25 Best Restaurants: 2012
From culinary heavyweights to neighborhood mainstays, these places keep us coming back.
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Photography by Laura Petrilla
There are many reasons why our city is repeatedly included in the “Most Livable City” rankings. We have culture and sports, health care and education — but what we really love are restaurants! ’Burghers are becoming more and more sophisticated, hungry for interesting food choices. Throughout the past few years, we’ve seen an explosion of talented chefs, some of whom relocated to Pittsburgh with intentions of showing their stuff.
This was the year of the small (sometimes BYOB) neighborhood restaurant: Cure, Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, Park Bruges, Root 174 and Stagioni. In larger-scale news: Legume expanded in Oakland — plus, The Porch at Schenley opened nearby. Then there are old favorites like Umi, Dish Osteria and Bar, and Toast! Kitchen & Wine Bar that deliver the goods year after year; especially distinguished in this category is the Hyeholde, celebrating its 75th anniversary (almost unheard of in the restaurant business), and (amazingly) owned by a descendent of the original owners and builders, still serving food that’s spot-on. We also look forward to the reopening of two formerly listed 25 Best Restaurants — notion and Bona Terra — in new locations this coming year.
It is with gratitude that we recognize these eateries and the hard-working, passionate people of our restaurant industry, who truly make our lives more satisfying. We salute you!
CURE / Charred ramps: ramp custard, garlic bread, aged balsamic, Taleggio lemon oil
In the midst of the bustle of city life, Avenue B is an oasis, serving inventive, satisfying dishes of upscale comfort food in a calm, handsome interior. Chef/owner Chris Bonfili uses his creative culinary talents to create a daily chalkboard menu, which supplements the printed seasonal menu and often features international accents on classic American dishes. Always worthwhile: the fresh, light seasonal salads and homemade soups; the wild-caught fish and chips with Napa slaw and malt aïoli; and the eatery’s signature Kobe meatloaf with goat cheese and chive whipped potatoes. Save room for dessert: Adam Bates and Kevin Olmstead whip up a mean White Blonde with pretzel crust, served with brule green apples — providing a nice balance of salt, sweet and tart. Within the last year, Avenue B added an option for drop-off catering services to sites in the East End — plus, Bonfili and his wife opened BGourmet, a market and eatery in Sewickley.
• Chef/Owner Chris Bonfili
• 5501 Center Ave., Shadyside
• 412/683-FOOD, avenueb-pgh.com
Exploring and expanding upon the cuisines of the Mediterranean, Casbah remains consistently fresh and interesting, year after year. Whether indoors — seated in the sophisticated yet cozy interior with amber lighting and tile and glassworks — or outside on the casual front patio, you are guaranteed excellent service and a fine meal that’s a perfect balance of rustic and refined. Special strengths are the cheese tastings, scallop appetizers, interesting pasta combinations, light and healthy preparations of fish, Elysian Fields lamb, and the very popular double-cut pork chop. More than 30 wines are available by the glass at Casbah’s chic bar, with special attention given to varieties from around the globe; the knowledgeable, friendly bar staffers are ready to help you choose the right one. Keep in mind that the restaurant’s also open for an amazing Sunday brunch.
• Executive Chef Eli Wahl
• 229 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside
• 412/661-5656, bigburrito.com/casbah
New on the scene, Cure is the direct expression of chef/owner Justin Severino’s unusual background; he trained under some of California’s finest chefs and operated his own butchery shop. Not surprisingly, his small, hip neighborhood restaurant focuses on quality meats and local veggies cooked with a Mediterranean flair. The most prized dish is the Salumi, a refined platter of housemade delights: salami Toscano, lardo, duck speck, bresaola, coppa di testa, pork terrine, chicken rillettes and duck ciccioli. Other not-to-miss dishes include the braised lamb shank and the marvelous, refined cheese platter. Part of a new breed of chefs, Severino is dedicated to “supporting ethical farming practices, humane animal husbandry, sustainability and traditional cooking techniques.”
• Chef/Owner Justin Severino
• 5336 Butler St., Lawrenceville
• 412/252-2595, curepittsburgh.com