Most of the action in Pi Coal Fired’s kitchen centers on the oven. At 900 degrees, it imparts a smoky, charred flavor to everything from the Neapolitan-style pizzas to the chicken wings and calzones. This flavor pairs well with the chefs' sauces and ingredients, from the San Marzano tomato sauce to the fresh mozzarella, romano, and olive oil sprinkled on every pie. The chefs tend to stick to traditional Italian combinations, using spiced sausage, roasted red pepper, and a variety of cheeses to create simple yet satisfying plates. These pies are served along with other classics such as hand-pressed paninis, offering guests a chance to experience the true essence of Europe without roasting baguettes over a burning gondola.
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.
Blue Line Grille accomplishes a rare feat by combining the electric atmosphere of a lively sports bar with a sleek layout and upscale cuisine. Diners can catch a Penguins game while they nosh on specialty pizzas, mahi-mahi, and filet mignon, or simply stick their head out the window to hear the roar of the crowd from the adjacent CONSOL Center. High-backed wooden booths and a lengthy bar framed by TVs offer plenty of comfortable seating, as does Blue Line Grill's Sin Bin—a VIP penalty box that seats up to 20.
Visitors to The Common Plea will find their stomachs satisfied by elegant fare in a quiet, conversation-friendly setting that complements the surrounding legal district with its courtly aura. Exquisite chandeliers cast light upon the restaurant’s green-carpeted and wood-paneled interior, the walls of which are decorated with old-fashioned paintings, including one that asks you for the Gryffindor password. At tables clothed in starched whites, guests can sample delectable appetizers such as the lunchtime zucchini frites with Caesar salad ($8) or a plate of Mediterranean-style tapas ($10) including hummus, pita bread, baba ghannouj, Greek salad, and grape leaves. At dinner, clams maison with grilled lemon ($8) glide across tongues like a citrusy hovercraft, and prosciutto-wrapped scallops ($13) tempt mouths through their seductive veil of brandy gastrique.
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.
Buon Giorno Café serves up fresh, homemade, and upscale Italian breakfast and lunch fare to famished downtown workers and hopelessly hungry romantics alike. A small breakfast menu offers a tasty break with veggie-stuffed frittatas ($5.50), fresh pastries ($1.25–$4.75), and caffeine-infused coffee creations ($.85–$3). The daily lunch menu rotates house-made dishes, unique to each location, every giorno. Permanent lunch staples such as the antipasto salad ($8.25), pasta ricotta ($8), and Italian hot sausage sandwich ($6.75), are stuffed full of imported Italian specialty foods.