Hungry for Something Good? Where We're Eating in August
It's the apex of summer and ice cream, more ice cream, pizza and tacos all our on our mind. Plus, we talk to hospitality consultant Will Groves.
photo by laura petrilla
Everyone's Ice Cream: Leona's Ice Cream Sandwiches
Ice-cream sandwiches soar to new heights with Katie Heldstab and Christa Puskarich’s Leona’s (named for the couple’s boxer) Ice Cream Sandwiches. The pair handcraft both the ice cream and the cookies largely from locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. Combinations such as plum paired with ginger-molasses cookies and raspberry/peach with snickerdoodle are a delight to eat in summer and beyond. Bonus: the ice cream is treated with an enzyme during preparation so it’s 100-percent lactose-free.
[Various locations; 412/709-5275, leonaspgh.com]
photo by Anna dukovich
After a long series of delays that included the installation of a new ventilation system, chef/owner Tony Giaramita and his crew at Pizza Taglio now are cooking Neapolitan- and Roman-style pizzas in a red-hot, wood-fired oven. The oven’s heat adds depth of flavor to the pizza, which already was quite good. Purists will enjoy the margarita and the pig face (guanciale, red onion, Pecorino, chili flakes), while topping-lovers should go for the Adios Anoia, a white pizza created for former Spoon chef de cuisine Dave Anoia.
[126 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty; 412/404-7410, tagliopgh.com]
I was a bit skeptical that a small, Cincinnati-based chain would bring anything close to decent Mexican food to Downtown Pittsburgh, but the sixth installment of the fast-casual restaurant does knock-up work with tacos, tortas, tostadas and more. The tacos are served on house-pressed tortillas; I particularly enjoyed the mole and cochinita pibil. Bakersfield has an excellent selection of mid- and high-end tequila and mezcal bottles, plus a solid beer list.
[940 Penn Ave., Downtown; 412/586-5024, bakersfieldtacos.com]
photo by Hal B. Klein
Ciccanti Italian Ristorante
Ever have one of those moments when you know you need to pull over and try someplace new? I was out for a drive when my overwhelming urge to find the region’s great red-sauce joints got the better of me, and I quickly pulled into the parking lot of Ciccanti Italian Ristorante on Route 51. My senses were on-point: the barley and minestrone soups, chicken Parm and lasagna all were excellent. Looking forward to going back for more.
[1206 Route 51, Clariton; 412/384-7868, ciccanti.com]
photo by adam milliron
Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream
Now that it’s the height of summer, I’m lining up (yes, there likely will be a line; yes, it’s worth waiting in it) for Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream. The ice-cream company, named for co-owner/head-ice-cream-maker Chad Townsend’s maternal grandmother, is producing wickedly delicious frozen treats. There are some year-round flavors such as salted caramel and Vietnamese coffee that I often crave, but I also love exploring the seasonal — sometimes fleeting — flavors such as strawberry and apricot-saffron.
[232 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty; 412/404-8853, millieshomemade.com
Photo by Erin Kelly
Slow & Steady: Smoke BBQ Taqueria
Smoke BBQ Taqueria opened in 2011 as a limited-seating, hole-in-the-wall joint serving mostly takeout in Homestead. In March 2015, owners Nelda Carranco and Jeff Petruso moved Smoke to a significantly bigger space in Lawrenceville but mostly kept the menu streamlined to a handful of tacos and another handful of sides. Carranco and Petruso now have added larger plates of their smoked meats to the menu, turning Smoke into a casual destination-dining experience.
[4115 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/224-2740, smokepgh.com]
Smallman Galley | Hospitality Consultant
Will Groves is a hospitality consultant who runs the beverage program at Smallman Galley in the Strip District. Prior to that, he introduced and curated beer sales to the now-closed Marty’s Market. Groves is best known in Pittsburgh for his long tenure as the beverage director of Butterjoint in Oakland.
What makes a good bar program?
What makes a good bar is hospitality, first and foremost. You can go somewhere inexpensive and have an amazing time, and you can go somewhere expensive [but] if they don’t meet your expectations with hospitality you’re going to have a bad time. Just because somewhere isn’t a place that you read about, it can still be terrific as long as they’re doing something of value for what they are.
How do you curate a beer list?
The cool thing about Smallman [Galley] is that we used all local beers. Imposing that limitation on it made things easier because you’re pulling from a limited number of breweries. At Smallman, we had four different types of food, so we wanted something that could be friendly and match with all of them. We live in an awesome beer town.
What do you want to see for Pittsburgh booze moving forward?
The biggest thing I want to see is more of what’s happening right now already; 2016 is my favorite time to be involved in the booze scene. People want to drink better beer, spirits and wine than they have in the past. The standard now is becoming that you can get a good cocktail and, even more so for beers, at neighborhood bars now. There’s a vibrant community of people in Pittsburgh making spirits and making beer, and customers in Pittsburgh want to be a participant in that community.