Congratulations to those who wisely chose not to eat directly from the recent snow accumulations. You have proven yourselves evolutionarily superior to those who perished and will now be rewarded with another week of exciting Pittsburgh food news.
Allegro Hearth opening vegan restaurant
The owner of Squirrel Hill’s Allegro Hearth Bakery (you know, where Rosenbloom’s Bakery used to be, like, 25 years ago) has signed a lease to take over the space at 5202 Butler Street in Lawrenceville and will open a vegan café there this spring.
The café will feature a full-service espresso bar—minus, we’re guessing, real milk from cows—baked goods and a café offering up an array of both American food and savory pastries during breakfast, and a mix of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean-style foods for lunch and dinner.
The yet-to-be-named café, which will take the place of the recently closed Mauramori Café, will serve coffee from local roaster Commonplace.
Bread and Salt open in Bloomfield
After months of eager speculation, Rick Easton opened his Bread and Salt Bakery last Friday at 330 Pearl Street in Bloomfield. Easton, who’s been a mainstay on the local food scene for the last few years, hosting No Menu Mondays at Bar Marco and competing in pizza competitions with other local bakers, is a favorite among the local fooderati. Expect Bread and Salt to immediately become one of Pittsburgh’s top artisan bakeries.
Apart from being a wonderful baker and an all-around nice guy, Easton is also responsible for turning me on to grappa—the grape-based brandy made from the solid remnants of the wine-making process.
Speaking of which …
Grapperia nearing completion
Grapperia, the authentic Italian grappa-and-amari complement bar to Lawrenceville’s Piccolo Forno, will open within the next seven to 10 days, according to owner Domenic Branduzzi, who posted a photo to the bar’s Twitter account last night showing the finished bar top ready to go.
“It’s an outlet to do some classic Italian things,” Branduzzi says. The focus will be fine wine, grappas, amarai and cocktails, some of which will feature grappa. There’s also an educational element to the bar, as Branduzzi aims to shatter people’s preconceived notions about the oft-forgotten spirit.
“People right away have a negative feeling on it,” he says. “They think it’s like rocket fuel or moonshine. But like a lot of things, you get what you pay for. It’s not a cheap spirit.”
Grapperia will open with about 15 varieties of grappa, and Branduzzi hopes to expand from there.
Update: lunch at the Independent
Following up on an item we covered a couple weeks ago, the Independent Brewing Company will begin offering lunch service Thursdays through Saturdays, starting this week.
Chef Monique Ruvolo’s initial menu will include small plates, like hummus, baba ghanoush, fresh salads and soups (this week’s is a winter squash stew), as well as a weekly sandwich special—the initial will combine caramelized onions, arugula, homemade jam and local cheese on multigrain bread.
In addition to providing a new healthy lunch option for the Squirrel Hill area, the local craft beer spot will offer happy hour specials on all beers from 3 to 5 p.m., and “crowler hours” from noon to 4 p.m., during which 32-ounce cans of all its draft beers will be available at a 25 percent discount.
Valentine’s Day ideas
We all know Valentine’s Day isn’t for everyone. But just because restaurants have carved out their own niche in the Valentine’s Industrial Complex doesn’t mean single people can’t enjoy the holiday—and not in some bitter, “I’m-not-doing-Valentine’s-Day-because-it’s-alienating-and-sad-and-I’m-lonely” kind of way. Here are just a few ideas on how to have some fun on February 14, despite the paralyzing isolation of knowing that everyone is in love except you:
Get a few golf clubs, a bag of cheap, refurbished golf balls and a bottle of cheap but good red wine—I heartily recommend Apothic Red, a blend you can find in most state stores for 10 bucks. Hire a limousine and have it drive you down to the South Side, right near where the Steelers’ practice facility is. Find a nice, flat clearing right on the bank of the Mon, open the wine and start driving golf balls into the river. Make sure not to remove the bottle of wine from the paper bag it came in—you know, because of laws and stuff. You can hit the driver the whole time, or you can work on other aspects of your game, like ball-striking or accuracy with short irons.
Dedicate the evening to taking your mind off of how lonely and miserable you are. Recharge with the help of a bottle of wine and an evening full of WW2-related documentaries on the streaming service of your choice. Between Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime and HBO GO, there are dozens—possibly hundreds— of WW2 documentaries available at the push of a button. HBO’s new film “Night Will Fall,” is particularly compelling and runs a cool 75 minutes. For this activity, I’d highly suggest splurging for the Papale Primitivo di Manduria 2011. At $13.99, it’s an even better deal.
Foodie pro tip: If you’re looking to make that bottle of red last a little longer, do as the Basque do: make Kalimotxo by mixing it with equal parts Coca-Cola. It’s surprisingly palatable. Whether it’s worth the inevitable worst headache ever come the following morning is up for debate.
Noodlehead in East Liberty makes ordering takeout prohibitively difficult by refusing to install a phone, but what do you care? Show up, order some steamed pork belly buns and street noodles to go, walk two doors down to Buffalo Blues (where nobody will be enjoying anything resembling a romantic meal) and have a beer or two while you wait for your food. As you leave with your food, blurt out to nobody in particular “I’m out, suckers!” Go home and watch Season 3 of “The X-Files.” This meal goes exceptionally well with a few pints of local craft beer, so plan on getting a growler or two filled ahead of time.
Choose a platonic friend who’s also single, and sign up for one of the many Valentine’s Day couple’s events happening around town. Go as a couple. After being relatively quiet and/or lovey-dovey for the first half-hour, start quietly disagreeing over something. Over the next half hour, slowly and convincingly evolve this insignificant disagreement into a major fight during which you loudly reveal far too much information about your imaginary relationship. Carry on until you’re asked to leave.