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Dining Review – Emilia Romagna – Pittsburgh – Strip District

Dining Review- Emilia Romagna                                                                           By: Suz Pisano

I adore the Strip District and often find myself there 2 or 3 times a week seeking a specific ingredient, fresh lemons for my famous lemonade, or grabbing a bite to eat.  I’ve been seeing a formerly vacant establishment bustling with activity for the past couple of months, actually I’ve been stalking this new establishment and when I saw the name Emilia Romagna, well I was on it.  I’m so happy to share with you this month’s dining experience at a swank new eatery with fabulous cocktails, sushi to knock your socks off, a wood pizza oven to die for and mobsters.  Yes, I said mobsters.  The graphic images of favorite characters like Johnny Depp, Robert DiNero, certainly add a classic Italian charm.  The movies portraying these wise guys play on perfectly placed monitors totally unobtrusive to the Bar ER section or the bar.  At the Bar ER – you’ll find Stephen Kowalchuk aka “The Cocktail Chef”.  His concoctions are sure to delight and dazzle you.  We sampled several cocktails as drinks were paired with menu offerings.  Bar ER bar has a limited menu offering appetizers, pizza, sandwiches, salads & sushi.  Matt Kemp, Sushi Chef creates masterpieces from the freshest ingredients available.  When I told him I didn’t quite understand the sushi tie-in to a very Italian restaurant, he gave me his perspective.  Matt says sushi is artfully prepared and presented with high quality ingredients just like the rest of the food in the Bar ER kitchen.  Yes!  I get it!  Good food is good food, and with good ingredients sourced farm to table, artfully prepared and presented, it makes perfect sense to offer sushi.  Emilia Romagna seems to offer the best of everything.  Let me give you a little history-

In 2005, Chef Jonathan took ownership of Cento Anna Alla Famiglia where regional Italian cuisine reigns.  As a small establishment tucked away in the Allentown neighborhood of the City, Emilia Romagna on 19th Street in the Strip District is much more accessible, convenient and accommodating.  If a simple pizza or salad is your desire, you can feel quite comfortable at the bar, but if you want to relax and enjoy world class cuisine- the beautifully decorated dining room has your table.  So let’s get started……

First of all, when offered a drink menu- read it.  I love a fancy drink, I love an unusual drink, and I love a signature drink.  I try them all.  After perusing the cocktail menu, both Tim and I chose the Cream Soda- a delicious concoction served with handcrafted foam.  You will realize that these are some serious drinks with some unusual ingredients.  Sarsaparilla foam tops off this rum, vanilla liqueur & red bull drink.  House made infusions, syrups and herbs enhance these handcrafted libations.  I’ll make sure to highlight the other cocktails throughout.   Daily features are offered including Soup Di Pesce ($12) to Steel head Salmon served with Pea Shoots ($34), or a Char-Grilled Rib Eye ($46).  We started off with Marinated Tuna Sashimi ($13) and the Bar ER Kitchen Maki ($14).  Both were so beautiful and delicious- the tuna served with mushroom powder, basil flower and each bite followed with a hazelnut, the Kitchen Maki had tuna, kampachi, a spicy emulsion, negi, katsuobushi, golden tobiko and sesame.  The Grand Bonsai cocktail was paired with our sushi and made with sake, Grand Marnier, lime, agave nectar, ginger beer with mint was so very refreshing and light.  The ER Kitchen Maki is the signature sushi offering, I’m glad that I got to try it and highly recommend it to you!  The Cucumber Mint- gin, Midori, mint, cucumber juice & salt is another perfect accompaniment.  Oh the drinks are as amazing as the food!

