Pittsburgh Restaurant Scene
Food, Service, Ambiance, Drinks, Companions, Conversation, Location, Décor.
These are just a few things that matter when dining out. It is very hard to have all of them for one given meal. D and I have had a handful of theses nights, our favorite restaurants always deliver the goods. But, this blog is about a new restaurant that we have never been too. Our favorite dining companions, Joe and his wife Natalie have been with us on some of our greatest meals (Cure, Legume, Salt); so, when they suggested a new restaurant that we had to try, our immediate response was, “When are we going?”. Now, I make it no secret that I do not enjoy driving to places like Monroeville or anywhere in the South Hills (it’s just not a fun commute, EVER) so when they said the restaurant we were going to is in North Huntington, my left eye began to twitch. I will be honest, if it wasn’t for Joe and Nat, we would have never driven out there. After our meal though, we were even more upset because now we have to drive an hour to get to this amazing spot!
The restaurant that made a drive to North Huntington worth it, Cenacolo (Italian for “Last Supper”), this restaurant is the creation of Steve Salvi (also the man behind the amazing Fede Pasta). I think God put Steve on this earth just to make pasta, it’s a revelation, you will never look at pasta the same ever again. Some of the pasta this place is making would astound even the greatest of Italian Grandmothers. Sure, everyone knows about spaghetti, linguini, and ravioli; but few people know of bruco, trottola, and reginette. Ok, lets get to the good stuff.
We met Joe and Nat at their house in East Kabumf*!#!, after another 15min drive we pull in to a business complex behind the post office building and I start to think “Where the hell are they taking us?!”. We seen the sign above the door that says Fede and a nice fountain and I feel a little better. But the second I walk in the door, BAM!, I feel at home, the smells of meats, cheeses and fresh pasta fills the space. Along with the restaurant there is a tiny market, to buy cured meats, Italian cheeses, olives, oils, and of course pasta. By this time we have completely forgotten about the drive to this place and are ready to stuff our faces. We are seated in one of the tiniest dining rooms around, maybe holding 20 guests. The walls are dark wood, a few pieces of art, dimly lit with tiny candles on each table. A warm environment is an understatement. Now Joe knows Steve through his restaurant The Wooden Nickel, they serve his pasta. So we had a quick chat with him while there; then our server( we are 90% sure his name is Paul, sorry if we are incorrect) came over to get us started. We ordered the Meat and Cheese Board, but they gave us something a little special, they ordered some cured meats in from the same supplier to Mario Batali’s Eataly. This was a meal in itself; the meats were amazing, the cheeses sublime and the grilled bread was the perfect accompaniment.
So after annihilating the meat and cheese Joe told us we had to order the meatballs (twisting our arms, we agreed). These ain’t Nonna’s meatballs, these are a whole new level, mixed into the standard mix is mortadella and prosciutto topped with red sauce and fresh basil—as some of our friends would say “AMAZEBALLS!”. We are only getting warmed up here and are already starting to fill up, oh this joint is BYOB so be sure to bring your best Italian wine for refreshments. Now the ladies are starting to get a little full, too bad for them. At this point Executive Chef Josh Toney came out with our server (great guys by the way, made the meal that much better), we tell him how great the meal has been so far, but we don’t know which pastas to order, so he says, “How about I just make a bunch of different ones and bring them out Family Style?” SOLD!! Bring it on, we almost say simultaneously. These bowls of pasta are massive and piping hot! We had half the menu, Bruco, Capaletti, Rigatoni, Trottola, Reginette and each pasta was as mouth watering as the last. The chef also sent out a special creation, hot parma sausage, banana peppers, and red sauce! It pays to get to know the staff at restaurants, there are always “perks”, and this pasta was one of them. It was a tad too spicy for everyone but me, I dove in head first!
At this point of the meal we have consumed 4 bottles of wine, about 5lbs of food each and are about to enter the “food coma” stage that we all know and love. Yet, when Paul suggests hearing about the desserts we just say, “Bring one of each!”, I still have no idea what the hell we were thinking! Next comes out a large platter of Kahlua tiramisu, a spiced pumpkin cheesecake and a flourless chocolate cake with pistachio gelato drizzled table-side with a warm espresso caramel sauce! HOLY CRAP, how are we still eating!?! Finally we finish, wine gone, plates cleaned, pants unbuttoned, vision blurred, can barely speak; yet oddly satisfied to the fullest extent. Its at this point we look around the dining room, we are the only ones left! Oh no, are we the table that Joe and I had grown to hate? The table that orders the whole damn menu then sits around after close, keeping every one at work late! Say it isn’t so! Thank God, Steve’s parents are coming in for dinner at the same moment we are paying! Huge sigh of relief from Joe and myself, seeing them walk in. We graciously thank the entire staff and do the “penguin shuffle” out to the car.
As I posted at the top of this blog, it is RARE to have all the elements of a meal out be perfect. This meal, this night out, this restaurant, provided all that we could’ve asked for. We know that when we go out with Joe and Nat that it is going to be a great night, it doesn’t matter where we go, but we agreed this was one of the best meals we have had. I hope I am not over-selling this place to the point they cant live up to the expectations I have created in writing this. It’s just that few meals were as great as this, we had not 1 single complaint, and nothing we would have changed, nothing done differently! That is a rare thing indeed. So a huge shout out to the whole Fede/Cenacolo family, we will most certainly be back, even if it is all the way out in North Huntington. Any chance you can open a 2nd location in the North Hills area? Just asking.
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1061 Main St
Irwin, Pa 15642