By Matthew Hacke | Photographs by Michael Fornataro | Art Direction by Alyssa Otto
For almost six years, SAVOY has been a Strip District staple. Its popularity and success can easily be attributed to its delicious dishes, stunning décor, and most importantly, its attentive ownership and staff. But the team wanted to ramp up its impact even more, taking time to make changes to the space and menu. At the grand reopening last year, SAVOY unveiled a space that kept its focus on its Pittsburgh roots and diner base, while continuing to attract new faces in the community.
“First and foremost, we changed up some of the décor. For example, we added soft seating and new wine racks,” says co-owner Carl Valenti. “We kept a lot of the modern features, but added more Pittsburgh-based touches, such as the Baron Batch paintings and Teenie Harris photographs. Essentially, we wanted to recenter and refocus the restaurant on Pittsburgh.”
Chuck Sanders, SAVOY’s founder, opened the restaurant as a gift to the City of Pittsburgh. “He wanted to create something that the city didn’t really offer: a space with an out-of-town vibe and the local community mixed in,” says Valenti. “The name of the restaurant came from Savoy Ballroom in New York, the first integrated ballroom in the country. So, it was not only a place where African Americans could perform, but they could actually go to network and mingle as well. It became a staple for everyone from politicians to athletes, and entertainers to business people to get together. So, that’s kind of the idea of SAVOY. It’s a place that’s fair to everyone, open to everyone, and for the community.”
Claudy M. Pierre and Rayshawn L. Pritchard, the duo behind the incredible menu, focus on American contemporary cuisine with a Southern twist. “The finishing touches on our dishes incorporate more spice and Southern themes,” says Pierre. “For instance, if you come to our Sunday brunch, we have mac and cheese, and our Brussel sprouts have a Southern inspiration to them, so to speak, with the added bacon. Those kinds of touches really give us a soul food — or food with soul — kind of feel.” The concept radiates throughout the variety of menu options, including award-winning dishes like salmon with a crab and shrimp stuffing, to barbecue and Sriracha-flavored ribs. “Most of the people that dine here are looking for that forward flavor profile and to push their palette to the next level,” says Pritchard. “So, I think that is what we’re trying to go for with our food.”
In addition to the main dining and bar area on the first floor, SAVOY also offers the V Lounge upstairs and the Owner’s Suite downstairs, each with distinct atmospheres. The Owner’s Suite allows guests to enjoy a more private dining experience. “Anyone can rent out the Owner’s Suite, but members get first pick,” says Valenti. For more of a party vibe, try the V Lounge — especially on the weekends. A DJ plays every Friday and Saturday, and the great patio area lends itself to any type of event.
Recover from a packed weekend with Sunday brunch. “Our brunch includes a chef’s table buffet that gives you a feel of what our menu consists of,” says Pritchard. “For instance, we offer a smaller version of the crab cakes that we offer on our main menu at the buffet for customers to try, in addition to fresh omelets, chicken and waffles, and French toast casserole. So, it’s a nice spread of what we offer.” Come back for Monday Night Jazz, too, where local legends like Roger Humphries, Kenny Blake, Tony Campbell, and Fred Pugh perform in the main dining room while guests partake in specialty-themed cocktails and dining options.
Fall is shaping up to be a busy time for SAVOY, as new events and menu items will be introduced. “On the first Friday of every month, we are going to be doing a live R&B late night in the main dining room from 10 p.m.-1 a.m,” Valenti says. “Menu wise, we’re going to be doing a $39 three-course meal that will feature a salad or soup option, an entrée, and a dessert. The dishes will rotate about every two weeks and are in addition to our regular menu.”
Whether pushing the menu boundaries or hosting exciting community events, the main goal of SAVOY’s mission is and always has been to keep its diners happy. “We have so many generations that walk through our door. We get to see the grandparents, the young professionals, and children,” says Pierre. “It makes our jobs more meaningful, and we are always keeping that in mind when making our meals and entertaining in this space. It’s what truly makes SAVOY unique and special.”
SAVOY, 2623 Penn Ave., Strip District. 412.281.0660. savoypgh.com.