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great restaurants in pittsburgh?

Pegpaul Apr 1, 2011 02:00 PM

i'm taking my husband to pittsburgh for 2 nights for his birthday. neither of us has been there before. i've narrowed my search, (i think), to the following restaurants: Bona Terra, Nine on Nine, Alla Famiglia. i'd really appreciate any advice, confirmation of my choices, and/or other suggestions. thanks very much in advance...

Bona Terra Restaurant
908 Main St, Pittsburgh, PA 15215

Nine on Nine
900 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

  1. Jay F Apr 7, 2011 07:10 AM

    Last night a friend and I had dinner at the new downtown branch of Penn Avenue Fish Company, and it was first class. I had tuna tacos as a first course, and loved them. My friend had Fish Chili, made with smoked trout, and he declared it the best chili he'd ever tasted (and he *loves* chili). The heat in the tacos was noteworthy, too.

    Then we had our main courses. His was Chilean sea bass, and it was a nice, inch-thick piece of fish, served with a cauliflower puree. I really liked it. I've had restaurants serve a not particularly thick piece of fish they *called* Chilean sea bass, but it wasn't anything like this. This was very tasty.

    I had scallops wrapped in bacon served on a bed of lobster risotto. It was truly wonderful.

    Because we'd been warned to save room for dessert by Angel, the manager, we had half of our entrees boxed up to take home (I can't wait to eat the last scallop). I had one of the most terrific poached pears, served with amaretto ice cream (house made by Chef Eric) and what I think were crumbled amaretto cookies. My friend had peanut butter and chocolate bread pudding with another type of house made ice cream. I didn't taste his dessert, as I'm not a big fan of peanut butter.

    The service was splendid. I think everyone should eat here.

    Caveats: Though they serve lunch M-F, they're only open for dinner Wed-Sat, and it's BYOB.

    All in all, PAFCO gets an A.

    1. k
      KimMae Apr 5, 2011 11:00 AM

      You know I think it depends on what kind of food you like best.

      Bona Terra makes a superb version of what your grandmother (or rather either of mine) may have made and Salt will serve something you've never seen before. The food and the vibes are very different.

      What do you like?

      4 Replies
      1. re: KimMae
        Pegpaul Apr 5, 2011 12:22 PM

        i like a lot of different kinds of styles and food. if we're going to nine on nine saturday nite, is salt, which looks great, as does spoon, too similar to nine on nine? maybe alla famiglia would be a different experience. and we do love italian...

        1. re: KimMae
          Jay F Apr 5, 2011 01:29 PM

          Here's today's menu at SALT.

          I'd probably choose the sashimi or "spring" as a starter, and as a main course, either the softshell crab or the scallops, though I'm not sure I want coconut or cheese with scallops. But nothing on this menu really excites me, nor has anything on any of their menus. Someday maybe I'll go -- it's really close-by -- but nothing I've seen on their menus has ever made me think, Oh, I've *got* to try that.


          Soup $6
          sunchoke, potato, samphire

          Spring $11
          peas, carrot, potato, mint, feta, fiddleheads

          Snails $12
          pasta, miso, lamb, watercress

          Beef Tartare* $11
          blood orange, white chocolate, Douglas-fir

          Lettuce Wraps $11
          lamb (or tofu), sheep’s yogurt, pickled ramps, lemon

          Cockscombs $9
          cheesy grits, collard greens, truffled soy molasses

          Sashimi* $10
          escolar, prickly pear, horseradish, shiso

          Shad Roe* $10
          onion, pork rinds, tamarind, mizuna, daikon


          Softshell $19
          horseradish, potato, seaweed, tartar sauce

          Scallops $23
          couscous, pomegranate, coconut, cheddar

          Chicken $19
          prosciutto, braised leg, farro, roots, quince

          Hanger Steak* $21
          bourbon dashi, udon, peanuts, chili

          Baguette $15
          pork, pate, jalapeno, cilantro, pickle

          Eggplant $12
          tomato-braised soy protein, tahini

          Tofu $14
          vegan dashi, udon, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, choy

          1. re: Jay F
            Augie6 Apr 6, 2011 06:05 AM

            Jay , where do you get the daily menu at ? is it on the web

            1. re: Augie6
              David W Apr 6, 2011 07:36 AM


        2. a
          Augie6 Apr 5, 2011 05:47 AM

          Pegpaul, these are all great rec's so far!! The ones I have been too will not disapoint. What brings you two to celebrate a birthday in Pittsburgh? ( can help with some recs... )

          1. y
            yammers Apr 4, 2011 04:04 AM

            If you're staying in shadyside (i live in shadyside) i'd go to Salt of the Earth and Spoon and skip the other three.Bona Terra is very good, but the atmosphere/ambience leaves a fair amount to be desired. Eleven is great, but I think Salt and Spoon are just as good if not better.

