Iron Born Pizza’s Strip District Restaurant Is Open

Plus, big Burrito Restaurant Group has a new concept and a second Alta Via location in the works.


Iron Born Pizza’s Strip District restaurant is now open.

Executive Chef/Owner Pete Tolman launched Iron Born in June 2017 as part of the second Smallman Galley class (he left the food hall in June of this year) and opened a small, take-out focused location in Millvale in September of 2018.

The Strip District restaurant, in the former Carhops space, will be the flagship. At the center of the menu are Tolman’s Detroit-style pizzas; there are approximately 20 varieties on the opening menu, most of which have appeared on the Smallman Galley or Millvale menus. Tolman also is introducing a Sicilian-style pie dubbed “Big Papi” in the Strip District.

Another former Smallman Galley chef, Ryan Peters, joins the crew as Iron Born’s pasta chef. Peters began dedicating himself to the craft of pasta making while sous chef at Fish Nor Fowl in Garfield. At Iron Born, he’s offering custom pasta bowls prepared from a variety of house-made pastas, sauces and toppings. The menu is rounded out with some lunchtime sandwich offerings — if the pulled pork sandwich I had on my visit is any indication, these might prove to be a low-key menu hero.

Olive Beals, formerly of Union Standard, is the restaurant’s general manager. She’s developed a menu of seven pizza-friendly cocktails, too.

I’ll have more on the much-anticipated opening in the forthcoming weeks. An opening day visit filled with “I want this. But I also want this. Or, what about this? Or … this?” menu vacillation (and an outstanding red-top pie, killer pulled pork sandwich and excellent meatballs and spaghetti dish) have me optimistic about where Tolman and team might take it.

1806 Smallman St., Strip District;


The big Burrito Restaurant Group is expanding — again. In April, the longstanding restaurant group launched Alta Via, its first new concept in 15 years. The O’Hara Township restaurant thus far has proved to be a popular success, drawing steady crowds since day one. It’s a critical one, too — Executive Chef Ben Sloan’s vegetable- and pasta-forward menu, as well as outstanding front-of-house service, have the establishment at the top of my just-published Best New Restaurants of 2019 list.

Now, a second Alta Via is in the works for McCandless, with an anticipated opening in early 2021.

“There was always an eye when we built the recipes, the menu and the concept that, if it works, we could do it in more than one location,” says Bill Fuller, big Burrito president and corporate chef.

Fuller says that the North Hills is the right destination for a second Alta Via location. “There are a lot of underserved markets outside the center of the city where people want to eat good food. If you live in one of those places, you can’t just come out to Shadyside or Lawrenceville for dinner on a Tuesday night. People often dine out more than once a week, and that want tasty food outside the city,” Fuller says.

The new space will be slightly larger than the original, with seating for 140, as well as a big bar and a pasta preparation room that will double as an event space. And, a second gelato machine. It might not be the last Alta Via, either. Fuller says, “We’ll see where it goes. If people like it, maybe there will be more of these. At the very least, we’ll have two nice restaurants.”

What is certain is that Pittsburgh will have an eighth big Burrito concept as early as September. Fuller is cagey what he’s planning on opening in a new building in lower Lawrenceville. “In broader strokes, it’ll be a little more casual than Alta Via. It’ll be quick and fun. There will be a nice wine selection,” he says.

While that’s all the big Burrito news to report now, it might not be for long. “We have some other things in our brains. We feel light, right now, there are a lot of opportunities out there. And it’s fun to do some new stuff,” Fuller says.

Categories: PGHeats