At Storms Restaurant, diners can customize their own pasta by picking farfalle, penne, cappellini, or linguini noodles immersed in the customer's choice of sauce, such as plum-tomato-basil cream sauce or classic marinara. Guests can dig into classic Italian eats such as veal parmesan inside a spacious, 130-seat dining room, which can comfortably host large family gatherings or the world series of musical chairs. On Thursdays, diners can pluck stuffed banana peppers and assorted starters from an appetizer buffet at the bar, which touts a robust wine list and a selection of more than a dozen beers.
Visitors to Common Plea find their culinary desires sated by elegant fare in a quiet, conversation-friendly setting. At tables swathed in starched whites, guests can sample delectable appetizers off the dinner menu, such as the clams maison with grilled lemon, which glide across palates like a citrusy hovercraft ($8), and prosciutto-wrapped scallops that tempt mouths through a seductive veil of brandy gastrique ($13). More urgent stomach pangs with reservations in hand can take the fast track towards entrees, including Roman-American regalements such as the house-made cheese ravioli crowned with tangy roasted-garlic aioli, parmesan and bomboloni ($19), or the house-made gnocchi, where pine-nut-adorned shrimp and roasted tomatoes debate neoclassicism in a bath of herbed garlic butter ($20). Fishy dishes, including the Humbolt Fog crusted fillet, which sails a pappardelle raft over an ocean of porcini mushroom demi cream ($38), and the asparagus-paired rainbow trout crab almondine ($25) round out the school of seafaring succulence.
Serving up some of Pittsburgh's best brick-oven pizza, Fat Tommy's Pizzeria fills tummies with a menu of toothsome fare. Pizzas range in size from individual slices ($2.29+) to extra-large 18-inch pies ($11.99+), with more than a dozen toppings available to add much needed topographical landmarks to vast expanses of cheese. Nine-inch baked subs such as the ultimate cheesesteak fulfill meaty cravings with rib-eye steak topped with a blend of Italian cheeses, all snuggly nestled in an Italian roll ($6.49). Vegetarian-minded diners can choose from a selection of salads, including the tossed salad, with romaine lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, black olives, onions, and cheese blended together in euphonious harmony ($4.49). Soft drinks offer chilly salve to mouths stung by hot pizza or intemperate rhetoric about Harold and the Purple Crayon's proper place in the canon ($1.69/16 oz., $1.99/22 oz.).
The resident chefs at Bella Notte Pizza Pasta and More hand-toss the pizza dough that lays the foundation for their menu of specialty pies and Italian cuisine. Diners can easily view dough-tossing displays from the dining room, allowing them to take in the scene and maintain the eye contact necessary for telekinetically willing a pizza into being. Nibble on Bella Notte’s distinctive creations, such as the tutti casa (16", $25), which sets anchovies afloat on top of zesty veggies, pepperoni, and sausage. Create-your-own-pizza menus (18", $15) set out a spread of ingredients including fresh tomato, hot peppers, meatballs, roasted red peppers, and pineapple, allowing for a democratized dining experience. Sandwiches, including the Chicago-style roast beef ($7.99) loaded with mushrooms and provolone, satisfy handheld hunger pangs.
In the most basic of terms, kitchens are places where ingredients come together to create a satisfying whole; the marriage of Pat and Brigitte Joyce, co-owners of 17th Street Cafe, proves that this pairing of complements is not always limited to the food. In 1988, Pat was starring as the café's executive chef when Brigitte joined his kitchen staff. Over their years working together, their love simmered on slow, low heat until they were finally married in 1995. Seven years after tying the knot, the couple jumped at the chance to own a piece of their shared history and took over 17th Street Cafe, which they now operate as a labor of love on many levels.
Today, two staple entrees—the pork chop au poivre and the veal with crab—are the lone holdovers from the original owners' menu. These favorites of long-time regulars join a revamped menu crafted from sustainable and organic ingredients whenever possible. Pat's current favorite—chicken- and asiago-stuffed pasta "pillows" served in an aioli sauce—exemplifies this new approach, which tends to add an innovative twist to traditional fare such as pasta, seafood, veal, and chops. Lunch also hosts a wide array of fan favorites, including the stuffed Portabella–a large mushroom cap filled with zucchini, sweet peppers, onions, carrots, artichoke hearts, domestic mushrooms, and spinach topped with asiago cheese. Chefs Ed and Lance craft creative burgers to sate midday appetites as well. Longtime patrons opt for the Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner burger, cooked to order and topped with peanut butter, a fried egg, bacon, American cheese, lettuce, and tomato.
Inside the dining space, chocolate-brown and gold walls flank dark oak tables, lending the space a Mediterranean look that has been featured in several film and jeans commercials. Location scouts aren’t the only guests to have taken notice of the delicious entrees and cool ambiance—players from the Pittsburgh Penguins can often be spotted dining on puck-sized veal cutlets at nearby tables.
Led by executive chef Greg Alauzen, the elite cuisine craftsmen at Osteria 2350 weave local ingredients and Old-World recipes into a savory menu of seasonal staples. Taste buds blossom with a bite into one of Osteria’s salads, which include a radicchio-and-endive version sprinkled with red onion and prosciutto crisp ($4) and a leafy arugula bed buoying roasted peppers and gorgonzola ($3). A flavorful antipasti plate of grilled eggplant ($2) or roasted parsnip ($3) staves off appetites and purse-snatching pasti alike. Gourmet sandwiches ($7–$8) enclose capicolla, meatballs, or marinated tomatoes within bready packages for tidy stomach delivery. Pizza partisans can dive into a lifeguard-supervised 8-inch pie, either meat-free ($5) or laden with pepperoni or sausage ($6). Diners can also sate noodle yens with pasta dishes such as the riccolina coated in truffle oil, parmigiano reggiano, and caramelized mushrooms ($10).
To reach their table at Spaghetti Warehouse, guests commonly have to step through two doors: the front door of the restaurant and the door of the antique trolley parked inside. Since its inception in 1972, the Italian eatery has merged the functions of kitchen and museum. Artifacts such as grandfather clocks, factory flywheels, and circus billboards surround diners as they delve into signature plates of 15-Layer Lasagna or hand-rolled meatballs. Apart from the items they've amassed, each of the buildings also has a particular history, from the one-time ice-manufacturing plant in Columbus to Memphis's Civil War munitions depot. Given their storied pasts, it's no surprise that several of these venues house their own ghosts—at Houston's warehouse, for example, elevator lights have been known to flicker, objects are mysteriously found in new locations, and a lady in a white gown is said to roam the restaurant.
Yet the main attraction of the place is the delicious food. Like any great Italian meal, made-from-scratch dishes are created from family recipes passed down for generations via email. Guests devour the perfectly al dente pasta, crispy calamari, bottomless soups, and 12-layer chocolate cakes while dining with family and friends. It’s that feeling of togetherness that people love about Spaghetti Warehouse, a feeling that is only enhanced when the drinks start flowing and the air is punctuated by the sounds of laughter as kids play retro games, such as The Claw prize-grabbing machine.