Where We’re Eating in September

This month, we'll be heading to Union Pig & Chicken, Il Pizzaiolo, Chicken Latino and Smiling Banana Leaf.

American Pie

>> Of course, it’s admirable to bake your own pie — but when that’s not possible, turn to the bakery at Soergel Orchards. The expert bakers whip up some of the tastiest varieties, including Dutch apple crisp (perfect for fall!). Each pie, featuring fresh apples and sweet crumb topping, can be grabbed on the go — and later served alongside a scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream. One word: Yum!

(2573 Brandt School Road; 724/935-1743, soergels.com)  

Smiling Banana Leaf
Nestled in cozy Highland Park, Smiling Banana Leaf remains a go-to for takeout; steaming orders of curry dishes, chicken satay and Tom Yum soup can be carried out and enjoyed in the confines of one’s home. (Of course, there’s nothing wrong with dining at the small eatery.) Chef’s specials and the fresh spring rolls keep customers coming back. But one of the best aspects of this place (besides the reasonable prices) is the amazingly creamy homemade ice cream; get a scoop of coconut and mango.

(5901 Bryant St., Highland Park; smilingbananaleaf.com)

Il Pizzaiolo
Without question, the pizzas served at this beloved South Hills restaurant are some of the city’s best. The options alone are enough to make your head spin: Bianca, with three cheeses; Funghi, with wild mushrooms; and Salsicce, with fennel sausage, are just a few. Beyond the wood-fired pies (which feature top-notch ingredients), Il Pizzaiolo, a previous Best Restaurants honoree, offers fine pasta entrees. Word of advice: After you’re stuffed, head over to Enoteca, the wine bar behind the eatery, pick one of the many varietals and unwind.

(703 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon; 412/344-4123, ilpizzaiolo.com)

Union Pig & Chicken
Making his mark on the city, celebrated chef Kevin Sousa’s three East End eateries are must-visit places. No wonder then that Union Pig & Chicken’s always hopping. Serving the finest pork and chicken (beef, too), along with traditional picnic-style sides (like mac’n cheese), Sousa’s crew packs ’em in at communal-style picnic tables as upbeat tunes play in the background. Strengths include the ribs, pork shoulder and half chicken — even the cornbread is a cut above the norm.

(220 N. Highland Ave., East Liberty; 412/363-PORK, unionpgh.com)

Chicken Latino
We’ve all been there: Short on time, you search for a place to grab decent grub but can only think of fast-food options. However, Chicken Latino is known for serving up quick (and inexpensive) dishes. When placing your order, it’s hard to make a decision — the yuca fries are filling, but you may only have room for one of the moist Peruvian-style rotisserie chickens, accompanied by different sides. Once you’ve finished your meal, consider getting some flan just to end things on a sweet note.

(155 21st St., Strip District; 412/246-0974, chickenlatino.com)

Dan Bartrow  
Executive Chef/Owner, Legends of the North Shore

Culinary whiz Dan Bartrow pleases taste buds with the simple yet satisfying dishes served at his pride-and-joy eatery, Legends of the North Shore.

Personal source of culinary inspiration?
Neapolitan-style food. It has a lot to do with simplicity and good ingredients.  

Penne or spaghetti?
Actually, rigatoni and meatballs — Italian peasant food is what I like. Give me some nice meatballs and rigatoni, and I’m pretty happy.  

Go-to dish for any occasion or crowd?
Pasta primavera with vegetables that are in-season. Occasionally, I’ll even add smoked Mozzarella to the pasta to give it a unique flavor.

Tip for home cooks hoping to mirror your style?
Eat out more. Find out what they like. Start experimenting. I personally like to keep it simple — maybe a protein, three ingredients and a pasta.  

Dream chef collaboration?
Gordon Ramsay — from what I know, he makes beautiful handmade risotto and pastas. His style is similar to mine, and the challenge would be amazing.

(500 E. North Ave. 412/321-8000, legendsatthenorthshore.com)

Categories: Eat + Drink Features