An overhead shot of snacks made by Chef Alekka.
A snack spread made by chef Alekka Sweeney. Chef Alekka offers a range of classes, from technical lessons like knife skills to specialty classes featuring popular dishes and desserts — all in the comfort of your own kitchen. Photo courtesy of Chef Alekka.

There’s no question that Pittsburgh’s culinary scene is vibrant and thriving. Why not immerse yourself in the flavors by joining one of the local cooking classes hosted by Pittsburgh’s finest chefs and culinary experts?

Enrico Biscotti

2022 Penn Ave., Strip District

This small bakery has been a staple in the Strip District for 30 years. Enrico Biscotti is known for (you guessed it) huge, mouthwatering varieties of biscotti and intoxicating aromas. Beyond that, they make many traditional Italian pastries and specialty Italian breads like panettone and focaccia by hand. At Enrico’s Cafe, you can even find a true wood-fired oven pumping out classic Neapolitan pizza. 

Owned and operated by a local Italian-American family with roots in Beechview, the bakery is authentic and focuses on customary Italian cucina povera, which translates to “kitchen of the poor,” in reference to the traditional cooking techniques and recipes that originated from Italy’s rural peasant populations. The menu is intentionally simple, authentic and fresh. 

Seems easy enough, right? Wrong. Luckily, you can learn the ropes from the best of the best in one of their cooking classes.

Offered multiple times per month, the schedule includes a morning bread-making class and a Neapolitan pizza class. Enjoy a family-style brunch and house-made wine while you learn the history of bread making and then get your hands dirty making rustic Italian bread using the brick oven. 

If you’re looking to perfect your pizzas, opt for the lesson on Naples-style pizza with dough-making tips, intel on proper ingredients and even insider knowledge on how to make a conventional oven mock a brick oven to make the perfect pie at home. 

Multiple classes are offered throughout the month. Prices start at around $100.

Chef Alekka Sweeney prepares a classic Mirepoix — mixture of carrot, celery and onion that is the base for many soups — with a client. Photo courtesy of Chef Alekka.

Chef Alekka

She comes to you!

If you’d rather have the class come to you, look no further than chef Alekka. A Pittsburgh native with more than 25 years of culinary and pastry experience all over the country, Alekka Sweeney’s other passion is connecting with people. 

In a typical restaurant setting, she didn’t get to interact with guests very much, so she began teaching cooking classes to fill this void. Now you can enjoy your very own at-home chef experience. 

No matter the age or skill level of her students, Sweeney has one goal: to demonstrate new techniques, tips and skills that you can use when cooking or baking. 

She offers a range of classes, including technical lessons like knife skills to specialty classes featuring popular dishes and desserts. Try your hand at making pasta from scratch, learn the ins and outs of bagels and pretzels, or listen to your sweet tooth and make homemade candy or learn how to decorate a cake.

Sweeney lets you choose your own adventure. You can select a class from her list, take a private lesson, or even work with her to customize your vision. She also works with kids, will bring all the supplies to you, and can even offer wine or cocktail pairings. If you are looking for a personalized class experience, this is for you. 

A variety of private classes can be booked on the chef’s online calendar. Most classes start at around $75.

Crate Cooking School offers classes for kids and adults alike. Photo courtesy of Crate Cooking School.

Crate Cooking School has been Pittsburgh’s premier cooking school since 1978 offering both demonstration-style and hands-on classes. In fact, it offers more than 200 classes each year. Whether you are a novice cook or a seasoned home chef, Crate’s instructors will share their wealth of knowledge with you including techniques, tips and tricks to use in your home kitchen. 

With that many classes, they have quite a variety of lessons featuring many different types of cuisine. Their schedule typically includes Lunch & Learn demos, Basics Bootcamps and seasonal classes like September Harvest, featuring meals with butternut squash, sage brown butter, poached pears and a sparkling caramel apple cocktail. Or if you’re prepping for Super Bowl Sunday, the Tailgate Class focuses on finger foods and dips. 

And don’t forget about the kiddos. Crate has an extensive list of classes through its Cooking with Kids series, which ranges from simple sessions like Movie Night Snacks to more in-depth lessons like Sushi Making. 

Class schedules are available online with more than 25 offerings. Prices start at $75. 

A private party makes mussels with crusty bread with Chop, Wok & Talk. Photo courtesy of Chop, Wok & Talk.

Chop, Wok & Talk! has been in Pittsburgh for more than 20 years and was opened by Dorothy Tague originally as Southeast Asian Cooking School. Since then, the business has expanded to incorporate cuisine from all over the world, although the bold flavors of Asia are still highlighted. 

Tague and her staff offer classes exploring German, Argentinian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Tuscan and Thai dishes. With her extensive experience around the globe, the opportunities are endless. Each class allows you to learn about and make several different dishes to create a full meal to enjoy. Plus, it’s BYOB if you’d like to bring something to sip on as you cook. 

Rumor has it Tague is sarcastic and has a great sense of humor and likes to joke around with the groups who come through her door. It is a welcoming space where strangers typically leave as friends.  

Chop, Wok & Talk! offers classes each week on an array of topics. Private group lessons are also available. Check out their schedule online. Prices start at $90.

Learn how to make homemade focaccia bread in-person or virtually with classes from Istituto Mondo Italiano. Photo courtesy of Istituto Mondo Italiano.

For those of you who just can’t get enough Italian food, the classes at Istituto Mondo Italiano are a chef’s kiss. Mondo Italiano organizes a variety of programs such as language classes, art exhibits, concerts, intercultural exchanges, cooking demonstrations and even trips to Italy! It’s really Pittsburgh’s one-stop shop for learning about Italian culture. 

Founder Viviana Altieri was born in Rome and moved to Pittsburgh in 1993. She opened Istituto Mondo Italiano several years later and leads the cooking classes herself. She teaches participants how to create different types of pasta including tagliatelle, orecchiette, gnocchi and tortellini as well as classes on her favorite Italian street foods. And of course, dessert! Perfect your tiramisu, impress with perfect pizzelles, or learn to make a traditional frappe, a Carnevale sweet that is found all over Italy. Did I mention that you can also pull your own mozzarella?

November class schedules are now online. Check out the Regions of Italy Cooking Club, which meets monthly from September to June. Pasta classes start at $75 with dessert classes starting at $45. 

Madison Blinn is a born and raised Yinzer always on the hunt for the latest and greatest things to do, places to eat or unique adventures to go on!