Produced + Written by Andrea Bosco Stehle • Photographs by Michael Fornataro • Styling + Art Direction by Samantha Casale + Jason Solak
Join fellow Pittsburgh foodies for Chef’s Best Dish on Tuesday, November 10! You can expect admirable culinary masterminds and a slew of delectable dishes for tasting at the Circuit Center & Ballroom in South Side. From 5:30-8:30 p.m., sample top creations from Pittsburgh’s best restaurants, then vote for your favorites in the following categories: Best Seasonal, Best Presentation, Best “Pittsburgh,” Best Dessert, and Best Overall. Sponsored by Dollar Bank, IKEA Pittsburgh, and Fortunes Gourmet Coffee, the event will also feature a cash bar; samplings from Beam Suntory, Inc. and Blue Diamond Vodka; juices, nut milks, and health shots from GreenLight Juice; and other giveaways. We are looking forward to good vibes, great company, and the best dishes! Get a taste of what to expect in our behind-the-scenes video.
For tickets, visit whirlmagazine.com/bestdish.
[Special thanks to All Occasions Party Rental and LOOM Exquisite Textiles ]
Alihan’s Mediterranean Cuisine
Alihan’s Mediterranean Cuisine Chef Dogan Soylemez was invited from Turkey to bring authentic specialties, Adana Kebab and Adana Beiti Kebab, with him. Adana is lamb minced finely by hand and tossed with crushed red hot pepper, parsley, garlic, and other spices. The Turkish delicacy is grilled and served with grilled vegetables, and a salad of onion, pomegranate juice, sumac, parsley, and olive oil. For dessert, we recommend the restaurant’s homemade baklava!
Asiatique Thai Bistro
Asiatique owner and Executive Chef Ling Robinson wants to send a message to our readers on how fun it is “to cook a good and healthy prepared meal.” She plates beautiful North Atlantic salmon, harvested off the coast of Scotland, with olive oil, red curry sauce, steamed red pepper and broccoli, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, and fresh cilantro and basil. “The color is beautiful and it tastes great. These ingredients are staples in Thailand.”
Atria’s Murrysville Executive Chef Michael Davis serves his sautéed veal medallions with a nice sear on top of Granny Smith apples, which are also caramelized in brown butter. Dressed in an apple brandy sauce, his dish is served with a sweet potato dauphinois, sage breadcrumbs, fried sage leaves, and asparagus. “It’s my favorite time of year to cook,” says Davis. “It’s great to be inside on those nice cold days.” The chef of 22 years enjoys using upscale, in-season, “homey” ingredients. “It’s a great time to be a chef.”
Our staff agrees that Executive Chef Giuseppe Di Gristina’s encrusted lamb rack is some of the best we’ve ever tasted. He breads the “versatile protein” with seasoned breadcrumbs and lemon, then serves it over a celery root mash. Inspired by a dish his family made on his most recent trip home to Sicily, he tops the lamb with a Bing cherry brandy demi. “I don’t like to stick to consistent recipes; I like to manipulate them,” he says. In tune with Italian trends, he keeps up with “nuova cucina.” Trending now? All things pistachio, he says.
With Executive Chef Les Murphy leading the charge, Bigham Tavern has increased its brunch sales by nearly 50 percent in the last year and a half! Expected to roll out by the start of the new year, a menu worthy of the restaurant’s high brunch demands is being created. Get a sneak peek of what’s to come with Murphy’s Mesquite Honey Bourbon-Glazed Pork Waffle Sliders, served with two over-easy eggs. The waffle batter is a sweet combination of orange zest, crumbled bacon, and powdered sugar! “It’s exciting because the industry has grown so much in the last few years, and chefs are getting the notoriety and exposure that I think we all deserve,” says Murphy. “I’m excited to be a part of one of the spokes of the wheel.”
Braddock’s Pittsburgh Brasserie
You can always count on Braddock’s Pittsburgh Brasserie Executive Chef Jason Shaffer to serve piping hot, French-style food. His Blanquette de Veau warms the soul with veal tenderloin in a demi-glace, served with Delta Grind cheddar grits, oyster mushrooms, rainbow carrots, cipollini onions, and peas. “Food is art,” he says. “When you do this dish right, it’s outstanding.”
BreadWorks co-owner Fred Hartman has been providing Pittsburgh restaurants with rolls, loaves, and more for 36 years. “Born and bread,” the business has witnessed the industry shift its focus to trendier foods — even the use of brioche versus a traditional bun, says Hartman. Here, he plates offerings like the knot roll, Asiago ciabatta, sesame horn, rustic flute, and eppi (front); and walnut raisin, rustic sourdough, rustic sticks, pumpernickel, and ciabatta (back).
