Greg is a native Pittsburgher, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and many of us know him from his early days at the Steelhead Grille, Eleven and Cioppino. His attention to detail and love of the art of cooking have been evident throughout his career. LeoGreta gives him his first platform to do things entirely his way. His apparent plan is to keep it simple. A quote on the wall states: “If you have a family that loves you, a few good friends, food on the table and a roof over your head; you are richer than you think.” This sentiment, harkening back to a less complicated time, sets the tone.
Simple starters such as burrata cheese with roasted red peppers, white bean dip and house-made terrine are on the menu. Fresh salads are made from seasonal and local ingredients. In the summer this meant salads featuring corn, tomato and cucumbers. For winter we expect kale, apples and goat cheese. The salads are uncomplicated — like something you would make at home, but the colors are bright and the fresh flavors shine. Classics such as Caesar salad and frisee with lardons are also available.
Home-made is the other buzzword here. Sausage, pork terrine, pasta, and pastry dough, dishes and their components are made from scratch. Through the use of proper cooking techniques, mastery is achieved. Greens and beans with sausage feature perfectly cooked navy beans and make a wonderful side dish or lunch main course. The home-made gnocchi is light as a feather and is finished with a touch of fragrant tomato sauce and a caramelized sprinkling of cheese. The cavatelli, whether featured with house-made sausage or in seasonal specials, surpasses other versions available in the city. For example, the summer seasonal cavatelli with creamed corn sauce, topped with wisps of goat cheese and herbs, was a favorite. While we expect that the specials will undergo changes to reflect seasonal ingredients, many would love to see the creamed corn cavatelli become a menu staple.
Dessert is an important part of the experience here. Individual coconut cream pies and fresh fruit crostada showcase flaky, homemade pastry. The panna cotta with raw local honey has been enthusiastically received and is generous enough for two to share. The cheesecake and flourless chocolate cake are also winners.
The delightful warm feel and the prospect of seasonal specials will keep us coming back to this neighborhood establishment in the months ahead. Replacing the sandwich portion of the dinner menu with some substantial dinner items, even if only as specials, could take the restaurant up a notch. We look forward to watching LeoGreta grow.
LeoGreta: 301 W. Main Street, Carnegie. 412.489.6382. Open for Lunch and Dinner. Closed Monday. Reservations recommended. Ample neighborhood parking. www.restaurantji.com/pa/carnegie/leogreta-/
Fish nor Fowl
Neither fish nor fowl — “something or someone which is not easily categorized.” The eclectic menu of this innovative new restaurant fits this definition, providing many exciting options to explore while defying categorization. Using flavors and techniques from around the globe this restaurant concept is hard to define, but it shines with delicious, elegant, well-presented and appropriately portioned cuisine. Fish nor Fowl joins the illustrious list of Chef Richard DeShantz’s restaurants (Butcher and the Rye, Meat & Potatoes, Tako, Pork & Beans and Poulet Bleu), all of which have created enthusiasm and notoriety for Pittsburgh’s dining scene.
Recently opened in the newly renovated Salt of the Earth space on Penn Avenue, the old chalk board menu of Salt has been replaced with a live wall bursting with green plants. The new design aesthetic consisting of fur, leather, and tree branches is sleek, inviting and internally consistent. A row of stools looking out over Penn Avenue is available for walk-ins, complementing the reservation-only, first floor community table-style seating. Upstairs and downstairs bars offer the full menu with unreserved seating. With reservations hard to come by, walk-in seating is a great option for last-minute deciders.
The menu is divided into sections of: Water (seafood dishes); Field (vegetable dishes); and Farm (meat dishes). Diligent and pleasant wait staff are well versed in the menu options and explanations. Cocktail and wine pairings are suggested for each menu item and wines can be ordered in 3-ounce and 5-ounce pours allowing for more tasting.
The halibut collar with chanterelles and succotash brightened with a spritz of charred lemon was succulent with the tender fish falling off the bone. The suggested cocktail pairing (a warm blanc vermouth, vodka, thyme and grapefruit drink for two people ($19) served from a French press) was novel and savory. Bright green, charred broccoli sitting on top of a smear of smoked goat cheese, with bagna cauda (Italian puree of anchovies and melted butter), chili flakes and crunchy, toasted bread crumbs showcased hearty and punctuated flavors from the Field portion of the menu.
From the Farm menu, the deeply satisfying gnudi with beef heart Bolognese came as two overlapping square noodles loosely surrounding delicious, rich ricotta cheese topped with rosemary scented beef heart Bolognese. Another highlight was the Mangalista pork schnitzel sitting with braised mushrooms with watercress. The flavorful schnitzel was prepared perfectly crisp on the outside while remaining moist inside. The zucchini bread with custard, pecans and caramel sauce was a unanimous favorite for a comforting end to the meal.
While the menu contains many unusual ingredients and food combinations, cautious eaters should not be deterred. The flavors work. The portions are variable and the price points are fair (ranging from $10-$16 for smaller plates and up to $28 for larger ones). Fish nor Fowl provides an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and try new food combinations and flavors.
Fish nor Fowl: 5523 Penn Avenue. 412.460.4644. Dinner only. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Valet parking available.