            3 Replies
            1. re: yammers
              Pegpaul Apr 4, 2011 02:42 PM

              ok.... lots to think about! thank you!

              1. re: Pegpaul
                six dower Apr 4, 2011 02:59 PM

                I agree with yammers. Spoon Friday night and Salt or Nine on Nine Saturday night.
                If you are set on Italian, Alla is great and it is worth the drive.
                Go to the Strip District on Saturday. Cafe Raymond has the city's best breakfast and pastries.

                Nine on Nine
                900 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

                Cafe Raymond
                2103 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

                1. re: six dower
                  Pegpaul Apr 4, 2011 04:28 PM

                  thanks for your advice and for the additional ideas!

            2. b
              Burghfeeder Apr 2, 2011 09:44 AM

              All of these are very good choices, although I would be wary of Alla Famiglia...Not because of the restaurant, it's great, but because of the location. It's not in the best part of town and would also be a bit difficult to get to for someone from out of town. My favorite of those mentioned is Nine on Nine. Where will you be staying?


              Nine on Nine
              900 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

              9 Replies
              1. re: Burghfeeder
                Pegpaul Apr 2, 2011 11:45 AM

                Thank you for that useful information! we are staying in shadyside, but we'll have a car so hopefully we won't get lost. i think i'll make a res at nine on nine for saturday nite. now i just have to decide on friday nite.

                1. re: Pegpaul
                  Burghfeeder Apr 3, 2011 03:29 AM

                  Since you are staying in Shadyside (maybe at the Courtyard Marriott?) there are a couple of good choices within walking distance. Just across the street is Cafe Sam and with a short walk to the Shadyside business area is Girasole. While these may not be quite the level of those mentioned above, they are very good.

                  Since you are coming for your first visit, you may want to consider a trip to Mount Washington. Monterey Bay has very good food and a view to die for (if the weather is good). USA Today named it the second most beautiful view in America. I'm not making this up! This might be a good choice, considering the occasion.


                  733 Copeland St Ste 1, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

                  Cafe Sam
                  5242 Baum Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

                  1. re: Burghfeeder
                    Pegpaul Apr 4, 2011 02:52 AM

                    Thank you too for the suggestion of Monterey Bay. i had read that the views were pretty spectacular. with all the good suggestions, we might have to stay longer!

                  2. re: Pegpaul
                    k squared Apr 3, 2011 01:06 PM

                    Also close to Shadyside are Salt of the Earth and Spoon. If you're around for Sunday brunch, Casbah, also in Shadyside, has a good one.

                    229 South Highland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

                    1. re: k squared
                      Pegpaul Apr 4, 2011 02:52 AM

                      thanks for these suggestions too!

                  3. re: Burghfeeder
                    Rick Apr 3, 2011 04:50 PM

                    If you have a car, it's maybe a 25 min. drive to Alla Famiglia, if that. It's not at all difficult to get to. The neighborhood isn't the best, but I've been there multiple times and have never had a problem. Note too that a brand new Pittsburgh police station is just blocks down the road now.

                    1. re: Rick
                      Pegpaul Apr 4, 2011 02:54 AM

                      do you think alla famiglia is worth the drive, or is bona terra as good? thanks!

                      1. re: Pegpaul
                        Rick Apr 4, 2011 09:39 AM

                        I've never been to Bona Terra, but I don't know anyone that hasn't loved their experience at Alla Famiglia.

                        Bona Terra Restaurant
                        908 Main St, Pittsburgh, PA 15215

                        1. re: Rick
                          Pegpaul Apr 4, 2011 02:42 PM

                          thanks for your advice.....

                  4. e
                    Effort Apr 1, 2011 02:46 PM

                    Have been to Bona Terra and Alla Famiglia and both are good choices. Eleven is another you may want to look at. Depending on style. There are a few others. Have a good time. Enjoy!

                    Bona Terra Restaurant
                    908 Main St, Pittsburgh, PA 15215

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Effort
                      Pegpaul Apr 2, 2011 11:43 AM

                      Thank you! I'll look at Eleven too!.

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