Using seasonal herbs from their garden, owner/Chef Ricci Minella and Chef Jonathon Tryc create herb- and bacon-infused sausage meatballs served over bourbon-glazed apples, braised cabbage, and crisp bacon. They top the dish with a homegrown sage salsa verde and pomegranate glaze for a delicious reminder of fall. Coming in 2016, Minella and Tryc have plans for a brick and mortar location in Heidelberg. “Seeing the versatility of restaurants that are popping up and successful right now shows that the Pittsburgh community wants a modern flair on food we’re familiar with,” says Minella.
Though Cafe io owner and Chef Jeff Iovino rebranded five years ago, he absolutely did not remove his popular Fish Tacos from the menu! The Pittsburgh-style treat, made with fries and artisan slaw, is a traditional favorite at the Beverly Road restaurant. He uses flounder as “it’s an ideal, light whitefish and easy to work with,” he says. “After years in this industry, I have a restored pride in being a chef,” he says.
Chaz & Odette
Co-owner and Chef Chaz Smith of Chaz & Odette focuses on well-rounded comfort food. His love of adventure and travel lend themselves to the recipes he creates. “I pick a destination based on its food,” he says. Having been to places like Thailand, India, Korea, Japan, Cambodia, and Portugal, Smith’s wanderlust memories kick off his creativity. This season, the restaurant’s menu, themed “Harvest,” features traditional ratatouille, made with roasted eggplant, zucchini, and peppers. For a “richer, homier,” element, Smith melts Gruyère over the top and pairs it with a roasted, charred crostini. Co-owner and Chef Odette Smith-Ransome will also be whipping up her Cauliflower Grilled Cheese and her Chocolate Decadence Cake for our event!
Executive Chef Michael Campbell makes Ditka’s Da Pork Chop with a 20-ounce Berkshire pork chop. “It’s got a lot of fall fruits and flavors in there, and we do a nice sweet potato with a maple brown sugar sauce inside of it,” he says. Campbell’s dish screams seasonal with the addition of apples, dried apricots, and cherries in a Michigan cherry jus. “I get excited for the season’s flavors, desserts, and accompaniments,” says Campbell, who entered the industry as a teenager working at Eat’n Park. “The creative aspect of being a chef pushed me,” he says.
D’s Six Pax & Dogz
As WHIRL Account Executive Jaime Mullen says, “Let’s give thanks for D’s Franks!” This month and for Chef’s Best Dish, D’s famous Franksgiving dog is making its return, but with a new spin. Executive Chef Corey Flesse whips up his Franksgiving Sliders with potato rolls, smoked turkey sausage, garlic cheddar mashed potatoes, turkey stuffing, gravy, sweet corn, and cranberry sauce for garnish. “This dish has the spirit of D’s,” says Flesse. “It’s American classic with a modern spin. We serve veggie and seitan-style hot dogs, and down-to-earth food.”
A product of playing in the kitchen, Girasole Executive Chef Jennifer Gerasole whips up our cover star and a fan favorite — pumpkin and butternut squash ravioli with pancetta, walnuts, and sage in a brown butter sauce. She attributes serving dishes with one-of-a-kind ingredients to customers’ increased education. “The food scene has a lot more energy to it,” she says. “Great vibes.” Girasole sources its products from high-quality purveyors in New York City and local purveyors like Steve Salvi of Fede Pasta.
Ibiza Chef Mark Nascimento has added a traditional Spanish tortilla to his menu. Featuring roasted potatoes, caramelized onions, eggs, chives, parsley, salt and pepper, and tomato concasse, the dish is finished with a roasted garlic aioli. “Cooking is definitely a passion for me,” says Nascimento, who started cooking with his grandmother at 10 years old. “My favorite part is the creativity, especially in Mediterranean cuisine.”
Jimmy Wan’s Executive Chef Aki Lee was born in Taiwan, trained in Japan, and led the kitchen at Megu in New York City before coming to Pittsburgh. His unique Crazy Tuna Roll is comprised of spicy tuna and avocado, topped with seared, peppered tuna and mango. He uses a special technique to hand-chop fried taro root for a crispy finish. “This dish represents his style, creativity, and pairing of flavors, not to mention his tremendous background,” says owner Jimmy Wan. “It’s a fantastic time to be in this industry.”
Chicken Street Tacos is one of the most popular choices on the appetizer menu at Juniper Grill. Executive Chef Nicholas Bell stuffs corn tortilla shells with rotisserie pulled chicken breast; cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses; fire-roasted tomato sauce; slaw made of cabbage, jalapeño, and cilantro; and salsa verde. He tops them with pico de gallo and cotija cheese. “People want fresh and light, but full-bodied flavors,” says Bell. Mission accomplished!
