Where We're Eating in July
The Barleywine pretzel buns from Eliza's Oven make the perfect sliders for summer burgers.
Eliza Bowman learned kitchen basics from her grandmother. Deviating from tradition, she prefers to bake with alcohol: Her Barleywine pretzels contain East End Brewing Co.’s Gratitude Barleywine, a malt-heavy beer that gives off a bold, sweet flavor. Because the beer contains yeast, she must toy with the measurements to yield the right dough consistency. At her Pittsburgh Public Market booth, she sells snack-size pretzels that resemble buns, thus making great dunkers for soup or sliders for burgers. With advance notice, she also can make mini, full-sized and bowl varieties.
2401 Penn Ave., Strip District; 412/886-4533, elizasoven.com; photo by Laura Petrilla
Pho is filling and budget-friendly. The well-known Vietnamese staple combines slightly fatty (beef) and light (sprouts, noodles) elements. The pho chin, or brisket, and pho bo vien, with beef meatballs, consistently please. Other hits are cold shrimp rolls with peanut sauce and bowls of rice vermicelli with cucumbers and more.
2120 Penn Ave., Strip District; 412/289-7999, phovan.net
Out of the Fire Café
Ordering several small plates is advisable. Smoked salmon and hummus tastings are big on flavor but light in substance. Seared jumbo-lump crab cake is improved when you also scoop forkfuls of colorful vegetables and pesto aïoli. The cheddar-corn-scallion grits are more substantial than you’d think.
3784 Route 31, Donegal; 724/259-8887, outofthefirecafe.com
Merante Bros. Market
A one-stop shop for Italian groceries, Merante uses some of those ingredients in its beloved 6-inch high My Sister’s Sandwich. The staff saws into crusty Italian loaves to make room for a pile of capicola, salami, mozzarella, provolone, mortadella and hot or sweet peppers with greens. Italian dressing is essential for dipping.
604 W. McMurray Road, Canonsburg; 724/743-5900, merantebrothersmarket.com
Rejuvenation is a core value at this frequent stop for yogis, vegans and healthy eaters. While waiting for made-to-order juices, salads and sandwiches, enjoy complimentary infused water. The aptly named Bliss cake derives much of its flavor from sprouted wheat flour, cinnamon, cacao powder, coconut oil and palm sugar.
1506 E. Carson St., South Side; next to Amazing Yoga; 412/432-5950, amazingyoga.net
Cocktail-flavored treats are fun, especially this time of year. Staff at Cheesecake Caffe churn out the popular piña colada feature daily starting in July; one of more than 20 choices, it features hints of pineapple and coconut. For a pick-me-up, pair with a cup of espresso.
512 Main St., Irwin; 724/863-3111, cheesecakecaffe.com
Larry Lagattuta, Founder/Owner of Enrico Biscotti Co.
Larry Lagattuta credits the late Antonio Branduzzi, father of Piccolo Forno Chef/Owner Domenic Branduzzi, for leading him to the baking business and showing him the ropes. Always armed with a colorful story, Lagattuta leads Enrico’s baking classes and is in the work kitchen almost every day making offerings he enjoys, including cannoli and beignets. The company, which produces about 1,200 pounds of biscotti daily, celebrated its 21st birthday in March.
Secret to good biscotti?
I hate to get all touchy-feely, but you have to honor the ingredients . . . Biscotti is a pretty product; use ingredients that are real and true. In my estimation, you need to make it by hand so it’s truly artisanal.
Novice baker’s biggest mistake?
In mixing, adding too much water too quickly. Patience. In shaping, overflouring the board. Patience. In the baking process, not letting bread rest for a long enough period of time. Patience. In eating, eating too fast.
My favorite right now? Any pastry with Nutella in it.
Advantages of using a stone oven?
Stone is really forgiving — as old-school as you can get.
2022 Penn Ave., Strip District; 412/281-2602, enricobiscotti.com