Viva Italia!

Fresh Gnocchi at Fede Pasta

The last few days have been filled with everything Italian. First,  I stopped to say hello to Steve Salvi at Fede Pasta in North Huntingdon. He sells his fresh pasta to top restaurants in the Pittsburgh area, and now all of us can buy it directly from Steve to cook at home. He  is truly a  master pasta maker. And he’s a really great guy, too.  See, it’s not good enough if the food product is outstanding, but the person in charge has to be nice.  I’m too old to deal with cranky folks. Not happening.

Steve Salvi, owner of Fede Pasta

Steve makes many pasta shapes that are difficult ( if not impossible) to find.  When I buy from Steve, he knows exactly what type of sauce goes with each pasta shape or every type of ravioli.  Check out Fede Pasta’s website for upcoming Open Houses, Classes and Dinners, too.

On another day, I spent a few hours chatting and tossing back some espresso with master restaurateur (and another gem of a guy), Ernie Vallozzi. This led to a sleepless night because caffeine is a no-no after three PM for me, but it was well worth it.  Ernie’s Greensburg restaurant‘s menu mixes classics with contemporary Italian and I love the food there. There’s something for everyone. Pizza, salads, pastas, seafood. And the menu doesn’t always stick to just Italian.  Valozzi’s chef, Jenna, recently told me about a seafood entree she prepared with Indian spice marinated sturgeon served with Basmati rice with yams and pears in a curried cream sauce. This sounds like something I have to try.   In addition to all the good food,  the restaurant has a special cheese area,  a refrigerated case of Norman Love truffles and the coolest Enomatic wine machine around. ( I think it’s the only wine machine like this in our area!)  Even though Greensburg isn’t far from us in the ol’ Burgh, lucky for us, Mr Valozzi is opening a new place, called Vallozzi’s Pittsburgh,  in the old GC Murphy building downtown in Market Square Place.  I heard some of the plans for the new digs, and I can’t wait until it opens late summer/early fall 2011.

Anna Jo Noviello (photo courtesy of Aunt Anna's Biscotti)

The next day,   I was driving towards Pittsburgh, but still a few miles east of home when the clock struck six.  Dinner time.  So I stopped at The Sunset Cafe, where the place was really hopping.  I  ordered lemony cod with lump crabmeat served on top of beans and greens. A beans and greens addict, I had to go with this entree even though I hear their pasta and meatballs are to die for.   I’ve  been tempted by the roasted  pork shank on the menu for some time now, and decided to bring this home for the hubby knowing that he would share a bit or two with me.   Both entrees were wonderful. Anna Joe and Bobby Noviello really have a good thing going here.   Anna Jo also owns Aunt Anna’s Biscotti, but that’s a story for another day.

My last Italian food of the week (that’s a lie)  was at Olives and Peppers on Rt 8 in Bakerstown, where I met my accountant for lunch.  The decor was calming, even though the place was super busy.  It’s a family place, with a nice menu that includes pasta, salads, pizzas, panini and hoagies, but everything is carefully prepared and quite high quality. I ordered the stuffed banana peppers and a side salad.  These were some of the best banana peppers I’ve ever eaten.  The key:  they weren’t over-loaded with that shredded mozzarella that turns the whole dish into a soupy, calorie laden mess, but topped with some shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano instead. Not too saucy, not too cheesy, perfection. Definitely going back here with the family.

Jerry Jr., Jerry Sr and Rizzi De Fabo

My Italian fest all started with our visit to Rizzo’s Malabar Inn in Crabtree about a month ago. The DeFabo men – Jerry, Sr.,  Jerry, Jr., and Rizzi – do up traditional Italian in a tasty way at their always busy restaurant.  Their Feast of St Joseph celebration in March got me on an Italian kick, and I can’t stop.

The pastries at Isgro's Bakery in South Philly

Tomorrow, it will be a quick visit to the Italian Market in South Philly for some fig bars and maybe a little gelato. Then maybe I’ll switch to another cuisine for a few days.  Doubtful.