One could say that the only thing husband and wife team Mark and Mary Beth Bentz love more than cooking is their hometown of Pittsburgh. When the duo opened their pizza shop in 2006, they decided to create a space dedicated to providing quality American eats to go or while catching the night’s Steelers game. The pair man the kitchen seven days a week, packing dough into a menu full of pizzas, calzones, and hoagies. To give clients a bit more of their Pennsylvania homeland, the pair also pour pints of local Iron City beer and sell cookbooks of classic Pittsburgh recipes divided by category and the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio Rivers.
Cooks at all of the Buck’s Pizza Downtown franchise locations mix fresh dough each day and sprinkle crusts with pure mozzarella cheese. Founder Lance Benton selects the tomatoes for the sauce, which are sun ripened in the Central Valley of California and watered from springs in the high Sierra mountains. In the restaurants’ kitchens, chefs top pies with the carefully chosen, fresh-cut produce as well as barbecue chicken, aged cheddar, fresh basil, and marinated steak. They also construct pies that simulate the experience of eating a chicken club sandwich, spinach alfredo, or a bacon cheeseburger. Oven-baked buns for hoagie sandwiches brim with ham, hard salami, and italian dressing like the poetry of hungry castaways on desert islands.
Tucked behind Leinkauf Elementary School, La Pizzeria has been lauded by Press-Register food editor David Holloway as "one of the best-kept secrets" in town. He praises owner Todd Henson's balance between Italian classics—pastas with housemade sauces and calzones among them—and creative menu contributions. A list of character-inspired gourmet pizzas includes the garlic-infused Bela Lugosi and the Sherlock Holmes, a mystery order whose toppings are chosen by the chef and cooked beneath a carefully aimed magnifying glass. Strewn with white tablecloths and still-life paintings, the low-lit interior features one private table, where Henson wagers "we've had a hundred proposals of marriage … over the years."
The friendly pie purveyors at Vitolli's hand-toss New York–style pizzas in front of yearning customers who peer into the open kitchen. Customize a 14-inch or 18-inch pizza with your choice of more than 20 toppings ($10.99–$17.99), from regular toppings such as Canadian bacon and banana peppers to specialty selections ($1 extra per topping) such as artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes. A 16-inch whole stuffed “really stuffed” pizza ($27) can be filled with five or more of your favorite pizza supplements, making it an ideal way to smuggle toppings past pepperoni-sniffing dogs. The pizzeria's large menu also offers a variety of unpizzas, with the abundant array of Italian favorites including a meatball sandwich topped with marinara sauce and melted mozzarella ($5.95) and lemon-and-garlic-shrimp pasta in a crispy bacon alfredo sauce ($11.75). Supplement the feasting by flooding your gullet with a domestic bottle of brew ($2.75) or a soft drink ($1.75) that won’t challenge you to a fight for calling it “soft.”
Picklefish OldShell’s chef draws on 16 years of experience to season and sizzle pizzas, po boys, and burgers. Nibbles such as buffalo and barbecue wings or spinach-and-artichoke dip pave the way for cheesy pies such as the Great White, which spreads garlic-based sauce, fresh basil, and feta onto a crispy crust engraved with Herman Melville’s initials. Televisions flicker as diners bite into italian-sausage-and-ham-laden slices of the Big Pig or the gooey goodness of a hand-patted four-cheese burger. Bell peppers and grilled onions tickle the spine of a philly cheesesteak as live music simultaneously tickles ears on weekends.
At Papa's Pizza, a family of pie-tossing perfectionists shares its legacy with a menu of classic Sicilian recipes and New York–style pizzas. Dough artists immortalize notable descendants of shoe-shaped landmasses, adorning the Sophia Loren pie with spinach, onions, green peppers, black olives, and mushrooms ($18.99 for 14”). The Frank Sinatra croons with its quartet of savory meats ($18.99 for 14”), challenging chompers who enjoy the lighter crunch of a thin-crust cheese pizza ($13.99 for 14”, $15.99 for 18”). Other hot, made-to-order edibles include strombolis ($6.50), which marry ground beef and mozzarella in a ceremony more appetizing than a wedding held inside of a gingerbread church.
At Papa's Pizza, a family of pie-tossing perfectionists shares its legacy with a full menu of classic Italian recipes and New York–style pizza. Prep palates with an anti-pasta salad, crafted with a medley of ham, salami, pepperoni, green olives, greek olives, and provolone cheese ($6.99) before ordering one of Papa's Pizza's specialty New York–style cheese pizzas ($14.99). Pasta-lovers can feast on meat or spinach lasagna ($8.49), or try strombolis, which conceal a cache of sausage, pepperoni, ground beef, black olives, and mozzarella cheese that can be discovered by eating excavators ($7.99).