With A New Culinary Team In Place, Herky And Lisa Pollock Want To Make Ritual House A Home

Married couple Edwin and Amanda Smith are helming the front and back of the Downtown hotspot, which opened in February.
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There’s a new culinary team in charge of ceremonies at Ritual House.

Edwin and Amanda Smith now run the back and front of the house, as executive chef and general manager, respectively. The restaurant opened Feb. 26 in Downtown’s Union Trust Building, in the space once occupied by Union Standard, which closed in June 2020. Michelle and Chef Ricky Kirsop, original partners on the project with co-owners Herky and Lisa Pollock, are no longer involved. The Kirsops run Coast & Main, a stellar seafood and chophouse at The District at Monroeville Mall.

Ritual House will debut a new menu of seasonal eats in the next month featuring more vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options that showcase Ed’s creativity.

“I have a philosophy of five great ingredients,” he says. “Focus on the food and don’t cover things up with sauces or over-manipulate them.”

The Pittsburgh native learned simple, honest cooking from his grandma, who ran a catering business out of a fire hall in Reserve. Although she was Irish, she was the queen of global comfort food. Ed emulates her style with modern flair. 

In addition to Pittsburgh staples such as chipped chopped ham sandwiches, pecan balls and strawberry pretzel salad (served with a sparkler that lit up the room like a Zambelli fireworks display), guests can soon indulge in bruléed navel oranges finished with local micro greens and crumbled goat cheese and the addictive Brie Onion Jam Flatbread with whipped brie cheese, thinly sliced granny smith apples and housemade onion jam on a ciabatta crostini. Ed’s meatloaf, which uses beef and veal, has a kick to it thanks to chipotle barbecue sauce. It’s served with tomato jam on a bed of whipped Yukon gold mashed potatoes.

Pastry Chef Zoe Peckich, who trained in Italy, will appear on the Food Network’s “Summer Baking Championship,” a new seasonal competition that premieres on May 15. She battled 10 bakers from around the country for a $25,000 prize. 

The Pollocks encourage their employees to follow their dreams and bring their individual style and experience to Ritual House.

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Ed met Amanda in Washington, D.C., when they both worked for Founding Farmers

Amanda, who got a restaurant job to pay her way through medical school, fell in love with the industry and decided to stay. After a stint as managing partner and executive chef at Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, another Union Trust Building tenant, she now cares for hundreds of customers each night, making sure all of their foodie needs are met. 

The cookbooks cluttering the Smiths’ home give them an endless source of inspiration for Ritual House meals. The decor is a curated collection from the Pollocks world travels as well as their passion for Pittsburgh. 

Hanging above the central bar are 18 hand-assembled chandeliers, custom-designed furniture from Turkey, whimsical monkey wallpaper, accents from stores such as hot haute hot in the Strip District, a hall of mirrors and an installation by local artist Mia Tarducci that includes a wisteria garden and swings. 

Numerous brides have had their photos snapped at the spot, which is more feminine in its decor and clientele. 

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Lisa calls it a “sophisticated funhouse” that’s already a gathering spot for groups of women celebrating special events, conducting lunch meetings or having a happy hour drink. Ritual House will pop the cork on a champagne menu that will include flights and cocktails like Blushing Bellini with Stoli Peach, white peach puree, peach bitters, and topped with prosecco. 

Ritual House offers 18 signature cocktails and mocktails, including brunch beverages served Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. alongside Fruity Pebble French toast topped with vanilla bean ice cream, lemon meringue pancakes and crème brûlée waffles. Ed looks forward to introducing a vegan gravy option to the fresh biscuits and gravy and two paleo bowls for more health-conscious guests.  Reservations are recommended

The owners spent 18 months fine-tuning the aesthetics of the place to meet customer demand for a unique night out. They plan to add a private dining room on the second floor, which guests will be able to access directly from street level. All of this attention to detail is important to Herky, executive vice president of CBRE who recently opened Shorty’s Tap x Taco at the Waterfront with his Burgatory business partners Jerry Dilembo and Mike Hanley.

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Their HiLife Hospitality group will serve as lead design architect on a mix-used development slated to open on the North Shore in 2025. 

“There’s enormous potential for growth,” Herky says. Despite all the news about Downtown’s continuing low-office occupancy rate and concerns about crime and vagrancy, he says that “2022 was the best year for Downtown restaurants in Pittsburgh history.” 

From the food and drinks to the decor, Herky believes Ritual House offers a high-end experience minus the stuffiness you’d expect from an upscale establishment. If you look closely at the wallpaper, you’ll see monkeys knocking back cocktails and having a good time.

The Pollocks encourage you to do the same, but please don’t swing from the chandeliers.

Categories: PGHeats