Neighborhood Joints

Millvale’s Grant Bar

Amidst the worldly comings and goings, observe how endings become beginnings,” says the Tao Te Ching, the Chinese book of philosophy and religion from 6th century BC. Despite the separation of millennia, the ancient author could have been inspired by the comings and goings at Grant Bar in Millvale. Since 1933, Frank Ruzomberka and his …

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Mateo’s

Grandson Mateo, now 8 years old, was a newborn when Franco and Lisa Gualtieri started cooking real Italian food in a small kitchen for pickup and delivery. When Mateo was 4, his grandparents opened the tiny restaurant they now operate on Brookline Boulevard and named it after him. Easy to pass before turning around, the …

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The Bigham Tavern

In the early 20th century, weary men from Mount Washington finished their factory shifts on the banks of Pittsburgh’s three rivers and ascended the sharp cliff to Grandview Avenue on several inclines, disappearing above the cacophony and grime. Their throats were parched and burned from the dense smoke that led James Parton to describe Pittsburgh …

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Anna’s Cucina Rustica

When she was a little girl, Anna Malvone would finish her classes and rush the few blocks to the neighborhood orphanage in Pianura, Naples. There, she helped the nuns in the kitchen, preparing simple meals with ingredients that were plentiful and cheap—tomatoes, garlic, basil and other staples of Italian life from the nearby fields. It …

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Hough’s

You can’t go home again, Thomas Wolfe’s 1940 novel about moving on in life, would have you believe that once you leave the nurturing familiarity of the old neighborhood, you can never return or recapture the magic of your youth. Wolfe should have spent a little time in Greenfield or checked with Barb and Johnny …

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Jim’s Famous Sauce

Alex Damianos awakened from a troubled sleep at 3 a.m. on a hot July night in 1959 to find his smiling father standing at the foot of his bed, staring down at him. “Alex, I told you to learn how to make the sauce,” Jim said playfully to his oldest son. “Now, think about the …

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Buon Giorno Café

When austrian native Gustav Lindenthal designed and built the current Smithfield Street Bridge, he placed it on the stone piers originally laid by Prussian-born John A. Roebling for the previous bridge at this site. Roebling, the renowned designer of the Brooklyn Bridge, had built a foundation over the Mon that was too perfect for Lindenthal …

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Valliant’s Diner

Pete Valliant arrived in America in 1950 with $20 in his pocket, no English, and a vague notion that he had relatives near Pittsburgh. The Greek merchant sea captain thought he would give the mainland a try, leaving behind his island home on Cephalonia, where Louis de Bernières set his 1994 novel, “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.” …

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Triangle Bar & Grill

The Bermuda Triangle—that vortex in the Atlantic Ocean that starts at Miami, follows a line southeast to Puerto Rico, then north to Bermuda and back to Miami—forms a region that some have imbued with mysterious powers. Over the decades, many ships have entered this triangle, never to be seen again. But there is one triangle …

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Square Café

There are two features that are essential before any establishment can become a neighborhood joint, and Square Café in Regent Square has both. The first is a counter or bar. A raised countertop and stools will anchor a place. In this case, size is not important. The Square has just nine stools, enough to do …

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Girasole: Dinner and a Show

As the great American playwright Tennessee Williams once said, “I think Italians are like Southerners without their inhibitions.” Williams could have made that observation from a table at Girasole, which combines the best of Italy and Pittsburgh: sometimes it can be a little bit pazzo, but it is always honest. Girasole is often crowded, usually …

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Johnny’s Restaurant

There is a relationship that regular patrons have with Johnny’s Restaurant in Wilmerding that is a lot like the one shared by old married couples. They promise each other not to be the first to go, because the survivor will be lost until the end. And after a yearlong hiatus, Johnny Fusilli is back at …

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Enrico’s Café

Chuck DiNardo, legendary food and drink impresario, operated the Hollywood Social Club in Shadyside into the 1970s. The haunt of politicians, every old mustache in the region and visiting celebrities, the “Sosh” was accessed through an unmarked narrow walkway, easily missed, between what is now The Pottery Barn and Kards Unlimited on Walnut Street. That …

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Nied’s

The orange neon fish sign at the corner of Butler & 55th in Lawrenceville is the gastronomic version of the beacon atop the Grant Building. Nied’s Hotel Bar has held this corner since 1941 and, like all great joints, it’s a neighborhood within a neighborhood. The starting point at Nied’s is the “world famous fish …

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Nap’s Cucina Mia

This Napoleon and Josephine story has a happy ending. It began in 1952, just two blocks from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus, when Napoleon and Josephine Patti opened Nap’s, a shot-and-beer joint along the main drag of the small town. For years, Nap’s was a regular stop for the guys who made their bones …

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Dot’s

Dot’s in McKeesport is just that—a dot on the side of the road that is easily missed if it is not your intended destination. There was a time when this stretch of Fifth Avenue on the fringe of the city was more neighborhood street than highway. The mills were booming back then, and McKeesport was called …

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