Located on Reynolds street in a quiet little section of Pittsburgh is an amazing little restaurant named, Pino's Contemporary Italian Restaurant and Wine bar.
The friendly persona of the eatery, is only equaled by the pleasantness of the staff. If you have never been to this section of Pittsburgh, Point Breeze is a well kept secret. Everyone is friendly, and the little block long shopping section of business are cute and bursting with charm.
My wife works close by, and every time I pass this place, the aromas emanating from it make my mouth water. So today, I decided to take my wife and son inside for dinner. The decor is warm and trendy. The wooden bar with brass rail is very pleasing to the eye. The well lit spirits behind the bar are tempting to the palate, and if I wasn't driving I would have most definitely sampled some of their diverse wine selection.
Our server, Mary greeted us and sat us at the beautiful stone top tables. Adorned with multi colored frescoes, the tables add a whole other level to the ambiance that fills Pino's. From hand made pasta dishes to fresh to table appetizers, this place has something for everyone.
My son, who is 6, spots the spaghetti and meatballs right off the bat. Our server, Mary was kind enough to explain that the portion would be massive. "I can eat it Daddy!" he says with the type of confidence only a six year old can muster. My bride orders the fried calamari, and my eye is drawn to the tempting whispers of the Margherita pizza.
The hand made pasta with "all beef" meatballs is only what I can imagine eating if I had grown up in an Italian household eating recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. The tomato sauce is well seasoned and not acidic. The pasta is cooked to perfection, and has explosions of texture that can only come from freshly made pasta. The meatballs are evenly cooked with an abundance of flavor that only enhances the already delightful dish. My son ate the entire dish by the way. I was lucky to even get a bite in.
When it comes to seafood, I'm a bit of a snob. Having served in the U.S. Navy, I was spoiled to being stationed on bases that were on the ocean, so we had access to "Fresh" seafood, that was caught THAT DAY. The more "inland" you go into the country, the more frozen things like seafood becomes.
Not at Pino's. The fresh calamari is out of this world! Battered in a secret recipe, that according to staff took many tries to achieve until the chef reached perfection; is fried in peanut oil and served with lemon and a tomato dipping sauce that is hands down, damn near heaven sent.
The crunch, the floral accent of basil, the brightness of the San Marzano sauce and the creamy delight of the fresh mozzarella all come together into the perfection that is this Margherita pizza. Perfect for sharing or even indulging ones self, this pizza is a must try!
I can only imagine how everything would have been elevated by one of the wines that are available at Pino's. I can honestly say that, although not a place I could afford on a regular basis; Pino's is a definite destination that should be on all Pittsburgh "Foodies" lists of places to eat.
I give Pino's of Point Breeze 4.5 Stars.
Having served in the U.S. Navy for many years, I have traveled around the globe. Exotic destinations, fascinating cultures and of course; AMAZING FOOD!
Spending a good portion of my enlistment on the west coast, Mexican cuisine is a staple in everyday life out there. From mom 'n' pop bodegas, to hole in the wall Mexican eateries and lets not forget the usually surprising taco trucks. Mexican food is everywhere out west.
So needless to say I am a fan, however moving back to the Pittsburgh area, I find the choices for latin cuisine wanting. There are many big corporate chain restaurants that serve "Mexican style" food. (Not really. Their menus are a pathetic attempt at the exciting flavors and bizarre food combinations that TRUE Mexican food offers)
So while I was attending 3 Rivers Comicon 2 weeks ago, I took a break from signing autographs and stepped outside for air. The vibrant facade ornamenting the restaurants front really catches your eye. I thought to myself, " I have to try that place. I've been looking for a Mexican place to eat..." So today, I took my wife and fellow "foodie" on a date. Destination? Old Mexico Mexican Restaurant in Century III mall.
