The Best New Restaurants in Pittsburgh in 2018
Our dining critic picks the eight top openings of 2018 and suggests one more to keep an eye on.
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photos by laura petrilla
Once again, it was a good year for restaurants in Pittsburgh. Among the successes in 2018 were two new establishments from Richard DeShantz and Tolga Sevdik — their most food-focused restaurants to date. Among other highlights: A restaurant in Squirrel Hill that serves food from immigrants from a remote province in northeastern China and a popular mobile pizza operation that found a permanent home in Lawrenceville. Let’s raise a glass at The Warren Bar and Burrow and Lorelei, my favorite new bars, to toast departed Avenue B, Six Penn Kitchen, Cafe Sam and Feng’s, and then another to salute the Best New Restaurants of 2018.
Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group’s first foray outside of Downtown represents a significant step-up in the group’s culinary focus. DeShantz designed the space, which opened in February, hitting all the right notes to craft a relaxing yet energized cosmopolitan space. Chef de cuisine Ryan Hart runs the day-to-day operations, overseeing Poulet Bleu’s bistro menu. I love embracing the casual French classics here. Dishes such as French onion soup, perfectly gooey cheese on the outside giving way to rich oxtail broth; mussels steamed in white wine, fennel and garlic; and trout almondine, beautifully cooked Laurel Hill trout with brown butter, capers and almonds, are among my favorites. Pair them with selections from John Wabeck’s French wine list or a vintage cocktail. Stick around for desserts by pastry chef James D. Wroblewski II, especially his chocolate souffle and pavlova.
3519 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/325-3435, pouletbleupgh.com
Neil Blazin and Justin Vetter met while working at Legume Bistro in Oakland, departing the restaurant in 2015 to open a mobile pizza operation called Driftwood Oven. In March, they opened a permanent storefront in Lawrenceville, switching from wood-fired, neo-Neapolitan pizza to pies baked in a deck oven; it landed them a spot on Bon Appétit’s 50 Best New Restaurants list. They still use a sourdough starter, crafting New York-style gas-oven pies as well as Roman-style square slices — topped with locally grown and other high-quality ingredients. Blazin, who runs the kitchen, recently expanded the menu to include sandwiches, hand pies, salads and bean dip. Service is warm, and the restaurant is family-friendly. Driftwood Oven also offers a weekly bread share featuring loaves in a variety of styles.
3615 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412/251-0253, driftwoodoven.com
Pie for Breakfast
In June, Trevett and Sarah Hooper (Legume Bistro, Butterjoint) opened the budget-friendly, leveled-up diner that I’ve been waiting for in Pittsburgh. There are, of course, both pie and breakfast at Pie for Breakfast, but you don’t have to limit yourself to what’s in the name — meat-and-three options such as meatloaf and griddled ham steaks also are delightful selections, as are many of the available side dishes. For breakfast, I recommend starting with buttermilk pancakes, which are some of the best I’ve ever had. Get an omelet, too; it’s filled with whatever is in peak season. As for the pie, I’ve been thrilled with everything I’ve tried, but the vinegar pie, an Appalachian tradition, is the most rooted in the region. Pie for Breakfast also has a wonderful bar program.
200 N. Craig St., Oakland; 412/315-7342, pieforbreakfastpittsburgh.com
Restaurant impresarios Ron Molinaro and Bob Wolfinger bring upscale Italian cuisine to Downtown Pittsburgh with Molinaro Ristorante. Here, waiters in tuxedo jackets wheel salt-crusted fish and grade-A porterhouse steaks for tableside carving, a throwback to an era when dining out was a special occasion. Pasta dishes play a starring role on executive chef Domenico Cornacchia’s menu; you can’t go wrong with any, really, and I highly recommend ordering paccheri, a hands-in-the-air magnificent dish of cylindrical pasta with Genovese sauce, a Neapolitan specialty of slow-cooked onions, veal and wine. While you’re at it, dig into a veal chop, steak or Elysian Fields lamb. The commitment to quality of ingredients shines through in simpler dishes such as tuna tartare and eggplant parmigiana, too. And here’s a nice bonus: pizzaiolo Tonino Topolino is crafting the best pizza in Pittsburgh right now; stick to the classics, and you’ll dream about his chewy, flavorful crusts as I do.
PPG Place 2, Downtown; 412/586-4599, molinaroristorante.com