Three's the Charm

Wild Rosemary is a small but promising new bistro in the South Hills opened by a trio of friends.



Photo by Laura Petrilla

Once upon a few months ago, three friends—Gloria Fortunato, Cathleen Enders and Lynne Bielewicz—were driving down Bower Hill Road when they unexpectedly crashed headlong into their life’s dream. As the story goes, Cathleen screeched on her breaks, turned her car around and scribbled down the “For Rent” number. That evening, she called the landlord, only to find the dream had stalled. The space had just been rented. But not for long: Happily for the trio, within 48 hours the “other party” declined the lease.

Cathleen, chief artist and designer, assumed all decorating and management of the house. Taking the role of chef was Gloria, a graduate of the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute who has a dossier that includes a 15-year stint at Café Allegro (nix that rumor that the bistro is Allegro’s offspring—it is NOT). Lynne is the baker. The business flows in her veins; she’s the granddaughter of the owners of Ziegler’s Café, formerly located across from an incline on Mount Washington.
It was June. By Sept. 30, Wild Rosemary (a moniker Cathleen and Gloria had once used as caterers) was open. Recast as a quaint little Euro-bistro, as darling as it is cozy, it’s a place where I see lots of long conversations and people falling in love.

Sunken into the hillside as if someone had used a giant shoehorn on the winding portion of Bower Hill Road that connects Bridgeville to Upper St. Clair, the tiny, flat-topped structure has had incarnations that include a pizza shop and a Dairy Queen. Today, mismatched silver, a faded-blue hutch and gas fireplace are surrounded by bright red tile. “I don’t think we ever thought of it as hard work until we laid the tile floor,” laughs Lynne. “Nearly 125 cases of slate. If we could install that, I guessed there was nothing we couldn’t do.”

With only eight tables and in spite of the foul economic weather, the place has become so busy that the team of friends currently has stopped serving lunch in an effort to take back their lives; however, they are extending dinner hours from 8 to 10 p.m., giving tables a chance to turn over. “We’re not moving up, out or wide; this is the concept we can handle,“ says Fortunato.

wild rosemary

Fede ricotta gnocchi in brown butter-sage
sauce.

To keep such a tiny spot on its feet, there are some simple house rules. For example, don’t ask for bread. Instead, Gloria makes these neat crackers, her mom’s recipe for “old-school flatbread” using semolina. The crackers are served with what constitutes an appetizer, all complimentary. This effort breaks the ice, providing time to look around and feel comfortable, as the chef sees it. And who can complain about a goat-cheese soufflé surrounded by assorted marinated olives? Or bruschetta with roasted grape tomatoes, so plump and juicy you can hardly believe there is snow on the ground.
Fortunato presides over the kitchen, responding to every request as though she were on a demanding lecture circuit. She likes clear flavors (even fresh herbs are kept at a minimum) and cares that what’s on the plate “eats well together.“ Her instincts are unaffectedly refined, changing with the seasons and what’s fresh at the market.

The New York strip was excellent, sophisticated in a stout-beer sauce laid on with a light touch, including a delicious potato gratin and glistening arugula in delightful apposition to the steak.

I have quickly become addicted to the arugula that Linda Scanlon from Paragon Monteverde brings in just for Wild Rosemary. Dark and almost fleshy, with a bite that is disguised, it reminds me that people have forgotten how to use bitter things. It’s tossed with seeded tomatoes, red onion, salt and cracked black pepper.

I recommend grilled veal medallions with sun-dried tomato butter, roman artichokes and brie. Or try any version of scallops being offered—I had them grilled with spicy saffron broth, julienned vegetables and parmesan-reggiano. Another time they were served with roasted sweet pepper and asparagus, a shallot cream sauce and spaghetti.

A French-cut pork chop is outstanding, moist and served with pommes frites, or as Gloria would say, “Vinegar on fries—hello!—what’s better?” Credit for the Fede ricotta gnocchi goes to artist and chef Steve Salvi of Fede Corp., a custom-pasta company for area restaurateurs, but Gloria makes them glisten under a brown butter-sage sauce and side of arugula.

The menu changes every other week. As the days grow longer, l look forward to grilled whole fish, spring lamb, Jerusalem artichokes, fingerling potatoes, peas, beans…. With Bedner’s Farm down the street, imagine the tomatoes.
Desserts—usually a cake, something with fruit, something with chocolate—will blow your mind. “I think you should start with dessert and only have salad if there’s room left over,” says Lynne. I was taken with a spice cake in the form of a snowball, and heard about a Black Forest cheesecake with chocolate crust lined with dried cherries; I loved the German-chocolate cake with tons of coconut.

There is something esoteric about Wild Rosemary, something intangible that I felt even before my first bite. I love the personal coffee press, the sweet service, the sense of stolen time. And how nice to return home, watch the news and a little late-night TV or an old movie, as is our custom, and not toss from an overly full belly. There might even be a slim chance of a midnight snack.


1469 Bower Hill Road, Upper St. Clair; 412/221-1232, wildrosemary.com. Tues.-Sat. 5-10 p.m.; Evening dishes: $22-$42; Dessert: $7. BYOB, major credit cards, wheelchair access, free parking, reservations strongly suggested, nonsmoking.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Watch: Scarehouse Visit is One These Steelers Won't Forget

Watch: Scarehouse Visit is One These Steelers Won't Forget

Bud Dupree, L.T. Walton, Cam Heyward and Ryan Shazier were among those on the Halloween adventure to the renowned haunted house in Etna.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
TasteBuds Is Returning To Pittsburgh

TasteBuds Is Returning To Pittsburgh

The event pairs the city's top chefs with young adults living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Underrated Fountains in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Underrated Fountains in Pittsburgh

While we all know and love the grandeur of the fountain at Point State Park, there are many hidden fountain gems throughout the city. These are a few of our lesser-known favorites.

Comments


Madness and Mayhem in the ScareHouse Basement

Madness and Mayhem in the ScareHouse Basement

Visiting the world-famous haunted attraction's adults-only, subterranean experience.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Steelers' Latest Soap Opera is Timely If Not Manufactured

Steelers' Latest Soap Opera is Timely If Not Manufactured

All of a sudden the Steelers have that us-against-the-world mentality many a team has sought to manufacture in tough times such as these.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

Robert Hallett, Goldsmith, handcrafts the jewelry in his Oakmont shop.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Celebrate the Life and Work of George Romero This Week

Celebrate the Life and Work of George Romero This Week

A preview of the week-long tribute to the late filmmaker, plus reviews and more movie news.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
The Pick of the Patch: Pumpkin-Themed Proposals

The Pick of the Patch: Pumpkin-Themed Proposals

In honor of fall, we’re showcasing three couples whose proposals involved one of the best things about the season: pumpkins.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Who's Building and Buying Tiny Homes in Pittsburgh

Who's Building and Buying Tiny Homes in Pittsburgh

With two tiny homes under construction, builder David Gould talks about Pittsburgh's growing demand for less square footage.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

School trustees voted this week to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

Comments

Edit Module

Edit Module