By Andrea Bosco Stehle
From poké, to international flavors, see what we’re currently coveting — and reporting on — from chefs’ kitchens.
Poké is so hot right now!
Meaning “to slice,” poké hails from the Hawaiian islands. Once gutted, skinned, and deboned, the delicate raw fish is filleted and served, tossed with ingredients such as sea salt, seaweed, soy sauce, green onions, sesame oil, and other accoutrements. Popping up on Pittsburgh menus, poké is offered in new-school preparations like at Kaya, where Executive Chef Ben Sloan serves it with sushi rice, seaweed salad, cilantro, scallions, sesame, and pineapple (shown above). Dressed in a spicy mayo, the dish welcomes the addition of Hawaiian ham (housemade Spam) for a $1 upcharge. Hop on over to G&G Noodle Bar (formerly Grit & Grace) for Chef Brian Pekarcik’s preparation of lump crab and ahi tuna poké with avocado, celery root, sesame, and ponzu (shown at right). Add on dandan noodles with spicy ground pork, pickled mustard greens, sprouts, garlic, chili, and a soft egg, or vegetable ramen with braised daikon, crispy tofu, and baby bok choy in a hot and sour mushroom broth, for the ultimate experience. Kaya, 2000 Smallman St., Strip District. 412.261.6565. bigburrito.com/kaya. G&G Noodle Bar, 535 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412.281.GRIT (4748). gritandgracepgh.com.
All Around the World
Chefs Chaz Smith and Odette Smith-Ransome’s years of international travel have inspired the addition of new items to their worldly menus. They are introducing their own house-cured meats — corned beef from Ireland, pastrami of the middle European countries, smoked brisket of Montreal, “Jeremy’s” double-smoked ham, and “Sarah’s” lean hillbilly bacon. Dig in to Chaz & Odette’s wood-fired smoked brisket flatbread with horseradish ricotta and caramelized onion, or try a one-of-a-kind sandwich made with the restaurant’s distinctive meats. If you can’t decide, try all of them as sliders with their own unique sauces! Lunch is served Wednesday through Saturday from 12-3 p.m. Chaz & Odette is open for dinner, too, and will begin its Sunday brunch on March 20. Call 412.683.8300 for a reservation. 5102 Baum Blvd., Shadyside. chazandodette.com.
On March 6, head to Girasole for Sunday Dinner at Nonna’s — a restaurant tradition. Patti and Jimmy “Pie” Gerasole are welcoming new and loyal customers to dine on delights that will evoke happy memories of “Sundays after church” for many Italians. At 1 p.m., feast on cheese, olives, roasted red peppers, and crusty bread; cavatelli, meatballs, sausage, ribs, and braciole; salad; and gelato, pizzelle, fruits, and nuts. Homemade wine will accompany dinner as well. Executive Chef Jennifer Gerasole will recreate the meal just as Patti remembers. “We’d gather at my grandmother’s tiny house,” she recalls. “Nonna was in the kitchen — the source of the wonderful smells — stirring the ‘gravy,’ making sure there was enough for everyone.” The dinner is $60 per person and seating is limited. Call 412.682.2130 for reservations. Girasole, 733 Copeland St., Shadyside. 733copeland.com.
+ “A Special Day” — Patti and “Pie” Gerasole are set to meet Sophia Loren on March 24 in Chicago! Last September, Girasole held a dinner in honor of the Italian film actress’s birthday.
Hop To It
With Easter on March 27, a stop in My Favorite Sweet Shoppe is a must! Owner Nina Midgley and her team make all of the sweets by hand, including filled chocolate eggs in flavors like peanut butter, marshmallow, caramel, maple walnut, raspberry, Nutella, and coconut. The shop’s fresh, hand-dipped caramel apples (in 17 varieties!) make the perfect addition to every Easter basket! “Nothing we do is cookie cutter,” says Midgley. “Everything is made by hand and can be personalized for the customer.” On Sundays, the business closes for private kids parties — another sweet offering! Order online at myfavoritesweetshoppe.com. My Favorite Sweet Shoppe, 1597 Washington Pike, Bridgeville. 412.564.5416.
