25 Best Restaurants in Pittsburgh: 2011

It is a pleasure to present the 25 Best Restaurants in Pittsburgh and celebrate a year that vaulted the region’s dining scene to a whole new level of sophistication.



Dining in Pittsburgh has never felt more adventurous or rewarding. Accordingly, our 25 Best list offers plenty to chew on. Even as high-profile, impressively designed new restaurants like Spoon emerged as favorites, small and modest spots like Stagioni burst into the winners’ circle.

This year’s reviews include specific dishes we loved eating during the last 12 months, with the goal of portraying the strengths of each particular kitchen. We hope you’re hungry and find our coverage as appetizing as it is helpful. Bon appétit!

Note: Our “25 Best” and Special Award winners are selected based on the anonymous dining experiences of Pittsburgh magazine’s Restaurant Review Panel and annual secret balloting. For qualifying descriptions of our annual Special Awards, visit pittsburghmagazine.com/awardrules.
 

Avenue B

Each day, new dishes are written on the chalkboard menus at this neighborhood bistro, which gives Chris Bonfili—our “Rising Star Chef” award winner last year—the chance to keep his menu fresh and fun.

From the chalkboard, we loved dishes such as a wonderful chilled-asparagus bisque with gravlox crostini; sautéed gold and red baby beets with tender baby greens in toasted walnut beurre blanc; and New York strip steak with charred-onion marmalade demi-glace.

There’s also a short paper menu (comprised of “small staple items”) that changes a few times per year and offers dishes like crispy fish and fingerling chips with Napa slaw and aïoli. At lunch, you’ll find casual options like a fresh pretzel-roll sandwich with ham and spicy mustard.

This is also a restaurant for dessert lovers: The homemade treats from pastry chef Lisa Gibbs, including a peanut-butter chocolate crunch bar with marshmallow ice cream, are downright decadent. The friendly, knowledgeable wait staff’s consistent attention to detail also adds to a positive dining experience.

Chef/Owner Chris Bonfili. 5501 Centre Ave., Shadyside. Info: 412/683-3663, avenueb-pgh.com.
 

Bado’s Cucina

Anchored by a large stone hearth, this Peters Township restaurant is the one-man show of South Hills native Sam Badolato. He adapted just about every dish on the menu—from his recipe for smoked-apple lasagne with provolone to stuffed Roman artichokes—to be cooked in his blazing wood-fired oven.

The menu is presented as small plates. Our top picks were dishes like wood-fired calamari over spicy roasted tomatoes; handmade ravioli with crawfish, mascarpone and creamy mustard sauce; juicy crispy-skinned chicken; and thin-crust pizzas with toppings like asparagus and prosciutto.

For dessert, there’s bread pudding served hot from the oven and studded with raisins, wild cherries or other seasonal fruit.

Badolato takes advantage of his rural Washington County location and snaps up fresh ingredients from nearby farms. By the fall, he plans to open a pastry shop and a wine bar next to the restaurant, although for now, it remains BYOB. Service is Wednesday through Saturday by reservation only.

Chef/Owner Sam Badolato. 3825 Washington Road, Peters Township. Info: 724/942-3904, badoscucina.com.
 

Bona Terra

As the originator of one of the area’s first authentic farm-to-table restaurants, chef Douglass Dick has seen the Pittsburgh food scene change a lot since he opened Bona Terra in 2003. Yet with even more chef-owned restaurants presenting extremely fresh, seasonal menus that change daily, his no-frills, BYOB restaurant on the north side of the Highland Park Bridge still ranks among Pittsburgh’s best.

Bona Terra excels at dishes like the boneless quail and the stellar crab cakes. For these, colossal lump crab is coated with finely ground oyster cracker dust for crispness and dressed with memorable house-made sauces such as roasted poblano vinaigrette or local peach-jalapeño chutney. Reservations, particularly on weekends, are highly recommended.