Next we were presented the Dry Boat Scallops ($14), served atop a Mediterranean cous cous with local corn zabaglione- the scallop is pan seared to perfection and I quickly devoured Joyce’s portion knowing that she doesn’t eat scallops.  (I have no shame when it comes to a beautiful giant scallop.)  Alla Famiglia Meatballs ($12) were next to grace our table and I couldn’t wait to try the famous meatballs with goats milk ricotta & Locatelli.  Now I have mentioned in the past that my husband makes the meatballs in our house and he provided the standing ovation on these Italian favorites.  The farm-to-table philosophy resounds in the offerings at Emilia Romagna.  They know exactly where each & every ingredient originates and I love that.  More cocktails were presented, each rivaled the former and our taste buds were dancing in delight.  The Peppered Carrot- Bullet rye whiskey, carrot juice & and fresh black pepper was a favorite of ½ of the Nightwire staff but I particularly liked the Negroni- Tangueray, Campari, sweet vermouth, stirred with flamed orange peel only got better & better as the meal progressed.  With great food paired with amazing drinks, you have no choice but to sit back & enjoy.  At Emilia Romagna, I felt transported to a beautiful oasis in a busy metropolis with an old world charm and a sense of family.  Ask questions here.  The staff is very knowledgeable about the menu, the extensive wine list, the ingredients, the sushi, how to pronounce something or just how to best enjoy your experience.  Emilia Romagna seems to me to be a place where many varied experiences are possible.  It’s beautiful, elegant and charming , but don’t be intimidated!  Stephen, The Cocktail Chef, loves to match a cocktail to your most discriminating taste.  Steve, the manager will welcome you and make you feel very comfortable.  I had the feeling that everyone here works well together to make your experience memorable and enjoyable.

As our selections from the Bar ER Kitchen whet our palate, we were delighted to sample “Secondi Piatti” also known as “Second Plate” or the “meat course” of the meal.  The Veal Chop ($55) a 26 oz. chop was presented and it is certainly enough to share.  The rare veal was so tender, juicy & delicious that I was hoping for some to take home so that I could enjoy the bones in private.  It’s just not nice for a lady to pick up a bone in public.  Chicken Estivo($24)- presented by Chef Cory was Manny’s favorite- Gerber Farm chicken served with local corn cream & petit summer vegetables and some fantastic pancetta rendering added to the complexity of the flavor.  I absolutely adored the Arctic Char ($34) served with fingerling potatoes & baby artichoke, carrot and caper pan jus.  Don’t hesitate to eat the skin on the char- it’s delicious and the fish is so light and delicate.  (Once again I was glad that Joyce doesn’t eat fish! & that Chef Cory told me how much he loves the skin.)  A unanimous favorite was the Speck Wrapped Pork Tenderloin.  If you’ve spent any time in Italy, you know Speck.  Italian cooks use it for everything.  Wrapped around a pork tenderloin aside peach & bleu cheese bread pudding with pork essence is genius.  Savory bread pudding was something new to my culinary repertoire but I thoroughly enjoyed every bite.  There is passion in this cuisine, take your time to enjoy and savor the nuances.

After sampling all of the delicious & delectable Secondi Piatti, The Cocktail Chef wouldn’t dream of us not sampling some of his Final Course cocktails.  With desserts made in house daily- Blackberry Crostale or Mascarpone Cheesecake, the Nutella Milk Punch made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, Grand Marnier, milk, Nutella & ground hazelnuts was dreamy.  The Cocoa Pepper created with red pepper vodka, vanilla vodka, white crème de cacao, Cointreau, cream & chocolate was to die for.  I think this was quite possibly THE most delicious dessert drink I have ever tasted.  The spicy & creamy melded perfectly with with vanilla and the cheesecake!  Very decadent I admit, but very worth the extra calories!

Emilia Romagna is both a gem and a tribute born out of success with a philosophy that celebrates our health, our lives and our appetites.  With a farm-to-table dedication and a passion for providing the best of the best, Chef Jonathan Vlasic and Chef Cory Hughes welcome you to come in & try the excellence of their cuisine.

Open at 5pm daily, closing at 10:30pm Monday through Thursday and 11:30pm Friday & Saturdays & located on 19th Street in the heart of the Strip District.  For Reservations Call: 412.709.6477

Tutti venire al tavolo e mangiare!  E come sempre-dire ‘em tuoi amici a Nightwire è stato inviato!  English Translation:  All come to the table and eat! And as always tell them your friends at Nightwire sent you!!

 

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