BYOB Scouting at San Lorenzo in Lawrenceville

TasteBudA and I dined with a couple of friends in Lawrenceville at a new restaurant, San Lorenzo Ristorante. Excited at the prospect of a new BYOB restaurant, I decided to go off-diet and understand what this restaurant is really made of.

The restaurant is bigger than it appears from the outside, probably seating 40 comfortably. We were greeted promptly and sat at a quiet table. Our waitress immediately asked if we wanted our wine bottles opened. Of course, we did.

Browsing the menu, we opted for a trio of appetizers to share at the table before setting sights on the entrees. Calamari, meatballs and greens-and-beans.

The Calamari rings were cooked with a mixture of olives and capers in a tomato-wine broth. The broth was good, but unfortunately very salty. The meatballs were the size of tennis balls so the appetizer portion of two pieces was fine to cut and split at the table. On the contrary of the calamari, the meatballs were lacking something. They were good, but lacked the seasoning or flavor you would want to be wowed. The greens and beans were okay. Unfortunately Matteo’s set the bar very high with that dish and while San Lorenzo prepared a good dish, I wanted the slightly spicier portion from Matteo’s.

Our entrees, pictured throughout, arrived piping hot and we descended upon them and conversation let up.





TasteBuds Pick: Best New Restaurant 2013

October 2013 Wine ExchangeMaybe we’re still on the high from a great wine exchange event last night, but I think it’s safe to say that the TasteBuds Pick for Best New Restaurant in 2013 is Matteo’s in Lawrenceville.

Last night, we gathered with friends, new and old, for our 23rd Wine Exchange at Matteo’s where we enjoyed one of Lawrenceville’s newest gems. Matteo’s staff and kitchen went above and beyond to ensure that we had a wonderful time. The wine exchange left folks learning about the parts of a boat and hopefully also introduced folks to new wines and varietals.

Pork Osso Bucco
Pork Osso Bucco
Bruschetta Tilapia
Bruschetta Tilapia
Matteos Pumpkin Tortelloni
Pumpkin Tortelloni
Extra Sauce for the Osso Bucco
There was even some extra sauce for the pork osso bucco, so it was offered to us tableside.

PhotoBlog: Girasole in Shadyside

As our 21st Wine Exchange fast approached, we felt the need to find a stellar place to host a fitting “21st Birthday” themed wine exchange. We found that place in Girasole. Take a photo tour of our dinner and join us for our next wine exchange on Monday, April 15, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. to discover why we fell in love with this cute little Italian restaurant just off of Walnut Street in Shadyside.

Appetizer – Mussels. There was actual strips of freshly cooked bacon in the broth which added a slightly smoky accent to the mussels.
Black Truffle Ravioli
Black Truffle Ravioli – My ravioli were served with a creamy sauce with fresh tomatoes throughout. The ravs were tender and delicious.
Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli
Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli – TasteBudA got the ravioli with a creamy marinara sauce with his meal. He raved about the dish so much, that you can find it on the wine exchange menu.
Caramel Mocha Gelato – Though at first, TasteBudA thought they brought the wrong flavor, he did not read close enough to know that it was caramel and chocolate with a hint of java flavor.

Interested in the wine exchange event on April 15?  Here is the menu for the event:

Mini filo cups with mushrooms and gruyere cheese

Polenta pizza topped with an assortment of meats, cheeses and vegetables

Antipasto bar with salamis, provolone and fontina cheese, roasted peppers, olives and artiichokes

Girasole Salad – spring mix, carrots, tomatoes, kalamata olives, chick peas, gorgonzola, sunflower seeds, sunflower vinagrette

(Choice of one:)

spinach and ricotta ravioli in a tomato cream sauce

mussels with roasted red peppers, tomato and basil

braised port and honey short ribs over creamy polenta

View the Menu and RSVP at:

Wine Exchange Scouting at Arpino

Roman Cheese Balls
Roman-Style Rice Balls are a cheesy, rice ball lightly deep fried and served with a marinara sauce.

As we began looking for a wine exchange location for October 2012, it was about time we ventured into the south hills for a venue.  Being new to the area, it felt only natural to start with some of the great BYOB locations which participated in Pittsburgh Restaurant Week.

