By Matthew Hacke | Photographs by Michael Fornataro
Pierogies and Pittsburgh go together like Heinz ketchup and mustard. Whether you grew up eating the potato-filled, doughy bites, or have been to a Pirates game and watched the 5th inning “Great Pittsburgh Pierogi Race N’at,” pierogies are a fundamental part of the city’s rich food history. Pittsburgh native Gino Riccelli, owner and manager of Stuff’d, saw the perfect opportunity to bring a greater pierogi presence Downtown when a space opened up in the Cultural District. “In Downtown, the restaurant scene is such a niche market, so I was looking to create something different that would stand out,” Riccelli says. “Pittsburgh is such a pierogi town, so I knew this concept and location would be a perfect fit.”
When it came time to discuss the vision and direction for his restaurant venture, Riccelli called upon friend and colleague Trevor Getz. “I’ve known Trevor for years being in this industry,” says Riccelli. “I knew he had the culinary experience, so I called him up, showed him the space, and told him about my idea.” Getz, a Buffalo, N.Y., native, immediately resonated with Riccelli’s idea. “I’m Italian, German, and Polish, so I’ve always enjoyed cooking more homemade, traditional, family-style dishes,” says Getz, executive chef of Stuff’d. “When Gino told me about opening a pierogi restaurant, I was in. I grew up making them with my grandmother and had all of her original recipes!”
Opening its doors officially last September, Riccelli and Getz were blown away by the immediate success of the establishment. “When I was asking my friends who own restaurants around the city for advice before opening, they told me to ‘just be patient and take your time because success isn’t going to happen overnight,’” says Riccelli. “Incredibly, with Stuff’d, we almost did have an overnight success.”
Offering an array of pierogies — from savory to sweet, and fried to boiled — it is easy to see why the restaurant has taken off so quickly. “On our menu, not only do we have an extensive array of pierogies, but we’re always coming up with new ones,” says Getz. The menu includes a bite of any type of cuisine imaginable. While the restaurant’s bestselling pierogies are the cheeseburger, peach pulled pork, and potato cheese, you can also find Asian spring roll, taco, buffalo chicken, and chicken parmesan on the menu. The endless list also features dessert pierogies — if you aren’t stuffed yet! “We change up the dessert pierogies frequently to satisfy customers, but have made everything from s’mores to a cherry cheesecake option,” continues Getz.
With such a great reception, Riccelli and Getz have plans to expand both the Stuff’d menu, as well as the restaurant.
“Our next idea is to create a seafood pierogi, as well as a vegan and gluten-free menu to go along with our vegetarian option,” says Riccelli. Come mid-February, the restaurant will have a full bar and downstairs space that seats 180, in addition to its current seating and bar area. “We’ve been running out of space, especially when there are shows or sporting events happening, so the downstairs area will be a great addition,” Getz says.
For now, the duo behind Stuff’d is enjoying the process and creativity of making sure the restaurant is a must-stop spot in the Cultural District. “The motto in our logo is that we serve ‘Pittsburgh’s Comfort Food,’” Riccelli says. “Pierogies truly are a comfort food for our city, and we can’t wait to continue to go above and beyond creating dishes that our customers love.”
Stuff’d Pierogi Bar, 130 7th St., Downtown. 412.586.7041. facebook.com/stuffdpittsburgh.