Where We’re Eating in December
This month, we're being naughty and nice. Try the eggplant caponata at E2 and Enrico’s chocolate-drizzled cherry biscotti.
Enrico Biscotti Co. Cookies
Sweet and baked twice, biscotti serve as prime coffee-dunkers or indulgent mid-morning snacks. The pastries’ Italian roots are evident in the batches baked at venerable shop Enrico Biscotti Co. Cookies are hand-shaped and made with such fine ingredients as Nielsen-Massey vanilla. While several varieties are sold in store and online, Enrico’s chocolate-drizzled cherry biscotti, available in milk or white chocolate, are festive, delicious and ideal for gifting in a tin.
[2022 Penn Ave., Strip District; 412/281-2602, enricobiscotti.com; photo by Laura Petrilla]
Little E’s Pizzeria
Feel good about your decision to eat pizza: Gluten-free, vegan and organic choices await the discerning foodie here. Specialty pizza varieties run the usual gamut — Hawaiian, veggie and steak — but also include a vegan option with soy cheese, red onion, mushrooms, red sauce, peppers and olives. An indulgent offering is the pierogi pie, layered with three cheeses, bacon, onion and butter sauce. Veer off track a bit to try the grass-fed beef meatball hoagie and green-pepper ring appetizer.
[807 Highland Ave., Greensburg; 724/834-7336, littleespizzeria.com]
Savor a serving of veggies and experience chef Kate Romane’s creativity first-hand by ordering the eggplant caponata dish at E2. Plated with fried polenta, parsley and fried capers, the meal features a zing, thanks to the flavor of serrano-pepper oil. Boost your protein intake by ordering it with chicken, or eat it as is. Pair it with your favorite red wine.
[5904 Bryant St., Highland Park; 412/441-1200, e2pgh.com; BYOB; photo by Laura Petrilla]
Mia Madre Trattoria
Cream is piped through the cannoli shells just so. The right amount of Alfredo coats carefully sourced pasta. Even if you don’t witness the staff interact, you’ll know Mia Madre is a family operation; old Italian recipes have been passed down from generation to generation. Dishes with cod — including cod Romano — come highly recommended. Also consider veal Parmesan, served in the signature homemade marinara that’s worthy of slathering over crusty bread.
[649 California Ave., Avalon; 412/766-6662, miamadretrattoria.com; cash only]
Creativity mixed with tradition: It’s the perfect recipe for creations that come out of the Butterjoint/Legume kitchen — including the pierogies, which were highlighted in last month’s cover story. In general, starters sometimes serve as mere diversions from the main attraction; however, they’re worthy of the spotlight in this dimly lit haven. The pickle-and-cheese-plate options stave off hunger pangs until juicy burgers are delivered. Let the skilled bar staff choose something for you to sip.
[214 N. Craig St., Oakland; 412/621-2700, thebutterjoint.com]
Deviate from your standard soup of choice the next time you crave a bowl of piping-hot broth. Among Daphne’s rotating list of selections is the lentil variety. Entrées that pack flavor — and filling — include the gyro and beef shish-kebab platters, presented with a bulgur pilaf and a helping of vegetables. At this vegetarian-friendly spot, ingredients used often include feta, Mozzarella, tomato, bulgur, lamb, olives and basil — making Turkish- and Mediterranean-influenced cuisine even more tempting.
[5811 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside; 412/441-1130; BYOB]
Jacob Mains, chef/founder | The Farmer’s Table
A stint on a private farm allowed Jacob Mains to evaluate his connection to the farm. His involvement with Mott Family Farm inspired him to establish The Farmer’s Table to provide others with a chance to experience — and taste — that lifestyle. Mains’ dinner-event series travels to various local farms, showcasing his personal style via dishes that contain homegrown ingredients. He’s firming up his 2014 schedule but plans to have as many as eight open-air gatherings.
Advantages of farm dinners?
The list is so long. There are so many reasons people and farms benefit. They’re magical to experience — to learn about the farm, [community-supported agriculture] and how to create produce.
Favorite weeknight meal?
Being really busy, I don’t cook much. I’m a very simple person — so roasted chicken or curry. I’m a one-pot person at home; [I aim to use] the least amount of dishes possible.
Top offbeat farm crop?
Husk cherries, or ground cherries. If you roast them, they taste more like toffee. They’re probably my favorite things to work with.
Stance on vegetarian menus?
Our meals are vegetable-focused; [there’s a] heavy portion of vegetables. We’ve had meat eaters finish all that was on their plates. I enjoy a balance on the plate.