This post was written at the beginning of January 2011, after my first visit to Chef Dato’s. I was hoping it would be the first of many visits. The food was wonderful. The Chef wasn’t in yet and I was looking forward to meeting him the next time I drove out to Latrobe. Sadly, this won’t happen. Chef Dato died yesterday (1/12/11), after a tragic car accident. My sympathy goes out to his family and to his large following in Western Pennsylvania.
When it comes to food, I’m not usually into fancy or cutting edge. I like reading about that stuff, but I don’t have to try it. I don’t really care about flavored foams, unusual tasting gels and freeze dried this and that. Not that I would say no to dinner at Per Se or Alinea. I would happily go to either of those restaurants if someone else is willing to pay the bill. But on most days, more rustic fare is more to my liking. Chicken and dumplings, thick vegetable soups – that kind of thing.
A few weeks ago the folks from The Berry Patch at the Pittsburgh Public Market told me about one of their favorite restaurants, Chef Dato’s, near their homebase of New Florence. I’d never heard of it, so with my current avoidance of putting away the Christmas decorations, I decided today was the day to drive out to Latrobe for some lunch. Tuesday turned out to be German day, which made me very excited. Perfect food for a winter day. I found out the menu on Tuesdays always includes German favorites and that Thursday is International Day, with a special ethnic menu from a different country every week in addition to the regular menu. This week, Thursday is Turkey day. . . the country, not the bird . . . and I wish, wish I didn’t have other plans or I would certainly be pulling into their parking lot again this Thursday.
I tried the cabbage and beef soup and a salad with house made Adjika dressing. The soup was thick with cabbage and beef and I even spied a few beans in there. The salad dressing, a Georgian recipe from the chef’s homeland, was seasoned with lime and cilantro, and it was zesty and not too oily. Yummm. I could already tell that I wasn’t going to feel like making dinner, so I ordered chicken schnitzel with spaetzle and green beans to go for the better half. I snitched a piece of the schnitzel and the crispy crust was irresistible. I snuck another piece, before forcing myself to stop before I had to actually make another dinner for the hubby.
I heard from Scotty at The Berry Patch that the Chef has an interesting life story to tell. Next time I am going to see if he is around so I can hear the story. And the next time is going to be real soon.