Saturday night is a big night for Restaurant Week. It’s the second-to-last day, it’s the height of the weekend, and it’s basically guaranteed that every restaurant will be open for dinner. Since I was trying to get us reservations for all new-to-us restaurants, finding a place on Saturday night we hadn’t tried before & fit our one other criteria of ‘walkable from Squirrel Hill’ was a bit of a challenge. (Maybe ‘out in the ‘burbs n’at’ will be a criteria of the summer celebration.)
So we pored over the options and suddenly asked ourselves: hey! Why ain’t yinz gone dahn to Pino’s yet?
(We really don’t talk to ourselves with Yinzer accents. I mean, at least not very often.)
We had actually been to Pino’s once before, but not for a full meal. On occasion, Jen (the ‘wife’ part of the dynamic duo that runs Pino’s – Chef Pino is the ‘husband’ part) hosts wine tasting afternoons on Sundays, and we’d gone to check one out last spring. (It was SO fun, by the way – $25 gets you four glasses of wine and an all-you-can-eat smorgasboard of tasty snack-upons). So, Pino’s had lingered on our Restaurant Week ‘maybe’ list in August 2012, but made it to the important role of Saturday night dinner for Winter 2013.
I am SO glad it did.
Pino’s is really charming. It’s tucked away in Point Breeze, in that magical little strip of businesses right in the middle of the residential area. The Pens game was finishing up on the TV as we walked in, and all around there was laughter and a feeling of family and the sound of wine glasses clinking together in toasts. So, essentially everything you want from your little neighborhood Italian joint.
Full disclosure before we go on: I’m kind of an Italian food snob. I don’t want to be weighed down by pasta that would be appropriate only the night before a marathon. I don’t want the menu to be all in Italian to make things more ‘authentic’ when a restaurant can’t put together a decent red sauce. And I don’t want to be served a plate of food that’s bigger than the table.
And that’s why a place like Pino’s, who advertises their small plates right on the sign outside, is an Italian restaurant I could fall in love with.
We got a bottle of wine after a little help deciding from our waitresses (we had two serving our table, so there was never a moment where we had an empty glass), and they brought out this magnificent bread plate. Simple, soft-yet-crusty Italian bread with a dippy sauce of epic proportions (I can’t recall exactly what went into said dippy sauce, but I’ll definitely pop back in for another order one of these days so I can tell you all more specifically what it was).
And after a few ages of deliberation, we FINALLY were able to narrow down our meal choices. We started with the Pino’s Mac & Cheese, and an order of the incredible veal meatballs we’d tried at the Restaurant Week Kick-Off Party.
This mac n cheese was PERFECT. Gooey cheese, fresh tomato sauce, and a generous portion, even for a ‘small plate.’ The veal
meatballs were just the right accompaniment, even for a broad like me who goes ‘ewwwww veallllll I can’t eat thaaaaaat’ all the time. (Seriously. Close your eyes and pretend it’s a wise old cow who gave its body over to dinner after it passed from natural causes. At least that’s what I do.)
After the two servings off the small plate menu, we moved onto flatbread pizza, which was one of their Restaurant Week specials.
However, as much as I wanted to order off the specials list, four very important words on the standard flatbread list caught my eye: proscuitto, sweet pea, pesto. YES PLEASE. Those big round discs on the pizza? SMOKED GOUDA. I was in love with this pizza from start to finish: crispy crust, hearty toppings, light pesto sauce (kind of a step up from the kiss-your-arteries-goodbye heavy pizza I love to order post-karaoke night from Papa Davinci’s).
Oh, and, as we ate our pizza, we revealed more and more of the mystery picture on our plate. I guessed it first – it says pizza! (I either gained or lost a lot of bonus points in my husband’s eyes when I pointed out that our plate had just become a game of mahjong solitaire.)
After dinner, we enjoyed an order of (what may have been my first-ever) tiramisu. This was delicious! It was creamy and sweet and frothy and filling. I’m glad we split one, because it was kind of gigantic.
So, Pino’s was a huge success. I’ve found an Italian restaurant that I can both walk to and enjoy the food (now that my darling La Cucina Flegrea has moved downtown). I love the hands-on approach Jen and Chef Pino take to their restaurant, and I love the warm reception they give each guest. The food was so flavorful, and just the right size. I recommend checking them out for lunch or dinner (in the summer, they’ve got a front window that opens up – my favorite!), or for one of their Sunday wine dates (there’s one coming up in February – the perfect Valentine’s Day date). We couldn’t have asked for a better Saturday night in Restaurant Week.