Executive Chef/Owner Douglass Dick. 908 Main St., Sharpsburg. Info: 412/781-8210, bonaterrapgh.com.
 

Casbah

Casbah is, at once, many places to many people: an inviting place to dine with family and friends; a breezy Sunday brunch spot with perfect two-seater tables; and a warm, jewel-toned lounge perfect for enjoying a cheese plate with a glass of wine.

The Mediterranean-inspired menu is versatile but innovative. Hearty, robust flavors abound in dishes like Elysian Fields Farm lamb loin served over Israeli couscous with onions, roasted peppers, Swiss chard and pine nuts. Another highlight: a classic Mediterranean fish, dorade combined with olives, capers and a fragrant romesco sauce.

The appealing wine list frequently freshens up the by-the-glass choices. Cocktails are excellent, and the wait staff is well-trained and friendly. Also, this isn’t a restaurant for skipping dessert: Delicious surprises include grilled corn ice cream during Tomato and Corn Fest (returning in mid-August), a sweet-potato tart reminiscent of pecan pie and honey-cardamom frozen mousse. —Kaitlyn Johnston

Executive Chef Eli Wahl. 229 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside. Info: 412/661-5656, bigburrito.com/casbah.
 

Cross Keys Inn

Brothers and longtime Pittsburgh restaurateurs Robert and Michael Uricchio, with the help of head chef Lia Davidson-Welling, continue to make this Fox Chapel-area spot a worthy dining destination. Housed in a charmingly restored inn and restaurant that dates back to 1850, the restaurant offers seating that includes an inviting lounge with a wood-burning fireplace, main downstairs dining room and a spacious outdoor patio with sunset views.

Everything from the breads and soups to desserts are made in-house. Must-try dishes include yellow-fin tuna carpaccio with niçoise olive drizzle, field-mushroom bruschetta with truffle oil, grilled Tasmanian salmon with wilted arugula and the great burger with pomme frites from the bar menu.

The moderately priced wine list is well-chosen, and cocktails are made with house-infused syrups and fresh juices—on a warm night, try the cucumber martinis or mint juleps with just-picked mint from the garden.

Co-owners Robert and Michael Uricchio. 599 Dorseyville Road, Indiana Township. Info: 412/967-1900, crosskeysinnpgh.com.
 

 

dinette pizza

 Dinette: Thin-crust white pizza with red onion and herbs.

Photo by Laura Petrilla

 

Dinette

Thin-crust pizza and wine are the specialties at this airy, minimalistic one-room restaurant with an open kitchen. Sonja Finn, a 2011 nominee for Food & Wine magazine’s “People’s Best New Chef” award, changes the short menu daily. It always includes a handful of starters, a couple of salads and eight unique pizzas with the freshest ingredients—in summer, the restaurant’s rooftop garden supplies arugula, herbs, tomatoes, figs and more.

Appetizers include dishes such as roasted bone marrow, grilled squid or romesco wings; the delicious Italian fritto misto ranks among our favorites. Pizza toppings range from a simple two-egg option to a savory combination of salt-cured anchovies, jalapeños, capers, fresh mozzarella and tomato.

The short dessert list offers choices like decadent chocolate pot de crème, homemade rice pudding and baklava. All of the 20-plus wines on the list are available by the bottle or glass.

Chef/Owner Sonja Finn. 5996 Penn Circle South, East Liberty. Info: 412/362-0202, dinette-pgh.com.
 

Dish Osteria and Bar

This intimate Italian restaurant perched at the end of a classic stretch of South Side rowhouses never fails to charm with its Sicilian-inspired food, warm service and late-night kitchen.

We couldn’t live without some of the dishes from the laminated regular menu—like the grilled calamari with sautéed spinach or wild-mushroom pasta—but the kitchen’s able to show us something new with the offerings included in the paper menu. Recently, we loved the spaghetti tossed with finely shaved bottarga (a hard-to-come-by type of pressed, salted and dried fish egg), olive oil, garlic, parsley, toasted breadcrumbs and oven-roasted cherry tomatoes. Also tempting was the house-made ricotta gnocchi comprised of locally sourced cheese and topped with sweet sausage ragu, fennel and pecorino.

