SiBA Cucina, Pittsburgh
After driving by it for so long, my friends made a reservation for dinner last night and I went along to give it a try. Overall, not impressed.
Great looking restaurant and decor, but not much more.
Starting with the appetizers:
The bread is decent, and the aioli has cayenne pepper in it that gave it a tasty kick.
The stuffed banana peppers were good, but not great. One pepper was huge, the other was tiny.
The fried calamari was so salty that I could not eat more than one piece. When the say "lightly seasoned" they mean enough salt to cover your sodium intake for three days.
For dinner I had the 14 oz. rib eye (ordered rare and very well-seasoned) and a Caesar salad.
The salad was as bland of a Caesar I've ever tasted. Very little dressing (generic, at that), rock-hard croûtons that were too big, but shattered if you tried to break them up. I did not enjoy it at all.
The rib eye is served with garlic mashed potatoes, "vegetable medley" (carrots, cauliflower and two French-cut green beans) and topped with thin cut onion rings dipped in the same salt-batter as the calamari. The steak was over cooked - half medium, half medium-rare - and barely seasoned at all. It was a great cut of meat and not really over-cooked, but it could have used some kosher salt and coarse ground pepper or crushed peppercorns. A shame. I started putting some onion rings with each bite of steak, but that sucked so I just moved the onions to the side.
The mashed potatoes were very dry, with barely a hint of garlic, and zero seasoning. The vegetables were undercooked and guess what - unseasoned and bland.
Overall it was not a good dining experience. I decided against sending anything back, because I've worked in Pittsburgh restaurants in high school and college, and had a feeling I'd be getting a little extra "special seasoning" from the cooks on the return trip.
My friend and his wife got the Rigatoni Asagio, and barely finished half of it, and were unimpressed. Can't remember what the other two got, but I didn't hear any clamor from them. Best part of the meal was the banana peppers and the wine!
We went there a few times but I don't think have been back in the last year or two. I'm almost surprised it survived. Rather early on in Siba's existence, we had a pretty good experience, but it was too pricey to be among the "Oh, let's just go out tonight" places for us. When we went back a second time I think it was some months later, it was clear that they decided to lower the bar a bit in order to lower the prices, which meant everything seemed to suffer, particularly service. After that we waited a long time and I think gave it another chance maybe last year sometime, maybe about 18 months ago, but even despite the lack of options in the north suburbs, it's not a place that is typically on our radar. Agree on the decor, though, manages to be rustic and upscale or felt that way to me. Too bad that seems to be the best part.
If it's not too far out of your way I suggest a trip down to Wexford just of I-79 to Bella Frutteto. New but so far they seem to be giving it a good try. We've enjoyed our two meals there very much, and the second was better than the first which seems like a good sign. Still over our everyday threshold price-wise, but good for every once in a while.
The more immediate Cranberry area seems pretty useless for non-chain restaurants. I haven't tried them all, but I'm not too hopeful. Maybe it's just not possible to have a good $10-15 per person for dinner (excluding drinks) place with a couple non-pasta veggie options that can compete well with chains. Hehe, I know, non-pasta veggie options are always too much to ask....