Bloomfield: Bocce, Burgers and a Killer Turkey Devonshire
Located in the heart of the East End, Bloomfield might still lay claim as Pittsburgh’s “Little Italy,” but the neighborhood today reflects a range of communities and interests.
Bitter Ends Luncheonette
Good morning, Bloomfield! You should start your day with breakfast and coffee at Bitter Ends Luncheonette (4613 Liberty Ave., tillthebitterends.com), the much-lauded, pocket-sized restaurant that takes its sourcing very seriously. You might have to wait, but the A-plus sandwiches and pastries with hyper-seasonal toppings from the restaurant’s partner farm (as well as some of the region’s other top growers) are worth waiting for. If Bitter Ends is too busy for you, pop into Azorean Cafe (4715 Liberty Ave., azoreancafe.com), a casual restaurant and cafe with dishes that are reflective of the owner’s upbringing in the Azores Islands.
Take a stroll through Friendship Parklet or check out the deck hockey, bocce courts and other sports leagues at Bloomfield Park (underneath the Bloomfield Bridge) following breakfast; if it’s summer, consider a dip in the Bloomfield Pool (pittsburghpa.gov/citiparks).
Now it’s time to do a little shopping, beginning at Merante’s Gifts (4723 Liberty Ave., merante-gifts.com), which has celebrated “all things Italian since 1983.” One of the last deeply rooted Italian businesses in a neighborhood that still (for some reason) brands itself as “Pittsburgh’s Little Italy,” the store is full of tableware, linens, gift baskets, religious memorabilia and a host of other goods. Owner Maria Merante Palmieri, a member of one of Pittsburgh’s most important Italian grocery families (her sister, Gina Merante, owns the charming Linea Verde Green Market up the block at 4619 Liberty), also offers cooking classes and reservations-only dining feasts on the building’s second floor.
Pop over to Gryphon’s Tea (4709 Liberty Avenue, gryphons-tea.business.site), where you can purchase loose-leaf tea and a selection of herbs to take home with you, or sit down and enjoy a hot or cold beverage brewed in-store. Either way, you’ll have access to a terrific variety of teas and tisanes that will make your mind and body tingle.
Alexander’s Italian Bistro
Time for lunch! Stop by Alexander’s Italian Bistro (5014 Liberty Ave., alexandersitalianbistro.com) for one of the best lasting examples of Pittsburgh’s finest original sandwich: the Turkey Devonshire.
Take a reading break and visit a bookstore; Bloomfield is home to two excellent shops. Big Idea Bookstore (4812 Liberty Ave., thebigideapgh.org) is run by an anticapitalist, anarchist collective, and the books you’ll find here represent the collective’s social values. You’ll also find a collection of zines, pins, stickers and patches. Coffee is roasted on-site, and there are occasional readings and workshops in the evenings. White Whale Bookstore (4754 Liberty Ave., whitewhale.com) has a broader, more literary focus; readers will find a selection of new and used books that range across a spectrum of genres for adults, young adults and children. The store is home to frequent readings, workshops, book club meetings and other events.
Finally, it’s time for dinner. If you’re feeling upscale, head to Station (4744 Liberty Ave., stationrestaurantpittsburgh.com), executive chef/partner Curtis Gamble’s modern American restaurant. Gamble offers flavor-forward, layered spins on familiar dishes, and he’s diligent about sourcing ingredients locally. The cocktail program at Station also is top-notch. Looking for something a little more classic? Tessaro’s American Bar & Hardwood Grill (4601 Liberty Ave., tessaros.com) has been the neighborhood’s top hamburger destination since the 1980s.