A straightforward list of Italian wines, accommodating wait staff and simple desserts like the rich chocolate tart all hit the mark and keep the vibe unfussy and fun.

Chef Michele Savoia. 128 S. 17th St., South Side. Info: 412/390-2012, dishosteria.com.
 

Eleven

Even though the location is just a block or so shy of downtown, Eleven fits the bill for what a downtown restaurant should be: a sleek space with polished service and innovative food that always makes your meal feel like a special occasion.

The contemporary American fare is elegant, creative and delicious. Think foie gras enhanced by vanilla, rosemary and citrus confit or prime-beef carpaccio and pickled white asparagus with 25-year aged balsamic.

Yet this kitchen’s feet are firmly planted on the ground, as displayed by a satisfying dish of prime New York steak served with caramelized onions and potato-and-goat-cheese pierogie—a buttoned-up nod to one of the area’s favorite foods.
Speaking of drinks, a more-casual option is the tavern menu served in the bar, especially the outstanding charcuterie. Check the website for more about monthly benefits and other special events like the Harvest Moon dinners. —Kaitlyn Johnston

Executive Chef Derek Stevens. 1150 Smallman St., Strip District. Info: 412/201-5656, bigburrito.com/eleven.
 

Girasole

Last year, this family-owned neighborhood favorite celebrated a decade in Shadyside. The menu changes four times a year and puts a lighter spin on Italian classics while also offering hearty, traditional dishes from the family’s recipe box.

We loved dishes like potato gnocchi served in a marinara sauce with fresh mozzarella or Spaghettini (featuring locally made Fede pasta) in an aglio e olio sauce with littleneck clams and baby spinach. Daily specials include a poultry, fish and meat-of-the-day option, and make good use of seasonal ingredients—like corn and heirloom tomatoes during the summer.
Start with the memorable Girasole salad, which includes garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds, Gorgonzola and sunflower vinaigrette (yes, “Girasole” means sunflower in Italian).

The 48-seat restaurant has an intimate feel and includes a handful of tables outside during the summer—ideal seating, especially with a glass of vino from the Italian-wine list or a classic Campari and soda.

Executive Chef Jennifer Girasole. 733 Copeland St., Shadyside. Info: 412/682-2130, 733copeland.com.
 

Joseph Tambellini Restaurant

Plans are in place to expand this Italian restaurant during the summer with a pavilion-style room that will offer four-season dining and a second-story deck. That means all the more seating for patrons who love the warm, inviting service and classic fare at this white-tablecloth spot that’s co-owned by chef Joseph Tambellini and his wife, Melissa.

Each entrée comes with a seasonally inspired salad and a secondi house pasta course. The meatballs are excellent whether served in meatball parmesan or over fresh pasta made in-house. Large, satisfying dishes like lamb chops with grilled polenta also won us over.

Two seafood dishes are featured each evening among the daily specials—think grilled fish with a Sardinian-style topping of olive oil, lemon, caper and sun-dried and fresh tomatoes.

The wine list offers about 20 choices by the glass and 200 or so bottles with a focus on Italy and the West Coast (and sprinkled with additional options, like Australian and South American). Among the desserts, the butterscotch pound cake truly stands out.

Chef/Owner Joseph Tambellini. 5701 Bryant St., Highland Park. Info: 412/665-9000, josephtambellini.com.
 

 
Piccolo Forno

Piccolo Forno: Rotolo Trecolori: rolled crepes filled
with carrots, spinach and red peppers on basil and
Gruyere besuhamel.

Photo by Laura Petrilla   

Kaya

Not long ago, Kaya was a hidden gem tucked away on a street corner in the Strip District. These days, the wait-list that accumulates most evenings is a testament to executive chef Sean Ehland, a 2011 James Beard Award semifinalist who has taken the restaurant to new levels.

