Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Primo Pizza News: Big Changes Ahead for Pizzuvio Downtown

Ron Molinaro, the dean of Pittsburgh pizza, will rebrand the location as his flagship Il Pizzaiolo restaurant.

photos by laura petrilla


Like many cities in the United States, Pittsburgh is in the midst of a craft pizza upgrade. Relatively new establishments such as Pizza Taglio, Driftwood Oven and Iron Born offer artfully constructed pies that deeply satisfy a variety of pizza cravings. One local pizzaiolo, however, has been doing that for decades: Ron Molinaro, the dean of Pittsburgh pizza.

He’s poised once again to show why he’s the big cheese.

Molinaro introduced neo-Neapolitan pizza to Pittsburgh with the 1996 opening of Il Pizzaiolo in Mt. Lebanon. He quickly established a reputation for his fastidious commitment to sourcing highest-quality ingredients, even flying in buffalo-milk mozzarella from Italy because he couldn’t find what he liked locally.

Molinaro first branched out from his original location when in 2013 he opened a second outpost of Il Pizzaiolo in Market Square with a group of outside investors. That partnership went sour, Molinaro left in 2015 and the space now operates as Pizzaiolo Primo. He and business partner Bob Wolfinger in the past few years expanded the Il Pizzaiolo brand to locations in Warrendale and Glenshaw.  

He and Wolfinger opened another Downtown venture, Pizzuvio (as well as a Caribbean concept called Pirata), last year on Forbes Avenue. Molinaro envisioned Pizzuvio as a fast-casual concept selling a lower-cost version of his Il Pizzaiolo pies as well as Italian street-food snacks such as arancini and panzerotti. It hasn’t worked out as intended. "We over-designed that place. It became unapproachable for what it was intended to be,” he says.

Molinaro is taking an 180-degree turn and will transform the 3,500 square foot space into what soon will be called Il Pizzaiolo Downtown. "It’s small enough that we can turn it into exactly what we've always wanted,” he says.

Once the building plans are approved, Molinaro will shut down for approximately two months and then reopen the location as a high-end pizzeria and restaurant. He says that everything from preparation to service will be executed at a higher level than anything he’s previously worked on.

For example, Molinaro will for the first time leaven his pizza dough with a natural starter. "I haven't implemented that anywhere before because it adds an additional level of quality-control issues,” he says.

Head baker Jodie McCann also will prepare a variety of baked goods including pane cafone, a rustic, Neapolitan country bread naturally leavened 200-year old yeast culture, as well as gricini, taralli and friselle. If all goes as planned, they will set up a small bakery to serve the entire Il Pizzaiolo portfolio. "A truly great restaurant does its own bread,” Molinaro says.

The Pizzuvio space has two wood-fired ovens (all the other locations just have one), and Molinaro plans on taking advantage of that, too — with the flexibility of temperature control Molinaro, can add roasted meats and fish such as branzino, lamb and bistecca fiorentina to what he says will be a limited menu of precisely executed dishes.

The restaurant will include a large bar with a high-end wine program, plus cocktails designed by Carrie Clayton and Spencer Warren of Subversive Cocktails (the cocktail menu currently can be previewed at the Mt. Lebanon location).

Molinaro says that diners should expect front-of-house service to be more attentive and refined than what they’ve experienced at other Il Pizzaiolo locations.  

"The intention is to throw everything we have at this place and make it the best restaurant in Pittsburgh. We want to make this our flagship. Get everything perfect here and also use this as our training facility. Hopefully, it all will trickle back to our other locations and elevate everything,” he says.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

The 400-Word Review: The Equalizer 2

An unnecessary sequel to the Denzel Washington action flick arrives for a quick beat-em-up fix.

The 400-Word Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The sequel to the 2008 ABBA musical is far from perfect, but might have enough charm to keep you on board.

You're Going to Be Upside Down a Lot on New Kennywood Coaster

Kennywood has revealed its replacement ride for “The Log Jammer” which will be located in a new portion of the park entitled “Steelers Country.”

Restaurant Review: Poulet Bleu

Richard DeShantz steps it up with a move from Downtown to Lawrenceville and shows Pittsburgh how to make French dining fun.

Pittsburgh to Host Nation’s First Black Beer Festival

Day Bracey and Ed Bailey of Drinking Partners Podcast and Mike Potter of Black Brew Culture online magazine will bring 12 black-owned breweries to Pittsburgh in August for Fresh Fest.

Coming Clean: Why We Aren't a Green City ... Yet

Pittsburgh is no longer a smoky city, but that doesn’t mean it has cleaned up its act. Pittsburgh's air quality still ranks among the worst in the nation. What steps are being taken to reduce Pittsburgh's ongoing dependence on fossil fuels?

Ultimate Comfort Food: The Joy of Dumplings

Why our dining critic thinks dumplings might be his ultimate comfort food.

Our Seven Favorite Dumplings in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, of course, is best known for the pierogi. Our love of dumplings extends beyond that, however. These seven dumplings are our favorite restaurant versions of their various styles.

The Tailor's Dumpling: Kreplach

A Pittsburgh chef and his family continue to craft a family recipe with roots in Poland.

The Pittsburgh Region's Top Dentists 2018

Our annual list, which contains 376 dentists across 11 specialities, as determined by topDENTISTS.

A Weekend Mission of Mercy in Pittsburgh

More than a thousand people come to PPG paints arena once a year for free dental care, thanks to an ambitious, all-volunteer effort.

Jump Into the River: Open Waters Beckons Strong Swimmers

It takes a strong swimmer and the right timing to dive into the three rivers. for those up to it, the difference between the pool and open water is profound.

Pirates Are Still a Long Way From a Hollywood Ending

Despite an 8-1 winning streak going into the All-Star break, the Bucs are in desperate need of a sequel, not only to win back some credibility with fans, but also to convince their owner not to sell off more pieces of the team.

National Aviary's New Renovations Make it Essential Pittsburgh

It's time to add the National Aviary to the list of local favorites you visit again and again.

PM on KD: Family City Guide 2018

PM Associate Editor Sean Collier appears on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live to discuss our Family City Guide for 2018-2019.