There’s a new eatery in Millvale in a community space where everyone is welcome and the food is affordable. Sprezzatura Café, located in The Millvale Food and Energy Hub on E. Sherman Street, serves hearty Italian dishes made sustainably with love.
“We’re interested in establishing a community vibe,” owner Jen Saffron says. “We want to be a place where people can experience good food at an affordable price point.”
The name Sprezzatura, loosely translated, means looking calm while obsessing over details.
“We are just getting started,” says Saffron, “and we look forward to feeding more patrons and partnerships to grow a thriving community cafe space that complements our catering work.”
The BYOB café, which opened Thanksgiving weekend in Millvale’s former Moose Lodge building, specializes in heritage-inspired eats passed down through the generations. The menu will change seasonally, based on what’s fresh and available from local suppliers.
Current offerings include spaghetti and meatballs, vegetable lasagna, citrus fennel salad, beets oregano, and a lentil, olive and mint salad. (The NEXT crew tried them all and highly recommend.) Soups are literally a hot commodity at Sprezzatura and Saffron’s mother, an expert on the subject, often drops by to make them.
Her recipe for minestrone includes homemade chicken broth with vegetables, white beans, barley and mini-beef meatballs.
For dessert, there’s a variety of biscotti available and a Corsican lemon ricotta cheesecake called fiadone that is crustless and gluten-free.
The staff is developing the lower level of the building — the old Millvale Moose Lodge — into a prep space where they can make more food, including pasta from scratch.
Right now, Sprezzatura shares the kitchen with 412 Food Rescue, which transforms salvaged food into healthy meals and shelf-stable products.
Diners are welcome Wednesday through Saturday for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and for dinner from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. New Sun Rising, a nonprofit designed to create economic and eco-friendly opportunities, owns the facility and was instrumental in making Saffron’s dream a reality.
The café opened as a Gold-Level Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant committed to waste reduction, water conservation, equity, energy efficiency, nutrition and responsible food sourcing.
There are solar panels on the roof, reconditioned Moose tables and chairs in the dining room, and a living, green wall that was created by Project RE using reclaimed dormitory materials from Duquesne University. In the spring, there will be outdoor seating around a stormwater management feature.
Saffron partners with local purveyors such as Jarosinski Farms, Morton’s Farm, Blackberry Meadows Farm, Natrona Bottling Co. and Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. In addition to supporting area businesses, she wants to help Pittsburgh-based artists and musicians. Sprezzatura will host cultural events throughout the year.
On Jan. 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. the 38-seat restaurant will host Women & Wine. At the ticketed event, people can sample Sprezzatura snacks and four wines crafted by women from around the world. Adam Knoerzer, the country’s top sommelier for South African wines, will be on-hand to share his expertise.
The café will also host a drag show on Feb. 23 featuring Jenny Sais Quoi and Tupelo Honey Teas.
Saffron is a North Side resident and in addition to being a seasoned chef, she’s also an accomplished photographer, writer and television producer. These days, she says, she’s very happy to be the proprietor of a business that nourishes the mind, body and soul.