We're impressed by the consistency and vibrant flavors of starters like the conch fritters served with tangy tropical sauce and the crispy fish tacos on fresh Reyna’s tortillas. You can order what many consider to be the best Cuban sandwich in town along with plenty of other dishes—jerk pulled-pork quesadillas, for example—that don’t shy away from spice.

The event dinners are a highlight: Favorites include fried-chicken night on Thursdays, and the monthly vegetarian dinners are good enough to turn the biggest meat lovers into switch-hitters.

Take a seat at the island-inspired bar or on the main room’s cushy banquette, order a tall tropical drink and know you’re in good hands. —Kaitlyn Johnston

Executive Chef Sean Ehland. 2000 Smallman St., Strip District. Info: 412/261-6565, bigburrito.com/kaya.
 

Legume

Trevett Hooper, one of the area’s most committed farm-to-table chefs, plans to increase Legume’s seating capacity this summer (more than twice the current capacity) with the decision to move the restaurant from its original Regent Square location to Oakland.

Fresh, modern bistro fare and a passion for thoughtfully sourced top-notch ingredients will remain signature accomplishments for Trevett Hooper, who won our “Chef of the Year” award in 2009, and the larger kitchen space allows for an expanded menu.

Few things stay on the daily-changing menu, but the dishes that do—chicken cooked under a skillet with mashed potatoes or the chocolate-truffle cake, for example—are always good bets. Other dishes we loved this year included chilled asparagus soup, succulent lamb shank, tender veal breast and standout vegetable dishes such as a texturally stunning kohlrabi-and-turnip salad.

Legume will no longer be BYOB since the new location includes a small, old-school bar where cocktails, wine, beer and a separate bar menu will be offered. Visit the restaurant’s website to sign up for the chef’s excellent “Notes From the Kitchen” e-newsletter to find out about the latest happenings.

Executive Chef/Owner Trevett Hooper. 214 N. Craig St., Oakland. Info: 412/371-1815, legumebistro.com.
 

Nine on Nine

This upscale Cultural District restaurant offers a sleek, glass-fronted dining room; a modern American menu; and an appealing selection of wines and cocktails.

Beautifully presented tuna and mackerel tartare, creamy wild-mushroom risotto and succulent roasted duck with buttermilk mascarpone grits were some of the offerings we loved. The menu changes frequently, although some popular items—such as the lobster mac-n-cheese—are regular features.

To finish, there’s a cheese plate, homemade sorbets and ice creams or successful desserts like ricotta fritters with lemon curd and blackberry sauce.

Choices for dining include the six-course chef’s tasting menu, the three-course theater menu (available until 7 p.m.), the weekday lunch menu and a bar menu in the adjacent lounge. This summer, new features include special late-night menu offerings after 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays along with casual family-style dinners on Mondays, exclusively offering a single four-course menu (no corkage fee); check the website for details.

Executive Chef Richard DeShantz. 900 Penn Ave., downtown. Info: 412/338-6463, nineonnine.com.
 

notion

This first independent venture of one of western Pennsylvania’s most notable chefs—Dave Racicot, who was previously chef de cuisine of Lautrec, the AAA Five-Diamond restaurant at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort—opened on New Year’s Eve. Racicot presents a unique point of view through modern techniques at his intimate, 38-seat Oakmont restaurant. Look for starters and mains (four to five of each) that incorporate foams, gels and powders and use sous-vide cooking (which translates as “under vacuum” and is used for the ability to cook foods at lower temperatures along with yielding consistent results) for nearly every protein. Of course, the kitchen still makes homemade stock and much else the old-fashioned way.

We enjoyed such dishes as a gemlike beet salad with candied grapefruit, beet chips and crispy yogurt; chestnut puree with burnt onion and pumpernickel crumbs on the bottom, sour-apple jam and cider consommé; chicken with shiitake-mushroom and vermouth stuffing and celery-root puree; and Elysian Fields Farm lamb loin smoked in hay and served with roasted pine nuts and delicate red-cabbage slaw.