Our first impression as we walked in was of how tidy the place was. Festive and fun, but it was also very clean. I don't mean in a bleach aroma kind of way. I mean, you can tell that the facility is well maintained. No dust, no stale beer smell, just warm and inviting.
We were greeted promptly and sat at our booth. Our server Alberto came to our table with fresh and hot tortilla chips and two types of salsa. The regular house salsa and a cilantro and lime salsa. Which is amazing! He took our drink orders and let us view our menus.
My beautiful bride, not having really been in a REAL Mexican restaurant before, was asking questions about some of the menu items. I explained what was what and she was able to decide. Pictured above is her order. A Carnitas Chimichanga with beans and rice. Carnitas is closely comparable to pulled pork. Just with way more flavor and preparation. The tender meat melts in your mouth as the crunch of the chimichanga adds a fun texture that blends smoothly with the guacamole, salsa, beans, rice and sour cream.
I ordered the carne asada burrito with white rice, cheese, tomato and lettuce covered in a spectacularly seasoned queso fresco sauce. Carne asada is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Carne asada is a well seasoned flank steak cut into strips, there is no substitute. The flavors and spices danced in my mouth. Everything blending together to form a taste bud fiesta.
One bite, and I was back in Oceanside California, sitting at a cantina, eating burritos, drinking cervezas, hanging out with my Marines and watching the pretty girls as they roller skated by at the beach. The memories and good times flashed through my mind with every single mouthful I took. Now THIS! IS REAL MEXICAN FOOD!!!
Look, I love Pittsburgh. Born and raised here. But when it comes to authentic cuisine, a vast majority of the Three Rivers residents haven't a clue. People, Old Mexico Mexican Restaurant is the REAL DEAL! Go! EAT! ENJOY! I will most definitely be back!
Old Mexico Mexican Restaurant - 5 STARS *****
If you have ever been through any part of Pittsburgh, PA you have probably seen an Eat 'n' Park restaurant or at least heard of one.
Getting it's start in 1949, the restaurant chain has become a Pittsburgh cornerstone. Sad to say. Every time I have eaten at one of the many locations, I have always been left wanting.
Wanting, flavor in the food, wanting better customer service, wanting clean table ware. This last venture was no exception. After my wife getting nearly body checked by a geriatric customer with no manners as we entered, we were greeted by a hostess who was about as exciting as watching paint dry.
We were escorted to our table as our menus were pretty much just thrust upon it as the hostess departed. Our server, Jaime (hope I spelled that right) came to our table. With a warm smile and pleasant demeanor, she greeted us. Finally, a glimmer of hope; I thought to myself.
Drinks were ordered and the menu seemed overly simple as we perused it. Our friendly server came back and took our order. We talked with our son who was enjoying his chocolate milkshake that Jaime had made for him.
Almost 25 minutes goes by and we had not received our appetizer yet. Shocker. Jaime was kind enough to realize that our order was taking forever and came to us and explained that there was a party of 20 or so persons in the back and the kitchen was backed up. The offer was made for us to get something from the salad bar, which we declined.
After a few more minutes our appetizer arrives. Not much to say about it, fried provolone sticks that were frozen only moments before. It is what it is.
My son had ordered chocolate chip pancakes, my wife the *NEW* Southern burger and I went with a simple bacon burger. We'll start with my burger. Under cooked, season less, and greasy. The bacon was ice cold and rock hard, giving the roof of my mouth a sensation similar to what "Captain Crunch" cereal did when I was a child. I have to say, the blood in my mouth from the bacon induced lacerations was more enjoyable than the burger. The french fries were cold and soggy, with an almost burnt appearance as if they were salvaged from another guests plate that hadn't eaten them and re-fried. I couldn't even stomach the 2 or 3 fries that I forced down my throat.
I could go on to describe how the chocolate chips in my sons pancakes were closer to bakers chocolate, or how my wife's burger was just a pathetic attempt to put a "NEW" item on the menu by adding bbq sauce and 3 sweet potato fries on the bottom and calling it "Southern". However, I'm done. I am so appalled at the meal that I regretfully paid for that I can guarantee that I will never return.
