakery, deli, wine and antiques shop, as well as homegrown fruits and vegetables. Next year, the farm will add an arsenal cider tasting room to the 85,000-square-foot property. Trax also is known for the seasonal events and festivals it holds throughout the year. From the Strawberry Festival and popular Fall Festival, which celebrated its 47th edition last month, to the Breakfast and Lunch With Santa event, and the Winter Beer Festival, which will be back for its second edition in January, the farm represents a destination getaway for families, said Sandra Hickey, advertising and marketing manager. — D.C.
25The Whaler: There are fish sandwiches, and then there’s the Whaler. Robert Wholey Co. put it on the menu in 1965, and the two-fisted feast — served at the Strip District fish market’s hot food kitchen — has been a hit ever since. There’s an entire pound of batter-dipped whiting on the sandwich, fried to a golden brown in corn oil. It’s served with your choice of homemade cocktail or tartar sauce on one of three breads: a soft roll, whole wheat or Mancini’s bread, baked fresh every day next door at Mancini’s Bakery, itself a Pittsburgh tradition since 1926. President Jim Wholey, whose grandfather, Robert Wholey, founded the market in McKees Rocks in 1912, said the store sells up to 500 Whalers a day, and four times that during Lent. And yes, you’d be surprised by how many people eat the whole thing. “People tell me all the time it’s the first thing they want when they land at the airport,” he said. — G.M.
Login Register Logout