To finish, choose from two desserts, which may a resemble science experiments more than an average brownie sundae. The tastefully neutral decor, well-informed and professional service, and advice from sommelier Alan Uchrinscko, who is working to expand the wine list, add to the experience.

Chef/Owner Dave Racicot. 314 Allegheny River Blvd., Oakmont. Info: 412/828-7777, notionrestaurant.com.
 

Piccolo Forno

Crispy wood-fired pizzas and handmade, hand-rolled pastas are signature items at this family-owned Italian restaurant, which has a wait-list longer than 60 minutes during most weekends.

You can’t miss with classics like the Speck e Mascarpone pizza or the specials, including a pizza with smoked mozzarella, roasted cauliflower and zucchini.

We’re equally taken by the dishes that fill out the menu: We loved a velvety-smooth spicy carrot soup with just the right amount of heat, fresh spinach tagliatelle with tomato lamb ragu and the excellent lasagna. All pastas are made in-house, including the salmon ravioli with ricotta. Risottos feature seasonal ingredients, including local corn combined with peas and pancetta or shrimp and sweet peppers.

For dessert, there’s house-made tiramisù, imported gelato or specials made by chef Domenic Branduzzi’s mother, such as cherry-chocolate cake. The simple, open dining room has rustic brick and burnt-orange walls, marble-topped tables, a pizza oven at the center—and usually, a lively crowd.

Chef Domenic Branduzzi. 3801 Butler St., Lawrenceville. Info: 412/622-0111, piccolo-forno.com.
 

 
Spoon - shrimp

Photo by Laura Petrilla   

Spoon: Day boat scallops and grilled prawns with spring risotto, local ramps, fava beans, asparagus and lemon buerre blanc.

Salt of the Earth

Two years in the making and the winner of several of this year’s awards, including Best New Restaurant, Salt of the Earth has largely influenced the local dining scene since it opened nine months ago. Kevin Sousa’s unapologetic approach and chalkboard wall menu are full of surprises and veer away from the traditional dishes that predominate in Pittsburgh.

Top-notch dishes include a venison tartare with crunchy pumpernickel crumbles and roasted cashews; scallops with spicy kim chi, Brussels sprouts and rice cakes; and striped bass with enoki mushrooms, crunchy black rice and fragrant pine needle-infused dashi broth.

To finish, choose the cheese plate or the only dessert offered: White Chocolate. Drinks include wine (selection is limited but appealing), draft beer and a handful of craft cocktails.

The restaurant’s unique space includes communal tables, banquette seating and an open kitchen with a bar for dining. Reservations are only accepted for mezzanine seating, and accordingly, weekend waits at peak times run long.

Chef/Owner Kevin Sousa. 5523 Penn Ave., Garfield. Info: 412/441-7258, saltpgh.com.
 

Seviche

This longtime tapas-and-mojitos destination has expanded with new seating and mid-sized plates that should be suitable whether you’re in the mood for something light or for a sit-down dinner.

The seviche, served with homemade tortilla chips, is a specialty, and you can select your seafood and preparation style from a long list of choices—the “traditional” with fresh lime, jalapeño pepper, scallion, red onion and cilantro is a classic.
From the rest of the menu, our go-to order is the small bites, including the ahi-tuna sliders with wasabi mayo on plump little rolls or the spicy Cuban sushi roll. If a larger meal is desired, offerings include filet mignon a la plancha with roasted-corn croqueta and chipotle demi-glace or banana-stuffed pork tenderloin with dark rum glaze.

Seviche is a fun spot for late-night dining (the kitchen stays open until midnight on weeknights and until 1 a.m. on weekends) or happy hour, with its casual and colorful interior, big windows overlooking Penn Avenue and lively bar scene.