It is sad that a Pittsburgh "Institution" like this one has gone on for so long with such horrible food being served in it's locations.
The only saving grace of our entire experience was Jaime. She was delightful, genuine and hard working. I really hope that she does well in life and is able to find more gainful means of employment.
Eat 'n' Park- Zero stars.
Server Jaime- 4 stars ****
Normally, I would never do a review about a corporate chain restaurant however I feel that this one in particular deserves the hat tip.
Until yesterday, my last experience with an Applebees was on Veterans day a few years back. The experience back then was horrific. I, as a Veteran, went with my family to the Monroeville, PA. Applebees for the Veterans Day Luncheon. The food was horrific, the service was disrespectful and I wish I could remember the servers name because I would completely "out" her here. She was crass and curt, and pretty much made every hint that she had no respect for the men and women of the armed forces community. The food was under cooked, the glass containing my soft drink was filthy; it was enough to ensure nobody would ever return to that restaurant.
I have never been to another Applebees since. Until yesterday. My wife and I were out running errands and decided to grab lunch. We pass the Applebees restaurant located out by Century III Mall on Lebanon Church Road, just outside of Pittsburgh.
We were both starving and figured why the heck not. We park and enter, figuring we were going to have a long wait with it being the lunch rush. The place was fairly busy, but we were greeted instantly as we walked through the door. A warm smile and friendly attitude was afforded us by our hostess and we were seated immediately.
The new menus were placed before us, drink orders taken immediately and specials were explained in a non-demeaning manner. Not even 2 minutes into our experience and things were looking up. Each table has these new touch screen devices on them which have a variety of features. From a menu that you can order off of, games for kids as well as a trivia app for "bigger kids".
My much better half and I peruse the menu and are intrigued by items on just about every single page. For matters of brevity, I will get to it. For an appetizer we ordered these spicy chicken and cilantro won ton tacos. They arrived at our table in a matter of minutes. Served with a nice mellow coleslaw and lime wedges, the balance of flavors was spectacular. The bite of the cilantro played off the spice of the chicken. The lime squeezed over top gave a bright acidity that played and enhanced the flavors all around which was elegantly balanced out by the coleslaw. Not to mention that the crunch of the won ton was fun and exciting. These are a definite "MUST HAVE" if you decide to go.
For our entrees, my wife ordered the 5 cheese macaroni with honey glazed chicken strips. I didn't get to try any of it because my wife was so enamored with the dish that it was gone before I could try some. So,...I'm pretty sure she gives it her seal of approval.
I myself ordered the Brunch Burger. A beautifully seasoned hand pressed patty cooked to perfection with bacon, cheese, a hash brown and a expertly cooked fried egg on top with a side of onion rings. Let me start with explaining one thing about this heart stopping monument to burger lovers everywhere; Burgatory should WISH they could make a burger this good! Recently, I had ordered a similar burger at Burgatory. It was bland, too bready, and not even remotely cooked right. Not to mention WAY over priced for what it was. A pathetic attempt at a gourmet burger.
Applebees on Lebanon Church Road does not have this problem. I would seriously order this burger at least once a week. The egg dripping down the sides of the burger mixing with the ketchup, the crunch of the hash browns and the texture of the hand pressed all beef patty was pure delight.
I had just about given up on corporate chain food. The friendly crew and professional management staff at Applebees on Lebanon Church Road have guaranteed that I and my family will be returning for more amazing food off of their much improved menu.
I give Century III Applebees 5 out of 5 STARS! And that's saying something, because I never give a perfect score. Great Job Gang!
CEO Spike Bowan is the Pittsburgh based Actor/Director/ Author/ Creator of the Alternate History Genre/Fiction saga "War in the Backyard".
Grunt Geeks PODCAST!!!!
Friends of Ours!