On a cool fall night, we made reservations for Arpino Trattoria in Scott Township.  As the name suggests, this quaint restaurant serves up Italian food from a kitchen inspired by the area of Arpino, Italy.

Inside the Roman Cheese Balls
A peek inside the roman-style rice ball.

We started our meal with the Roman-Style Rice balls, something we’d never seen on an Italian menu before.  They were served in a small pyramid in a bath of homemade marinara sauce.  TasteBudA commented at how much he loved the marinara sauce, while I particularly liked the texture and slight cheesiness of the contents.

Following the appetizer, we each had entrees which were served with bountiful side salads.  The house vinaigrette added such brightness to the salad that I even ate my olives.  (Just to be clear, I love the taste of olives and the brine, but rarely actually eat olives themselves, unless in a martini or the like.)

House Salad from Arpino
The house salad from Arpino Trattoria was bursting with fresh ingredients

For our entrees, I ordered the Linguine Pomodoro ($17) with the addition of Shrimp ($4 add-on).  The dish came with vibrantly colored cherry tomatoes.  The dish was tossed in a light garlic sauce and topped with nicely sized shrimp.  Not that Arpino is the only restaurant to do this – but why are the tails very rarely removed from shrimp when served in a pasta dish?  It adds an unneeded step for the diner and I think restaurants should contemplate making their dishes easier to consume.

Shrimp Linguine Pomodoro
Shrimp Linguine Pomodoro
Zucchini Rollatini
Zucchini Rollatini

For his entree, TasteBudA ordered the Zucchini Rollatini as a throw-back to his former waitering days at Don Parmesan.  When served, he realized that this dish wasn’t exactly the way it had been done from his previous restaurant, but it was a pleasant surprise.  He expected the entire dish to be piping hot through the center, but Arpino took a creative twist with it.  The entree was cooked first, and then the addition of the cold cheese was added.  It gave the dish a contrast with each bite.  TasteBudA was quite pleased that he got even more marinara with this dish.

Arpino Trattoria (Manor Oak Village) on UrbanspoonAs for a wine exchange location, the restaurant seats about 40 guests and is BYOB.  Thanks to our pleasant experience with the wait staff and chef, we are happy to be hosting out October 2012 Wine Exchange at Arpino.

PhotoBlog: Sausalido

grilled flank steak / arugula
and roasted sweet potato / fresh
herbed merlot reduction / fresh
TAGLIATALLI –  hand made pasta / mussels / bay scallops/
grilled eggplant / basil / San Marzano plum tomato 

Grecian feta / roasted plum tomato / basil / extra virgin olive oil

TasteBudA just celebrated a birthday and we did so in style. Check out the dinner we had at Sausalido.
Sausalido on Urbanspoon

An Italian Retreat at Mia Madre Trattoria

Mia Madre Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Mia Madre Trattoria in Avalon, PA (few miles north of Downtown Pittsburgh) was the home for our first of two summer wine exchanges.   After just one visit we knew a wine exchange was in order for this one of a kind restaurant. We fell in love with the welcoming feel as if we were family, and trust me, they will make you feel right at home.  And, most importantly,  we loved the home cooking straight from family recipes and that awesome Italian sense of taste and cooking from the heart.   We wanted our friends, family, and Pittsburgh Tastebud members to have the same awesome experience we had so on June 14th, 2011 the wine exchange took place and Mia Madre Trattoria impressed us more than expected!

Once again they brought us in and catered to us like family.  The staff was organized and ready for our big group all coming in at one time. The biggest thing for me was the staff always had a smile on their face no matter how busy. The food was cooked well, tasty, melted in our mouths and was so properly done that you wouldn’t have known that had to cook for a large group of 38 people. 

We (The Pittsburgh Tastebuds) highly recommend Mia Madre Trattoria for your night out or event.  They are very accommodating, friendly, welcoming, and lets face it, it is the best Italian food in the area.  All of our guests raved about the food and plan on returning back. 

When you go to visit make sure you ask for Al and say hello!

Menu Suggestions:  Get the Greens & Beans or Banana Peppers for an Appetizer.  For dinner I suggest the Eggplant Parmigiana or Veal Marsala and for dessert the Tiramisu.   Those are just my suggestions and don’t let it hold you back from looking over the whole menu, you can’t go wrong with any of the menu options.