Executive Chef Max Scribner. 930 Penn Ave., downtown. Info: 412/697-3120, seviche.com.
 

Soba

In a place where not many ethnic restaurants successfully go upscale, Soba breaks the mold with its urban-Zen vibe, modern first-floor lounge, dining area with two-story water-wall and cozy upstairs deck for warm weather dining.

Chill out in the lounge’s leather seating with custom-blended cocktails (try the Bangkok Tea made with green-tea-infused vodka, fresh sours and honey-ginger syrup) and a few small plates. The menu includes just about everything you’d expect from upscale Pan-Asian: yellow-tail sashimi drizzled with wasabi oil, tuna tartare wrapped in crispy rice paper and pork dumplings with sweet vinegar sauce for dipping.

For a more formal evening, opt for a white-tablecloth dinner and choose among such spicy entrées as seared rare tuna with a crunchy sesame crust or the chili-miso black cod with barbecued pork over rice-cake noodles. Finish up with Asian-inspired desserts like cardamom beignets with coconut custard. —Kaitlyn Johnston

Executive Chef Danielle Cain. 5847 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside. Info: 412/362-5656, bigburrito.com/soba.
 

Spoon

For dinner and drinks, this handsome new restaurant that opened in the former Red Room space has sophisticated appeal. The wine list from sommelier Tobin Finegold is a winner whether you order by the glass or by the bottle.
The menu, from our “Rising Star Chef” award-winner Brian Pekarcik, offers about 10 appetizers and 10 mains, with each seasonally inspired dish available for a few weeks.

We loved dishes like the sinful bacon-and-eggs starter, with pork belly, five-minute poached egg, asparagus and hollandaise; lobster cakes with pickled-beet salad; miso-glazed butterfish with tempura prawns and braised daikon and orange-chili dressing.

The appealing dessert menu offers choices like chocolate-ganache cake for two or brioche French toast with poached pears along with inspired wine pairing suggestions. Accommodating service completes the experience.

Executive Chef Brian Pekarcik, 134 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty. Info: 412/362-6001, spoonpgh.com.
 

Stagioni

Terrific handmade Italian food comes out of the kitchen at this small, modest restaurant that’s the collaboration of chef Stephen Felder and Cara DelSignore, his girlfriend and partner whose Sicilian family hails from Pittsburgh.

Local, seasonal and sustainable aren’t just buzzwords to Felder, who works with nearby purveyors, makes his own sausage and pickles, brines and preserves galore. He also makes his own pasta, and it truly shines in dishes like fettuccine with fresh Jamison Farm lamb meatballs with arugula-horseradish pesto and roasted-red peppers or pear-and-mascarpone ravioli with seared duck breast alongside red-currant preserves.

Lunch is also memorable with such dishes as an open-face, crispy soft-shell-crab sandwich with cherry tomato and aïoli served on fresh Italian bread.

To finish, there are house-made sweets including (predictably for this neighborhood) tiramisù.

Visit for dinner—the menu changes daily and is posted online by 4 p.m.—or check out events like the monthly wine dinner, family-style Sunday Supper or Sunday brunch.

Chef/Owner Stephen Felder. 4770 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. Info: 412/687-5775, stagionipgh.com.
 

 

stagioni

Seared duck breast with Fiddlehead ferns, asparagus, peas, oyster mushrooms and spring herbs.

Photo by Laura Petrilla   

 

Tamari

This two-floor Lawrenceville hot spot, winner of our “Best New Restaurant” award last year, remains a favorite as much for its vibrant Asian-inspired food and sushi as for its great cocktails and outdoor dining (in the front courtyard or on the second-floor deck).

Small plates make up a majority of the menu—and that’s our favorite way to dine here. Favorites include the Peking-duck quesadilla with serrano hoisin, chipotle tuna tartar with yuzu crème fraîche and the crispy calamari.

