Per Your Recommendation: Severina Brings The All-Day Italian Cafe Experience to West View
The newish family-owned business offers everything from breakfast pastries to gourmet pizzas and pasta dishes.
(Per Your Recommendation is a new, regular column about the eateries you hold dear. From swanky spots and roadside diners to neighborhood gems and gotta-try food trucks, I want to taste everything the Pittsburgh region has to offer. Pub grub, ethnic cuisine, fine dining, takeout — it’s all “fare” game. Please email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Even before I opened the door to Severina Restaurant and Bar I could smell the heavenly scent of roasted garlic.
I live about a mile away from the West View joint and, on a breezy day, I’m sure I could catch a whiff of Italian food from my balcony. The familiar aroma is like an old friend inviting me to dinner.
And now I don’t want to leave.
I’m not sure why it took me so long to visit Severina, which opened in March 2021, but after hearing several of my co-workers rave about the menu, I drove over. I should’ve walked back to burn off all of the carbs I consumed.
The North Side’s Bagnato family runs the tiny eatery. Rich, the patriarch, helms the kitchen while his sons, Jonathan and Domenic, serve as head baker and sous chef/pizzaiolo, respectively. During one of my visits, their mom Kelly was busy placing fresh flowers on the tables and handing out off-the-menu appetizers like goose liver pate on bread. Sometimes daughters Emma and Maria pitch in.
With the warm atmosphere and murmur of spirited conversations taking place all around me, it felt like I was at a family gathering. Even if you’re flying solo at the full-service bar, you’re bound to make a few friends before you leave. A word of advice before you head out for an evening meal: make a reservation. There are only about 40 seats in the place.
The dinner menu changes daily based on available ingredients (in the warmer months, herbs are grown on the front patio.) A relatively small selection of items just makes it harder to choose and all but forces you to come back for more.
Appetizers during my dinner ranged from arancini — creamy fried risotto you dip in marinara sauce — to scampi and stuffed peppers. Of course, you can’t go wrong with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, balsamic and basil.
For my entree, Jonathan recommended the pasta Bolognese, making him my new best friend.
A customer at the next table oohed and ahhed when Jonathan placed the plate in front of me, along with a side salad and buttered bread. I returned the sentiment when his order of cioppino, assorted seafood in spicy tomato sauce served over pasta, arrived.
We raised our glasses in a toast to our gluttony.
The meat sauce, which could rival my great-grandmother’s recipe, clung to the broad, flat pappardelle pasta, making each bite flavorful and filling. Pair it with a nice, red wine and you’ll think you’re dining in Bologna.
I had to wave the white flag halfway through. I ate the leftovers for breakfast and think we, as a society, should normalize early morning pasta binges.
Severina, named after the Bagnatos’ ancestral village, Santa Severina, in southern Italy, opens at 7 a.m. each day for coffee, pastries and conversation. Regulars post up at a table with their laptops and affogatos.
Jonathan lives upstairs, so it’s a short commute to work. He’s up before the sunrise working on the incredible selection of Italian desserts that is available each day, ranging from tiramisu, gelato and cannoli to panettone and pignoli. Like Domenic, he grew up in the kitchen watching his parents work their culinary magic and learned the rest through reading, online tutorials and trips abroad.
His sfogliatella, a flaky, shell-shaped pastry with a sweet, custard-like filling, was a nice complement to my cappuccino.
Rich Bagnato worked at The Carlton Restaurant, Downtown, and the family owned the popular Bella Ria’s restaurant in Ross for years. They had planned on running both restaurants, but the pandemic forced them to focus on only one.
Severina, an all-day affair, similar to the cafes that dot the Italian landscape, seemed like the better option.
“We didn’t have a hard concept of what we wanted to do,” says Jonathan, who spends a month or two eating his way through Italy each year. “My brother wanted a pizzeria, my dad wanted a dinner restaurant, I wanted a cafe. Now we have all three.”
Even on a Tuesday afternoon, Severina is packed for lunch, which has a more consistent menu. I sat at the bar nursing a pint of Peroni while devouring a panini. Thick slices of homemade focaccia bread provided a nice chewy crunch to the layers of prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato, basil and balsamic. In fact, it’s one of my favorite flavor combinations. Other grilled sandwich options include meatball, Italian and roasted chicken.
“When I was in Florence, I probably ate 50 paninis in the span of a week,” Jonathan says with pride.
From the dining room, which is accented by exposed brick and dark woodwork, you can see into the bright, white kitchen. Servers hoist pizza trays above their heads and pirouette their way through the crowd to deliver the goods.
Sarah, my 13-year-old picky eater, housed an eight-cut cheese pizza by herself and then had the gall to try and steal my Italian calzone. I guess I could’ve shared because this mammoth meal weighed almost as much as she did at birth.
Next time we order takeout, I’m springing for one of the specialty pies to try and expand her cheese palate past mozzarella. How could someone not love a quatro formaggio pizza topped with mozzarella and provolone, ricotta and feta?
I can’t afford a flight to Rome right now, but it’s nice to know I can experience a little bit of la dolce vita right here in West View.
1330 Center Ave., West View. 412-939-3610; severina.menufy.com