25 Best Restaurants: 2012
From culinary heavyweights to neighborhood mainstays, these places keep us coming back.
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DINETTE / The pizza created at Dinette, such as the Sorrel (pictured), will force you to change your opinion of the popular staple.
Don’t let the word “pizza” fool you. Dinette makes magnificent pies that are worthy of any fine-dining restaurant. Chef/owner Sonja Finn was a semi-finalist for the James Beard “Rising Star Chef of the Year” award in 2009 and 2010. Her pizza features a thin, crispy crust with topping combinations that range from the classic basil, Mozzarella, tomato and fresh ricotta to the roasted Brussels sprouts with sage, red onion and fresh Mozzarella. The soups and salads are intensely flavorful, with a lovely contrast of flavors, colors and textures — such as the soft-baked egg served on arugula with grilled farm bread. Despite its urban setting, the restaurant has its own rooftop garden that provides tomatoes and herbs when in season. The interior is bright and clean, with shades of orange, white and aluminum. Dinette offers a pleasurable mix of casual and decadent.
• Chef/Owner Sonja Finn
• 5996 Penn Circle South, East Liberty
• 412/362-0202, dinette-pgh.com
Housed in an historic saloon dating back to 1885, Dish has been a Pittsburgh favorite since it opened in 2000. Offering a warm and inviting atmosphere, the bar and the small dining room are always packed. The dinner menu boasts a Sicilian emphasis, with daily specials like the carpaccio with organic arugula and Parmigiano Reggiano, simply accented with lemon and extra-virgin olive oil. Or the classic fettucini with portobello, shiitake and cremini mushrooms, with spinach, garlic and olive oil. The perfect bistro food might be the grilled ribeye steak with sautéed spinach, pan-roasted Yukon gold potatoes, prosciutto and sage. Pair these dishes with a nice glass of Italian red wine and the sincere service, and you will leave Dish feeling satisfied and relaxed.
• Chef/Owner Michele Savoia
• 128 S. 17th St., South Side
• 412/390-2012, dishosteria.com
Eleven is a great spot for a business lunch, a special occasion or a relaxing meal with out-of-town guests; it offers superior food in a stylish environment, neither too formal nor too casual, but with a hip, sophisticated balance. Open for lunch, Sunday brunch and dinner, the menu changes regularly but always lists delightful options like raw oysters, beautifully prepared duck and lamb, and an assortment of fresh seafood (including salmon and black cod). The rich house-made desserts are among the best in the city, exhibiting nifty flavors and textures — for example, the chocolate-peanut-pretzel candy bar, a brownie with peanut brittle and milk-chocolate peanut-butter ice cream. Eleven also has a large bar and an extensive wine collection that serves various preferences and price points. Their monthly dinners offer more than just great fare; the events benefit local and national charities.
• Executive Chef Derek Stevens
• 1150 Smallman St., Strip District
• 412/201-5656, bigburrito.com/eleven
Celebrating its diamond jubilee this year (and still owned by the daughter of the original owners and builders!), Hyeholde is a destination for fine dining and special events, like the many picturesque weddings that have taken place within its glorious walls. The building was constructed in the 1930s to resemble a castle, set on four acres of gardens, lawns and stone paths. Inside, you can enjoy American food with a French influence, while taking pleasure in the crackling fire, large wooden beams, slate floors, stained-glass windows and tapestries. Start with the signature sherry bisque soup — then follow it with something special, like New Zealand elk with mushroom bread pudding and heirloom beets in a bordelaise sauce or the pan-seared trout with fingerling potatoes, capers, tomatoes and olive oil. Chef’s table, Hye tea and picnic menus are available at certain times. Look for a series of anniversary events in October to commemorate the restaurant’s 75th year in business.
• Executive Chef Jim Brinkman
• 1516 Coraopolis Heights Road, Moon Township
• 412/264-3116, hyeholde.com