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Finally, a Pittsburgh pizza for CT transplants

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Panini Guy Feb 25, 2007 05:50 PM

Harry's in McMurray in Waterdam Plaza. I'm eating some right now and am ecstatic. Pittsburgh natives would probably not understand, but for all us transplants from the NJ/Boston corridor... this might well be the place you've been searching.

It was recommended to us by an employee who said it was simply the best pizza around. We asked "Why?" but she couldn't explain. On the way home from a long road trip, we found ourselves heading north on 19, so we called up and ordered a mushroom and sausage.

We arrived a few minutes ahead of the pie being ready. They offered us a free soda to drink while waiting. We opted for water. Then out of the corner of our eye, we saw a big, flat, ingredients-almost-to-the-edge pizza that, for the first time since moving here five years ago, we could say, "Now THAT looks like pizza."

We begin reading an article about the place... turns out it is a branch of Harry's from West Hartford, which at one point employed someone who worked the oven at the original Frank Pepe's. And that's what the pizza at Harry's looks like.

Upon looking at the menu, our jaw dropped. Not only did Harry's offer eggplant, zucchini and ricotta as possible toppings, but they offered a WHITE CLAM PIZZA. We know what we're trying next trip.

As to the taste, is it Sally's or Pepe's or Modern? No. They use a conventional pizza oven, not masonry. Thus, the pies don't have those classic scorch marks on the bottom of the crust like the New Haven palaces. The very outside edge of the crust doesn't bubble and isn't singed. Still, those are but minor points in the overall picture .

Here's what tonight's pie did feature:
- a toothy crust, not soggy, not stiff, not cardboardy. You can taste the wheat.
- FRESH sauteed mushrooms - and lots of them
- sweet, not hot sausage (we believe a traditional fennel/garlic variety)
- tomatoes (could be San Marzano, we didn't ask) instead of canned pizza sauce
- quality mozzerella used judiciously, not overwhelmingly

Thankfully we need to go down that way once a week for other reasons, so there will be a Harry's night once a week in our home*.

*Note: We still love Il Pizzaiolo, but that's an artisan pie at a different level with different expecations - but if Harry's had a brick oven, it might be a much closer call.

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    pellegrino31 RE: Panini Guy Feb 27, 2007 09:13 AM

    Wow! I live in NYC but grew up near West Hartford and absolutely love Harry's Pizza. I'm planning a weekend visit to Pittsburgh to catch a Pirates game and other sights and was just starting to look on the board here for recs and this was the first I saw. I can't wait to try it.

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      Panini Guy RE: Panini Guy Feb 27, 2007 06:28 PM

      You will love PNC if you haven't been before. I grew up with Shea in '64, then moved to Boston in '99 and Fenway before coming here five years ago. The food at PNC is miles better than either NY stadium - and a decent amount of it is local, not national franchises. Go to the Manny's BBQ area for some good choices and stick to the Penn Brewery beers.

      If it's a Mets game you're attending, we might even see you there. If it's a Yankee game... well, there's a guy at Parma Sausage in the Strip District here, wears that dang hat and looks suspiciously like Jeter. Maybe he'll toss you some Genoa for gratis.

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        pghchowhound RE: Panini Guy Feb 27, 2007 06:53 PM

        There is also a great little BYOB place in Lawrencevile which is MUCH closer to PNC park and was rated by Gourmet Magazine as one of the top 10 brick oven restaurants in the US. It is called Piccolo Forno and is located on Butler St. between 38th and 39th. While you're in the neighborbood you should grab a cocktail at The Firehouse Lounge, just down the street on Penn Ave between 22nd and 23rd in the Strip District.

        6 Replies
        1. re: pghchowhound
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          Panini Guy RE: pghchowhound Feb 27, 2007 07:24 PM

          Piccolo Forno is fine for brick oven. And it is closer to PNC. But you're missing the point. It's not Harry's. And there's no other Pgh pie that remotely resembles Connecticut pizza from the I-91 corridor.

          Besides, if distance were the issue, I'd have him take the T to Mt. Lebo and go to Il Pizzaiolo.

          I hold nothing against PF and I didn't read that issue of Gourmet until now, but I was shocked to read that, "Pittsburgh was always a great pizza town." I couldn't disagree more.

          And I have a hard time believing PF is one of the 10 best wood oven joints in the world. IMO, in Pgh alone, I would've ranked PF fourth during that same timeframe (May 2006), behind Roberto's (now closed), Good Wood Grill (also now closed), and Il Pizzaiolo. Right now I'd take Bado's Cucina even with PF - so have to question just how many places Gourmet looked at.

          Again, Piccolo Forno is a nice place with good food. But I wouldn't set pizza expectations too high to visitors from the NY/CT area.

          But the Firehouse is a good call. Bell's chocolate stout.

          1. re: Panini Guy
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            pellegrino31 RE: Panini Guy Feb 28, 2007 12:20 PM

            Well said on the pizza expectations! We're not going til Sept so the game we're most likely be seeing will be St. Louis.