“I love being a chef in Pittsburgh’s growing food scene,” says Kaya Executive Chef Ben Sloan. He crafts his Alligator Chorizo Tacos with cabbage and carrot slaw, made with mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, sugar, and lemon juice. “It’s delicious; it tastes like chicken,” laughs Sloan. On November 18, and the third Wednesday of each month, he’ll host an ever-popular vegetarian and vegan tasting. And on Thursdays, stop by for fried chicken and a Caribbean cocktail!
Get your fill of Executive Chef Nicole Neely’s Wild Boar Ravioli, filled with wild boar shoulder, rosemary-infused butter, mirepoix, pancetta, and citrus. A proud female chef, Neely studied under the instruction of celebrity chef and owner Lidia Bastianich. “It’s hard to be a female in this business,” says Neely. “Lidia is such an inspiration. She recently cooked for Pope Francis!” Enjoy Neely’s dish in the newly remodeled restaurant, complete with a Carrara marble bar. The private dining space has been expanded, too.
McCormick & Schmick’s
Executive Chef Flavio Garcia loves to serve Wild Alaskan halibut. “It’s one of the most sought after types of fish in the summer and early fall,” he says. In his seasonal preparation, he pan-sears the fish, then serves it with a Moroccan cous cous, Jamaican butter, and a red beet coulis. In the starch, you’ll find squash and cranberries, which make for a tasty surprise. The Downtown location was recently remodeled to cater to its upscale clientele. “We love the restaurant competition right now,” says General Manager David Marrotti. “It helps us improve. We’re constantly upgrading our game.”
PAN Executive Chef Josh Ross has created an eclectic Asian fusion menu, currently featuring this popular dish. The Kurobuta pork belly, which comes from Berkshire pig, is Szechuan-braised and served with a butternut squash purée. Finished with a braising reduction, he garnishes the dish with pickled red onion and heirloom grape tomatoes. And, at the restaurant, it’s served with fried, steamed buns!
Paris 66 Executive Chef Larry Laffont incorporates his hometown of Bordeaux in his cooking, of course. He plates his rack of lamb with au gratin potatoes, tomatoes with breadcrumbs, and French green beans with a roasted garlic rosemary sauce. “I love to explore all kinds of kitchens, and mix it up and fuse my dishes with French twists,” he says. “I’ve been in Pittsburgh for 16 years, and I love it. It’s a wonderful city.”
Owner and Executive Chef Matt Bournias whips up his Pastitsio, or Greek casserole, with pasta noodles, cinnamon-seasoned ground beef, tomato and hot harissa sauce, and whipped béchamel. “This was one of my favorites before I could even chew,” he says. “My Yia Yia made the best Pastitsio I could remember, and I’ve been morphing it as the years go on.”
Piccadilly Artisan Yogurt
Using certified organic milk and cream from grass-fed Guernsey cows, Piccadilly Artisan Yogurt owner Lyl Rose makes fresh-from-the-farm frozen yogurt in a range of flavors. She even serves four vegan varieties, made with organic coconut milk! Here, she swirls Pumpkin Spice and Creamy Cheesecake with toppings of pecans and mini cheesecake bites. At Chef’s Best Dish, Rose will be serving up made-to-order frozen treats using an ultra-cold churning process that uses the magical properties of liquid nitrogen to make the frozen treats in about 90 seconds. “This results in the creamiest texture and richest, most intense flavor,” Rose explains. Taste for yourself with made-to-order samples in maple pumpkin spice, Ghirardelli Café Mocha, strawberry balsamic ice cream, and sweet cream flavors.
Soba Executive Chef Dustin Gardner is serving Chilean sea bass in a different way — on skewers. He discovered the concept at a Japanese restaurant in New York City recently, and it struck a chord with his interest in dressing up street food. He grills the skewers in a miso and saki marinade with chive and lemon. “It’s a very progressive time right now,” says Gardner. “It’s competitive, but we’re all supporting each other.”
Executive Chef Curtis Gamble strikes a chord of nostalgia with his new menu at Station — especially with his dish of smoked cured pork loin, roasted pork belly, sprouted mung beans, smoked onion purée, and barbecue carrots. “We really like the idea of conveying backyard barbecue flavors in a different way,” says Gamble. This “local stop for food and libations” was recently named one of Pittsburgh’s eight hot new restaurants on Zagat.com. “We have been really humbled by the response so far,” he says. “We are presenting humble ideas in a very exciting way. Beef tongue is one of our best sellers. I think the sky’s the limit for Pittsburgh food right now.”