25 Best Restaurants: 2010
It's a great pleasure to share with you our annual Best Restaurants issue in a year that (despite a tough economy and an unforgettable snowpocalypse) made our region's dining scene more vibrant than ever.
Bona Terra: Local dandelion and baby spinach salad with chèvre, free-range egg, bell pepper, breakfast radish and crisp bacon tossed in roasted shallot-sherry vinaigrette.
Photo by Laura Petrilla
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Avenue B *
Chris Bonfili, winner of this year’s “Rising Star Chef” award, opened this charming bistro with his wife, Jenn, last November. The menu’s freshness comes in part from presentation—each day, new dishes go up on big wall-mounted chalkboards. This is where we found the dishes we loved best, from perfectly creamy cauliflower bisque or Prince Edward Island mussels in steaming, garlicky tomato broth to meltingly tender day-boat scallops.
There’s also a short, printed menu with starters, mains and desserts (try the trio of homemade ice creams to finish). Attention to detail, from the French-press coffee delivered with timers to the consistently friendly, knowledgeable service, makes Avenue B a happy new addition to the area’s dining scene.
Chef/Owner Chris Bonfili: 5501 Centre Ave., Shadyside; 412/683-3663, avenueb-pgh.com.
This is the second year that Douglass Dick is a semi-finalist for the James Beard Award for “Best Chef” in the mid-Atlantic region—needless to say, he deserves it. His daily-changing menu presents consistently stunning food, and his unique willingness to cook off the menu for tables requesting one of his six- and nine-course dinners (weeknights preferred for this option) shows off his talent and confidence.
We loved dishes such as the potato-chive gnocchi, which might be served with braised beef Bolognese and served with rich caramelized onions and duck-leg confit sauce or even with local kielbasa complemented by sauerkraut and apples. His way with scallops is memorable, whether the dish comes with blood-orange reduction and braised kale or with an apple-bacon-sage demi-glace.
The dining room is BYOB with decor that’s strictly no-frills, but you’ll still want to call a few weeks in advance for a weekend table.
Executive Chef and Owner Douglass Dick: 908 Main St., Sharpsburg; 412/781-8210, bonaterrapgh.com.
Drawing inspiration from all over the Mediterranean but sourcing many ingredients from just miles away, new executive chef Eli Wahl is making his mark at this East End standby. Starters including the sumac-crusted sea scallops with baba ghanoush and preserved lemon oil will jump-start your palate; among the main courses, we loved the signature double-cut pork chop, Elysian Fields Farm lamb shank and tender fennel risotto with morel mushrooms.
The dining room is sophisticated with beautiful lighting, and the cozy cocktail lounge actually invites lounging; the breezy, tented patio is a great spot to share an artisan cheese plate and a bottle of vino from the well-selected list.
To do some good while you dine, check the Web site for more about the monthly benefit dinners for various city organizations.
Executive Chef Eli Wahl: 229 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside; 412/661-5656, bigburrito.com/casbah.
Cross Keys Inn *
This former hotel and restaurant built in 1850 was restored in beautiful English country style last year by the Uricchio brothers, formerly of Highland Park’s Laforêt restaurant, and won this year's “Delicious Design” award. Michael Uricchio, with the help of head chef Lia Davidson-Welling, shows his passion for quality ingredients above all, and everything from breads and stocks to desserts is made in-house.
We loved such starters as the crispy hand-rolled duck spring roll and such mains as the pan-roasted Chilean sea bass with ginger, lemongrass, shiitake mushrooms and rice noodles; for a casual supper, there’s a bar menu featuring great burgers with pommes frites or wood-fired pizzas. The list of international wines hand-picked for quality and value by Robert only adds to the appeal.
Co-owners Robert Uricchio and Michael Uricchio: 599 Dorseyville Road, Indiana Township; 412/967-1900, crosskeysinnpgh.com.
Minimalist and innovative are especially apt adjectives for Dinette, which specializes in fine thin-crust pizza and wine. Sonja Finn, a 2010 James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for “Rising Star Chef of the Year,” changes her short menu every day but always offers several starters, including two or three stellar salads and eight unique pizzas.
We enjoyed starters such as the fritto misto and the elegant grilled romaine; ditto for the 12-inch, crispy thin-crust pizzas, such as one with chorizo, Yukon Gold potatoes, Castelvetrano olives and fresh mozzarella or one with fresh, tender baby lettuce.
Refreshingly, all 20-plus wines on the list are available by the bottle or by the glass; for dessert, there’s a decadent chocolate pot de crème among other choices. The airy one-room dining space features an open kitchen and bar and sustainable architecture.
Chef and Owner Sonja Finn: 5996 Penn Circle South, East Liberty; 412/362-0202, dinette-pgh.com.