Welcome to EAT THIS CITY, your weekly tour of the best restaurants in one of our favorite cities, as chosen by top chefs. This week, we visit Steel City, where we’ll meet a champion of Pittsburgh’s culinary scene.
They call it the City of Champions; no wonder Chef Justin Severino of Cure and Morcilla makes Pittsburgh his home. Chef Severino is a three-time James Beard Foundation award nominee for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic, and a 2015 and 2014 winner of Food & Wine‘s The People’s Best Chef Mid-Atlantic. Cure, a modern Mediterranean restaurant, opened in 2011 and hit Bon Appetit‘s Top 50 Best New Restaurants list the following year.
In 2015, Pittsburgh Magazine named Severino their Chef of the Year. That same year, he opened Morcilla, focusing on family-style Spanish cuisine and pintxos (small plates and skewered foods). Both restaurants are renowned for their excellent charcuterie plates — a small wonder, given that Chef Severino is highly skilled butcher.
Whether you dine at Morcilla or Cure, Chef Severino’s intention is to provide a meal that focuses on quality ingredients, locally sourced with pride. He’s intent on showcasing the farms and bounty of western Pennsylvania and he refuses to rest on his laurels.
Knowing that we’re in the hands of a true pro, let’s get to know Chef Justin’s favorite food throughout Pittsburgh:
Piccolo Forno serves real-deal, straight from Italy dishes using family recipes. Yeah, everyone says they use family recipes. But at Piccolo Forno , chef Domenic Branduzzi’s mother hand-makes pasta every day. Order the Asparagi e tartuffo, Dom’s egg, asparagus and truffle oil pizza. It’s a Pittsburgh must-have.
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Had a beautiful dinner after a day of traveling, unpacking, and picking up my car from being repaired! 😊👍🏽 And guess what! I sat next to the owner of Dinette, Sonja, on the plane back from SC! She was celebrating a feature in the @nytimes! Woohoo! You go, you incredible and phenomenal woman! #Pittsburgh #pizza #wine #dinner #pittsburghfood
Dinette is a bit different. There’s a strong West Coast influence. The menu is very simple. You will find nine pizzas, a few snacks like olives and fritto misto and a handful of wines by the glass. That’s it. And it’s all good.
Round Corner Cantina is located just up the street from us, and it’s a perfect neighborhood hangout. Great margaritas, great burritos and a nice patio. You leave happy and full.
Pusadee is across the street from Cure, and it’s a favorite staff meal spot. Their whole staff is from Thailand, so they shut down for two to three months a year so everyone can go back home and visit their family. It’s just a beautiful space and the food is spot on.
I hit How Lee when I am in heat seeking mode. My go-tos there are the egg foo young, dried sautéed green beans and chongqing fried dry hot chicken. We’re talking crazy hot.
Edgar Tacos is in front of Reyna Foods. The Strip District is a fun place, and this great little taco stand is located right in the heart of the neighborhood. If you want to enjoy a classic Pittsburgh neighborhood at its very best, stop by on a nice Saturday afternoon. The food is as good as the people watching.
La Gormondine is a traditional French patisserie in upper Lawrenceville. We use their baguettes at Cure for our crostini, but I also check in regularly to check out their daily pastry case. You have to show up early to grab their incredible almond croissants. They go fast. But everything is beautiful and made daily, so if you miss out on that one, it’s not much of a hardship.
Only the best quality local ingredients show up on the menu, and they do their own fermentation, pickling and infusions. All their tables are made from local re-purposed trees and designed by a Pittsburgh artist. It’s all very granola, but man do they make it work. This is a special occasion spot that you can feel good about.
Four words: Best burger in Pittsburgh.
You don’t find a lot of vegan Polish restaurants, but it makes sense that we have one in Pittsburgh, after all, their smoked potato, parsnip and turnip green pierogi is among the best in town. And we know pierogis here.
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This is a classic brunch spot in a nice, fine dining restaurant. If you want to take mom somewhere swanky for brunch, this is where you go. If you are like me and your perfect brunch is great cheese and a plate of oysters, there isn’t a better spot in town.
ICONIC FOOD OF THE CITY
“Famous Fish Sandwich” is painted on the side of their building, so you know going in this is landmark food. Truth in advertising here: it’s just a giant fried fish sandwich, but it’s something you just have to try when you are in town.
ODD CULINARY EXPERIENCE
This is a bit outside of town, but it’s worth the drive. It’s a four-seat roadside stop that’s open a couple days a week from 11 to 8. The tiny little space is covered in knick knacks and the owner treats you like a house guest, cooking authentic home-style Korean right in front of you. Their kimchee chicae, a spicy soup, is incredible.
Bigham Tavern is a local bar in Mount Washington that serves extra crispy Buffalo style chicken wings with blue cheese. No guilt, though.
This 20-seater in Squirrel Hill is ambience-free, but the service is great and you can be in and out real quick. Rich broth, good noodles, and a mix of traditional Japanese and more fusion-ey flavors – this is ramen how I like it. Plus, it’s BYOB, so if you need a little bit of hair of the dog, you can make that happen.
Owners Stephen Felder and Cara DelSignore are a great team, and Stagioni is a justifiably popular south side date spot. The intimate design, sexy lighting, Stephen’s perfect homemade pasta and Cara’s killer wine list cement it. The made-to-order, hand-pulled mozzarella is a must.
RESTAURANT RUN BY A FRIEND
Sam and Lori DiBattista are longtime friends. It’s a little drive to get to Vivo, which is in Sewickley, but the neighborhood and the restaurant are charmers. Sam and Lori are a great team, and Vivo is a restaurant any neighborhood would want to steal. Order the crispy whole chicken and explore from there.
Thank you, Chef Severino, for taking us on a culinary tour of Pittsburgh!
Stay tuned for more EAT THIS CITY — where each week we’ll feature a premier chef in a different city sharing their insider eating tips! Missed a week? Check out Cleveland, Miami, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sydney, Portland, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New Orleans, Providence, Memphis, Orange County, Boston, and Detroit.
See you next week!