The chefs at Café Vita craft a menu of gourmet Italian fare from fresh, locally purchased ingredients. Evening meals fit for two kings or four royal comptrollers can commence with Café Vita's signature appetizer, the artichoke romano, which anoints artichoke hearts in flour and egg before sautéing them into a crispy, golden shell. Ravioli pillows stuffed with portobello and porcini mushrooms are lulled to sleep in a blanket of sherry cream sauce. Much like a velvet bib worn over a freshly pressed Armani suit, the veal parmesan's marinara-and-parmesan-studded cape belies the crispness of its flour-battered surface. Diners can swap big-fish stories over a plate of sautéed calamari swimming in a linguine strewn with buoys of garlic and cherry tomatoes. A house-made dessert ends meals on a sweet note reminiscent of Mozart's unfinished Requiem for a Fumbled Twizzler.
The kitchen staff at Giuseppe's Cafe draws on the age-old culinary traditions of southern Italy using family recipes. The tasty results take form in al dente pastas, flaky fish, and succulent meats. In addition to the classics, nine signature foccacia flatbreads are smothered in everything from sausages to shrimp.
But Italian cuisine isn't the bistro's only specialty. American staples such as fish and chips and baby-back ribs are delivered to diners, who can enjoy an outdoor patio in warmer months. To foster a sense of community, this setting also hosts live entertainment at Sunday pig roasts.
More than 50 loose-leaf teas line the shelves at Iris & Ivory Teahouse & Cafe. To provide suitable pairings for these brews—which range in flavor from subtle and earthy to fruity and complex—the café serves traditional accompaniments, including quiche and made-from-scratch scones with lemon curd and devonshire cream. An array of house-made sandwiches, such as cranberry-chicken salad and roast beef with wasabi-horseradish mayo, round out the menu. The teahouse also holds special-event dinners and formal teas in its lushly appointed Iris Room.
When guests walk into the bright blue confines of Square Café, they find owner Sherree Goldstein and her friendly crew serving up smiles and steaming cups of custom-blended Kiva Han coffee. Preparing eclectic breakfast and lunch dishes, chefs crack shells for three-egg omelets, green eggs and ham with homemade pesto, and form their own housemade veggie burgers. Attentive servers endlessly refill freshly brewed ice tea and help health-savvy diners find the best menu options. Inside, colorful local artwork fuels discussions about which colors deserve to be primary, and on the sidewalk patio, diners can scan the street for signs of Square Café's vegetable-oil-powered Mercedes.
Gayot proclaimed Square Café a "vibrant eatery," describing the "generously portioned, cooked-to-order breakfast and lunch items on huge square plates." In addition to the well-crafted eats, the staff's energy and enthusiasm keep the café's sizeable crowd of regulars coming back—the manager, Kevin, even sports a Square Café tattoo as evidence.
The proudly independent family crew that runs The Pittsburgh Bagel Factory brings the same commitment to tasty food and early-rising work ethics that made their bagels a local staple to their new Craig St. location. After baking their bagels, which include everything from savory onion to multigrain wildberry, the kitchen staff puts them to work, schmearing them with cream cheese concoctions or sandwiching them with deli meats including oven-roasted turkey and kosher salami. Custom blends of eggs, morning meats, and cheese gussy up handheld comestibles, while burgers flip from sizzling grills to challah buns dressed with toppings ranging from grilled onions and mushrooms to fried eggs and peach barbecue sauce. Staff also pull shots of espresso to add to steaming mugs that vanquish sleepiness from faces.
In her bio, Margaret Harris jokes that she "may have had her first 'cup of tea' when she was only one day old." That's because Harris was raised in Poland, where tea, she writes, "is the primary household beverage." Today, she applies her training at the Warsaw Medical College to discuss the health benefits of her brews with customers at her tea-and-coffee shop, Margaret's Fine Imports. In addition to stocking more than 200 types of loose-leaf tea, from Chinese green tea to British teas such as Taylor's Yorkshire Gold tea and PG Tips, Harris completes proper tea times with German and Polish sweets, Asian-style tea sets, and napkins autographed by the Mad Hatter.