            And to the recs on the Firehouse Lounge - that sounds terrific. I'm a big fan of chocolate stout.

            1. re: pellegrino31
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              pghchowhound RE: pellegrino31 Feb 28, 2007 03:30 PM

              My family is from Connecticut, so I couldn't agree with you more about Harry's being as close as you can get, just thought I'd suggest something a little bit different that gives you a glimpse at the change that Pittsburgh is undergoing right now. Lawrenceville is a little neighborhood that has been reignited with new restaurants, housing, and shopping almost overnight. Roberto actually trained the owner of PF, so glad we're on the same page! Have fun at the Firehouse, I heard they are trying to start a brunch on their deck in the summer .

              1. re: pghchowhound
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                pellegrino31 RE: pghchowhound Mar 2, 2007 02:23 PM

                Appreciate the recs. I have been hearing much about Pittsburgh's revitalization which sounds fantastic and I think we'll have no problem finding great chow and drinks to fill up our long weekend.

            2. re: Panini Guy
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              jock411 RE: Panini Guy Jul 6, 2009 01:17 PM

              try DiSala's on Caeson St. South Side. the best in the world.

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                Mr Siegal RE: jock411 Jul 6, 2009 05:21 PM

                it changed to Divine Pizza a year ago and closed a few weeks ago

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            pghchowhound RE: Panini Guy Jul 15, 2010 08:50 PM

            Updating this thread. Seems the pizza biz in Pittsburgh has become a bit more competitive recently so I thought I would post a quick update of what I think is the Best Pizza in Pittsburgh:

            1. Pizza Sola: New York style slices, homemade and really fresh ingredients (including their sausage), great options for vegetarians, thin crispy crust.

            2. Piccolo Forno: Neapolitan Style pizza, premium ingredients, traditional flavor combos, thin and just salty enough thin crispy crust with brick oven taste.

            3. Il Pizzaiola: Neapolitan Style Pizza, AMAZING fresh mozzarella, thin crust, incredible sauce, incredible oven

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            Piccolo Forno
            3801 Butler St, Pittsburgh, PA 15201

            Pizza Sola
            6004 Penn Cir S, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

            1 Reply
            1. re: pghchowhound
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              Rick RE: pghchowhound Jul 16, 2010 05:06 AM

              I used to really like Pizza Sola when they first opened on the South Side, then thought they went a bit downhill. I then tried their location near Whole Foods and had the same thoughts. Now that they have several locations, do you favor one location over the other? My favorite pizza I've ever had in Pgh was the the pizza place that used to be where Pizza Sola was on the south side, called Pizza Pronto the place that originally used the space as a pizza place. They did all kinds of non traditional pizza, sold it mostly by the slice. I thought that place was fantastic. They didn't last too long though.

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              Pizza Sola
              6004 Penn Cir S, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

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              Lefthandpath54 RE: Panini Guy Jul 17, 2010 06:54 AM

              CT transplant here, fairfield county specifically. Haven't lived there for about 5 years and really miss the food. Went back for a wedding in April and the next day I dragged the gf to New Haven just for Modern. While the pizza in PGH is generally better than the stuff I'd find while living in OH, its still not as good as the food from back home.

              Gonna have to drive down to Harry's one night to try it out. Probably gonna try Piccolo Forno tonight though as I'm a lazy man and happen to live in Lawrenceville.

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              Piccolo Forno
              3801 Butler St, Pittsburgh, PA 15201

              4 Replies
              1. re: Lefthandpath54
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                Rick RE: Lefthandpath54 Jul 17, 2010 06:58 AM

                Just happened to go to Piccolo Forno yesterday, two pizzas and a panini between the three of us and everything was just excellent. The last time I was there was about three years ago, it was even better than I remembered this trip.

                My cousin recently got back from New England, went to the Harry's up there. He actually thought the Harry's in Pgh was better than the Harry's up there.

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                Piccolo Forno
                3801 Butler St, Pittsburgh, PA 15201

                1. re: Lefthandpath54
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                  Panini Guy RE: Lefthandpath54 Jul 23, 2010 07:39 AM

                  Apizza Badamo in Mt. Lebanon (the old Caruso's, then Michael B's for couple of years) is hitting its stride. I'd put Anthony's white pie alongside anyone's. Also does eggplant as a topping (rare in Pgh) and has a breadcrumb-free eggplant parm sandwich that's really tasty. Glad that he's right across the street, although been eating way too much of it lately.

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                    MrKotter RE: Panini Guy Jul 23, 2010 12:53 PM

                    PG, is Apizza Badamo an off shoot of Bado's? I saw the name, and that was my first thought. How is the sausage there?

                    1. re: MrKotter
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                      Panini Guy RE: MrKotter Jul 23, 2010 05:13 PM

                      Not related to Bado's far as I know. Never had the sausage.

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