By Sierra Smith | Photograph from Lidia’s Pittsburgh

Food for Thought

All the way from Kansas City, Missouri, chef Daniel Walker is taking Lidia’s Pittsburgh back to basics, with a range of menu items that exemplify his culinary thoughtfulness. “The ethos of Italian cooking is finding the best possible ingredients and cooking them in a straightforward, simplistic manner,” says Walker, who learned this lesson from the authority herself: Lidia Bastianich. And, having a lengthy professional relationship with Lidia’s — including tenure as sous chef in Lidia’s flagship restaurant, Felidia — we can trust Walker to deliver a simple yet exquisite menu, featuring traditional favorites like osso bucco and zuppa di pesce.

Beyond the physical kitchen, Walker is making sustainability a priority at Lidia’s Pittsburgh by creating beneficial ties with local farms to source the freshest and cleanest ingredients. “My focus has been finding local farms that are producing the best fruits, vegetables, pork, lamb … and at the same time, ensuring that those farms are sustainable,” says Walker. So far, he’s recruited several Western Pennsylvanian farms and a Pittsburgh-based wild forager to provide him with quality, seasonal fare. Plus, he’s working on reducing post-consumer bread waste and kitchen waste, taking another large step toward a greener future.

This summer, take a trip to the Strip to enjoy a handcrafted Italian cocktail and a dish from Walker’s hearty and flavorful menu in the spacious dining room. Or, for your next big gathering, consider the Loft at Lidia’s, a newly revamped patio and two semi-private dining spaces. The 4,000-square-foot space can house groups of 10 to 250, so whether you’re hosting an intimate get together or a wedding reception, your guests can enjoy an exclusive private dining menu in style.

Lidia’s Pittsburgh, 1400 Smallman St., Strip District. 412.522.0150.

Photograph from Christina Emilie Photography

Going Platinum

Since September 1997, Monterey Bay Fish Grotto has reigned atop Pittsburgh from its Mt. Washington home, offering delectable food and an astounding view. But according to general manager Jennifer Marshall, the restaurant’s popularity is due to more than just the stunning panorama of Downtown Pittsburgh. “In a market that has seen such dramatic changes in the food scene, we feel it is the consistent quality experiences offered to our guests that have given us such a long tenure here in Pittsburgh,” says Marshall. And what a long tenure it’s been, as Monterey Bay Fish Grotto happily celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer!

Known throughout Pittsburgh as a special occasion destination, Monterey Bay Fish Grotto is thrilled to celebrate such a large milestone with all those who’ve shared in the restaurant’s history. From intimate engagements to rousing parties, Monterey Bay Fish Grotto has seen it all. “Monterey Bay Fish Grotto is a magical place,” says Marshall, “and we look forward to continuing that magic for years to come.” This August, you can taste the magic for yourself with the special 20th Anniversary Menu, featuring new dishes crafted by executive chef Heather Deraway, plus the return of a few classic recipes including a signature shrimp cocktail.

On August 22, the City of Pittsburgh will celebrate the restaurant with a citywide recognition of Monterey Bay Fish Grotto Day, then later that night, the restaurant will host an invite-only VIP party to thank the guests who’ve supported the restaurant the most during the past two decades. “We are extremely excited to celebrate with the city we love so much,” says Marshall.

But partying isn’t the only thing Monterey Bay knows how to do. To truly thank the city, Monterey Bay will donate $10,000 to The Pittsburgh Promise, a nonprofit supporting urban students pursuing higher education. “Pittsburghers care about each other,” Marshall says. “They support each other. We feel and share their pride.”

One thing is certain: through dedication to its city and guests, Monterey Bay Fish Grotto has certainly earned its title as a seafood staple of the Pittsburgh food scene.

Monterey Bay Fish Grotto, 1411 Grandview Ave., Mt. Washington. 412.481.4414.

Photograph from Dena Serpico

Honoring an Icon

Academy Award-winning actress Sophia Loren graced the silver screen in the U.S. and Italy, garnering a reputation as an international symbol of beauty, grace, and intelligence. “In spite of her glamorous life, Sophia has remained close to her humble roots in Pozzuoli, near Naples, and has always made family and food a priority,” Girasole owner Patti Gerasole says of the “Two Women” star. “The actress, known as the most beautiful woman in the world, loves spending time in the kitchen and has written two cookbooks: ‘In Cucina Con Amore’ (‘In the Kitchen with Love’) and ‘Recipes and Memories.’”

Just after Loren turns 83 on September 20, Girasole will celebrate the birthday girl with a five-course dinner and wine on September 25 at 6:30 p.m. “We are very excited to serve up a salute to the icon and highlight recipes from her cookbook as well as tidbits from her life,” Gerasole says. “Video, music, and a birthday toast by Sophia’s biggest fan, [Girasole owner] Jimmy Pie, will complete this very special event.” Reservations are going fast! For reservations and more information, call Patti at 412.427.6952. — Rachel Jones

Girasole, 733 Copeland St., Shadyside.

A Family Tradition

Throughout the years, many outsiders have mistakenly taken the Tambellini name to signify a local chain, much like they would when seeing a Pamela’s or Primanti Bros. But a true Pittsburgh food enthusiast knows something they don’t: although the Tambellini name has been seen on many restaurants, each family member brought his or her own distinct personality to each independent restaurant and cuisine. Now, the Joseph Tambellini Restaurant is one of the last of its line, having survived the ever-changing food scene of the last decade by remaining firmly rooted in tradition.”We wanted to bring the traditional Tambellini idea back,” says Melissa Tambellini, co-owner of the Joseph Tambellini Restaurant. “Be consistent and classic, be warm and friendly. We provide fine dining in a non-pretentious atmosphere”

Despite his traditional roots, Joe is doing more in his kitchen than just cooking up plain pasta (which is all homemade, incidentally). “There are years of traditions that began in other Tambellini Restaurants that belong to our family,” says Melissa. But the couple doesn’t let convention get in the way their brand: the delightfully unexpected. Take for example Joe’s spicy provolone-and-sausage-stuffed banana peppers or the crunchy panko-breaded shrimp, both fan-favorite creations improved by an innovative twist.

The Joseph Tambellini Restaurant officially turns 10 on August 17, but be on the lookout during the end of August for an “open house” party featuring some classic Tambellini family recipes. “We’ll definitely have lots of meatballs!” says Melissa. The party will be open to the customers and neighborhood that supported the restaurant’s success throughout the years. “[Highland Park] was not a popular neighborhood,” Melissa says about the restaurant’s initial opening back in 2007. “But Joe and I had a gut feeling … we saw the potential.”

By combining their love of food with an enthusiasm for the local community, Joe and Melissa can continue their own Tambellini tradition: cooking up authentic and absolutely delicious cuisine.

Joseph Tambellini Restaurant, 5701 Bryant St., Highland Park. 412.665.9000.

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