The menu, which changes four times a year, also features specialty rolls and nigiri from the sushi bar, robata grill selections and eight or nine larger entrées. House-made sweets include options like Thai iced-tea-inspired cheesecake.
Service can be slightly rushed, and there’s often a long wait on weekends, but the fresh cocktail menu of reinterpreted classics gives extra appeal to a stint at the bar.

Owner Allen Chen is in the midst of planning a second location in the North Hills, with a planned opening in early fall.

Executive Chef Roger Li. 3519 Butler St., Lawrenceville. Info: 412/325-3435, tamaripgh.com.
 

Tessaro’s

Few things are more “Pittsburgh” than this legendary Bloomfield restaurant. Accordingly, a juicy burger from the kitchen simply topped with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and slice of American cheese is one of our favorite meals in town.

Everything here is done in-house—including the butchering. Burgers are grilled over a hard-wood grill, which adds to the flavor.

The vibe inside this family-owned restaurant is cozy neighborhood tavern meets busy burger joint. Squeeze into a seat at one of the denim-clad tables, dive into your dinner with a cold beer alongside, and you’ll know why this place is a comfort-food landmark.

Head Chef Courtney Mac Farlane. 4601 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. Info: 412/682-6809.
 

Toast! Kitchen & Wine Bar

Upscale comfort food and great wines await at this casual spot. The location on an industrial stretch of Baum Boulevard belies the coziness inside at tables in the casual downstairs bar or white-tablecloth upstairs dining area.

The wine list now features pours in 2-, 4- or 8-ounce sizes, which makes it easier to sample (and share) the wine list’s 60 by-the-glass choices.

Seasonal local ingredients are featured on the daily menu. We loved dishes like roasted beets with black truffles and goat cheese; mac-and-cheese with smoked local pork shank and fried egg; braised lamb with roasted potatoes; and the addictive shrimp and grits.

A few simple, satisfying desserts—a smooth chocolate pot de crème, for example—round out the menu.
For a great deal, check out Tastings Tuesdays, when 30 bucks gets you a four-course chef’s tasting menu—and an additional 20 bucks gets you thoughtful wine pairings.

Co-owners Paul Tebbets and Chef Chet Garland. 5102 Baum Blvd., Shadyside. Info: 412/224-2579, toastkitchen-winebar.com.
 

Umi

Located on the top floor of an old, unassuming Victorian in Shadyside is the best combination of dinner and a show in the entire city: The dinner is world-class Japanese cuisine. The show involves pulling up a seat at the five-person sushi bar for a front-row view of executive chef Mr. Shu, who, like clockwork, masterfully creates his art in the blink of an eye.

After munching on appetizers like tempura and edamame, pick and build your meal from the extensive list of maki, sushi and sashimi, or choose an entrée that showcases the delicate flavors and textures of seafood, such as the toro tartare with caviar.

Our favorite order is the omakase menu (which loosely means “trust the chef”), a unique multicourse meal that Shu and his chefs prepare that showcases the best ingredients available that evening. —Kaitlyn Johnston

Executive Chef Mr. Shu. 5849 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside. Info: 412/362-6198, bigburrito.com/umi.
 

Wild Rosemary

This 28-seat restaurant located in a drive-too-fast-and-you’ll-miss-it spot in the South Hills might be small, but it delivers big Mediterranean flavors.

The three friends who opened the place in 2008 take a unique approach to the menu, which changes every two weeks: The menu comprises between eight and 10 entrée selections, and each comes with sides (prices reflect this). A complimentary appetizer, such as flatbread with goat-cheese soufflé, kicks things off.

We loved entrées such as seared scallops with bucatini (locally made by Fede pasta) with crème fraîche, lemon, white wine, shallots and Parmigiano Reggiano.

The friendly service, eclectic yet charming decor and rotating homemade desserts (that always include cheesecake) add to the homey ambience of the restaurant.

Chef Gloria Fortunato. 1469 Bower Hill Road, Upper St. Clair. Info: 412/221-1232, wildrosemary.com.
 

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