Welcome Wyatt Lash, the new executive chef of The Commoner! Lash has rolled out a new menu offering seasonal updates to the restaurant’s sophisticated versions of pub classics, including Steak and Ale, a twist on classic English comfort food. A Lancaster County native who has been a part of the culinary team since the restaurant opened last January, Lash understands the restaurant’s ties to the city through both its approachable style and lively vibe. “Since day one, The Commoner has been all about enhancing Pittsburgh’s already distinctive culinary culture with creative homestyle food and drink in a sociable setting,” Lash says. “I look forward to guiding that vision and continuing to bring both locals and visitors an energetic all-day spot with a menu to match.” In addition to the changes at The Commoner, its adjoining carryout locale on Strawberry Way, The Commoner Corner, will undergo a redesign and menu overhaul later this season. Expect to see a marketplace-style selection of items available through a takeout window, including sandwiches, salads, pre-made meals, smoked meats, handmade breads and pastries, and treats for your pet, all designed by Lash and his team. Plus, keep an eye out for a fully reworked menu at The Commoner this spring! The Commoner, 458 Strawberry Way, Downtown. 412.230.4800. thecommonerpgh.com.
Happy Birthday, Grande Dame
“While all hotels are interesting places, a grand hotel is a collection of lore and legend,” reads the history booklet you’ll find in the city’s busiest and most exquisite lobby, that of the Omni William Penn Hotel. Affectionately known as the “Grande Dame,” the historic hotel has a huge birthday this year, its 100th, and is celebrating in kind. On the date of its inception, March 9, the Lobby will display an extravagant birthday cake with candles to purchase for $1 to benefit Variety, The Children’s Charity, which was conceived in the lobby itself. The Terrace Room will be be celebrating all week with specials as elegant as the grand hotel: Homemade Pâté de Foie Gras on Tuesday, Seared Scallops with Oyster Plant Purée on Wednesday, and Broiled Duck with a Brie Soufflé on Friday are just a few of the delectable options. The Omni’s first 100 years have been filled with character, class, and some standout guests — JFK, for one — so here’s to 100 more. The Omni William Penn Hotel, 530 William Penn Place, Downtown. 412.281.7100. omnihotels.com/pittsburgh. — Abby Dudley
The 2nd Annual Washington County Restaurant Week returns March 7-13 with lunch and dinner specials at 25 participating restaurants. Presented by the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency, the week highlights the county’s premier dining destinations, such as Bistecca, Juniper Grill, Atria’s, Montana’s Rib & Chop House, and Bella Sera, showcasing chef-driven menus and delicious bites. The week’s festivities will kick off on March 3 at The Meadows Casino, which will feature a chef competition. The ticketed event offers guests samples and spirits, and the chance to cast their vote for the Best Dish. Meet Nemacolin Woodlands Resort’s Lautrec Chef de Cuisine Kristin Butterworth and Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery National Wine Educator Thom Horsey, too! “The response to Washington County Restaurant Week has been excellent, and we have increased the number of participating restaurants from last year,” says Jeff Kotula, president of the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency. “The response has been equally strong from sponsors and media who have agreed to partner with us.” For a complete list of participating restaurants, tickets, and details, visit WashingtonCountyRestaurantWeek.com.
In partnership with the Urban Impact Foundation, Atria’s at PNC Park will host a Gospel Brunch on March 20. Following, every third Sunday of the month, a Sunday brunch jazz performance will feature performers from local churches alongside brunch seatings at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Dine on bourbon-glazed ham, chicken tinga enchiladas, cinnamon egg roll French toast, organic eggs, and a variety of pastries. Atria’s, 103 Federal St., North Shore. 412.322.1850.
Amped and Revamped
Under Executive Chef Matt McClelland, Cioppino Restaurant Group is launching a new menu and, spoiler alert: shellfish lovers will be pleased. A new Raw Bar section includes three different seafood towers, plus a shellfish trio and a smoked salmon platter, that bring seaside fare to Pittsburgh diners. “This new menu is unlike anything that has been offered within this location previously,” says Leisa Anderson of Cioppino. Also of note, the restaurant is adding a brand new section of small plates and introducing daily specials — a fresh new delivery of top-quality ingredients. Some standouts include Roasted Half Chicken with roasted garlic and twice-fried potatoes on Mondays, and Flat Iron Goulash with black pepper egg noodles on Thursdays. Though frankly, every day deserves a visit. Cioppino Restaurant & Cigar Bar, 2350 Railroad St., Strip District. 412.281.6593. cioppinogroup.com. — A.D.