There’s absolutely no good reason why I’ve never eaten at Il Pizzaiolo in Pittsburgh before. Honestly, I’m a little miffed at myself for not visiting one of its three locations earlier. But, a recent visit to its Hampton location more than made up for my slacking. With Mr. Locke and camera ready, we had the pleasure of attending the first Wine Dinner at Il Pizzaiolo last weekend. Here’s the scoop on all six delicious courses and why we’re hoping they continue the new tradition.
When you get invited to the first ever wine pairing dinner at Il Pizzaiolo, you start typing a yes-we’re-happy-to-attend email reply as fast as your fingers will let you. Honestly, I’ve heard nothing but good things about all three of its restaurants and I’d been chomping at the proverbial bit to visit one. The newest in the Pittsburgh chain, Indiana Township/Hampton, has a laid back yet classy atmosphere which can be hard to swing.
The intimate dinner (a party of 10) was filled with laughter, creative dishes, and good wine. Really good wine. Pair all of that with creativity in the kitchen from Executive Chef Matt Stover and Wine Merchant Mary Maust’s focus on Northern Italian wines and it was a recipe for a beautiful night.
The Food: Maple Glazed Pork Belly with Butternut Squash Risotto and Honey Glazed Sesame Carrots
The truth is, the starter was so much more than just Maple Glazed Pork Belly. The maple glaze gave it a bit of a crust, which I loved, and the meat itself was tender and buttery. Let’s talk about the plate additions for a sec. the pork belly would have been delish on its own, but sitting on top of Butternut Squash Risotto and Honey Glazed Sesame Carrots was serious creativity. I actually commented to Mr. Locke that the risotto was a dish I could eat at least once a week and I’d love the recipe.
The Wine: Antica Fratta, Franciacorta Brut DOCG nv Lombardy – $35
According to Mary Maust, sparkling wines are underlooked when paired with food. But, Antica Fratta was a really good choice for the first course as it’s far more complex and toasty than Prosecco. It brought out the subtle hints of sesame in the dish and was one of my fave wines from the dinner.
The Food: Slow Poached Lemon Sole Roulade with Gnocci Con Gli Orapi and Asparagus
I gave Mr. Locke the wheel on the second course as I’m not a fan of seafood, but his love of it more than makes up. His take? The Lemon Sole practically melted in his mouth and he could have had seconds on the second course. As for the gnocci and asparagus, each were perfectly cooked and, again, tender was the word of the night.
The Wine: Ermes Pavese, Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle 2015 Valle d’Aosta – $33
Yes, the wine of choice paired beautifully with the sole, but I really had to take note of the bottle and its history. The young wine maker, Ermes Pavese, sticks to the native grape, Prié Blanc in the High Alps Region. Using “extreme viticulture”, everything is done my hand – and you can tell from its smell that it’s an Alpine wine.
The Food: Smoked Duck Breast with Wild Mushrooms, Fresh Spinach Linguine, and White Truffle Oil
I really love it when Mr. Locke dives into a dish and gives me his take. The taste of the wild mushrooms matched the duck perfectly. Neither was too rich for each other and the dish wasn’t stepping on its own toes.
The Wine: Mamete Prevostini, Sasella Valtellina Superiore 2013 Lombardy – $35
Another wine from the High North Region of Italy, Sassella Valtellina Superiore is made from a cool climate grape. The wines from this region are more expansive but offer low production. It offers a rich, full bodied flavor that pairs perfectly with duck. Translation? It starts smooth with just enough bitter and finishes sharp with no petrol taste.
The Food: Braised Boneless Beef Short Rib with a Celery Root and Whipped Potatoes
The fourth course was most definitely my fave of the meal and here’s why. It’s really easy to get short ribs wrong. It’s really easy to make them tough and stringy. That was definitely not the case for Chef Stover. The rib practically fell apart and its buttery texture, paired with whipped potatoes, made for a hearty small plate.
The Wine: Damilano, Cannubi Barolo 2011 Piedmont – $85
Here’s the story on Cannubi Barolo. Created in the Piedmont Region of Northern Italy, the grapes are grown right where two ancient soils split – and Camino is where the two meet. If you’re a fan of tannins, you’ll really enjoy this wine. The finish was broad and lingering, but pleasantly so.
The Food: Ribeye Filet with Sauce Marchand De Vin and Roasted Cippolini Onions
A classic choice for a fifth course, the filet was super tender and moist. The Marchand de Vin sauce, a red wine reduction, was simply lovely. At home, I totally would have grabbed some Italian bread to grab every last bit from my plate!
San Leonardo 2010 Trentino – $80
The fifth course wine was based on international grapes including Cabernet Sauvingnon. Its makers? A family with roots in aristocracy, yet the wine itself is down to earth and old vine Cabernet. Personally, the wine stands alone for me and could be drunk without a meal compliment.
Traditional Panna Cotta with Fresh Berry Coulis
When it comes to dessert (and dessert wine!), here’s where I like to write that I’m in my element. Panna Cotta is definitely in my top three Italian desserts and Chef Stover’s take on the classic was the perfectly light ending to a full meal.
Marenco “Scarpona” Moscato d’Asti – $25
Moscato d’Asti is my wine of choice for any occasion and meal and I honestly think I’ve found a new favorite bottle. The subtle flavors completely highlighted the berry coulis, but again, this is a wine that I’d be happy to drink on its own.
About Il Pizzaiolo Hampton
If you’re looking for a family-friendly, yet totally classy Italian restaurant to dine, definitely give Il Pizzaiolo a go. Not only is its staff super friendly and accommodation, the meal choices have become patrons go-to dining options. Here’s the address for Il Pizzaiolo Hampton and contact information:
3405 Harts Run Rd.
Glenshaw, PA 15116
412 767 0700
If you’re wondering if the restaurant will be making a tradition out of its wine dinners I can happily reply yes. The next Wine Pairing Dinner will take place in January 2018 so please feel free to call or check out the official Facebook page for information as it becomes available.
Disclosure: A huge thanks goes out to the folks at both Il Pizzaiolo and Acrobatique Creative for hosting Mr. Locke and me. While the company was gracious and the food and drink delicious, all opinions are my own!