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Monday, August 16, 2010

Claudio's Pizzeria and Ristorante

Chef Claudio

My friend Tom has been talking up Claudio's since his first trip there a couple of weeks ago. While he went with a group that Claudio designed and prepared a special menu for, the regular menu includes panini sandwiches, soups, salads, and a nice variety of pasta dishes. In addition, they prepare pizza.

Stacy and I were visiting at Tom's house and of course he was able to convince me to go just to try the pizza! Off we went...

First of all, this place is in a garage. I mean it. As you walk in, there is a small bar area (byob) on the left and maybe six or eight tables. You can still see the garage door in the dining room, but don't let it bother you, this place is neat and clean! All the tables were taken (at 4:00 on a Sunday) so we sat at the bar and popped open a couple of cold ones that we had brought along. Almost immediately, Claudio came over and introduced himself and chatted, in between pulling fresh baked bread from the oven. He explained that his main business is catering, and that he had been the owner of the popular Abruzzi's on the South Side.

We were served some of that great homemade bread, and ordered some banana peppers to snack on. For pizza, they serve a Napolitano (thin round) and a Focaccio (thicker, square cut). While both looked great, we settled on a Napolitano (16" for $9.99). Pizza lovers all have strong opinions about their favorites, but let me tell you, this is good! The crust was thin and crunchy, with a slight burn on the bottom as if it came from a brick oven. The sauce was tasty and cheese and toppings were top notch. Now I'm not saying that this is my favorite (I'll stick with Franks!) but this is one of the best. I think that this pie will appeal to those that love traditional brick oven style with top quality ingredients. If you like il Pizzaiolo in Mt. Lebo, you should try this!

Claudio's is at 1883 Painters Run Road in the South Hills.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pittsburgh's Best Pizza!

Click on the title for the link to Pittsburgh's best pizza.
I've talked a lot about pizza in Pittsburgh. My favorites have always been Harrys down at Donaldson's Crossroads, Pizza House (some call it Police Station Pizza) in Ambridge, and my all time favorite, Franks in Ambridge. Finally, vindication!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Iron Bridge Inn

For many years I've made the drive up route 19 to Meadville for various reasons. I know that it's much faster on 79, but I enjoy the more relaxed, although slower, on 19. One of my favorite stops for lunch is the Iron Bridge Inn just outside of Mercer.

This is a rustic sort of place but don't let that fool you. This is not just bar food. Stacy and I started with a Tahi Calamari appetizer that was served with a tasty and spicy Tahi chili sauce. The calamari was cooked just right...not like rubber bands (or should I say gum bands?...This is called Burgh Feeding!). I then ordered one of my favorite sandwich's, the Cuban. For those that haven't tried one of these, they consist of a meat, in this case pork, along with shaved ham, a sliced pickle or two and a mustard sauce, all served on a pressed ciabatta roll, panini style. Excellent!

Stacy had a turkey cranberry wrap. Not really my style, but she said it was very good. I didn't bother to try it.

The Iron Bridge is also known for their prime rib, and while I've never tried it here the servings that I spied coming out of the kitchen looked good enough that I'm pretty sure we will go back and try it.

The Iron Bridge Inn is just a few miles from the Grove City Shops. If you want to escape the predictable chains, it's worth the 10 minute drive. When you come out of the shops, turn left on 208 west bound. At route 19, go north and it's a couple of miles on your left...Just over an iron bridge.