About Eric Fontana

Restaurant Gems of Pittsburgh Restaurant Reviews

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About Eric Fontana

Restaurant Gems OF PITTSBURGH Restaurant Reviews

It's a pretty familiar thought..."Where should we go out tonight?"

"I know what I don't want!" someone chimes in.

"I don't care where we go as long as I don't have to go through the Squirrel Hill tunnel!" another says, not kidding.

"I only have $10..."

Perhaps you've been here before.

There are so many great bars and restaurants in the Pittsburgh area...

...but finding reliable information on the internet can feel like an exercise in futility.

How many fake-sounding Yelp reviews can you read before you throw in the towel and hit up the Olive Garden?

I'm here to tell you that you do not need to settle for the "same old" with so much to experience in Pittsburgh, and you do not need to spend a fortune to have an amazing time.

There is another way! But first, a little background...

At Penn State, I discovered a site called theย State College Bar Tour.

It had all the drink specials at every bar, every day of the week. It was updated weekly.

As most of you know, when you are in college, funds are limited, having access to see where you can drink cheap in college is a huge asset. This was the first time I was like, "wow, how useful to have this information available any time, right at your fingertips - tailored to my location and written by people I trust!"

As I moved on from my college years, I noticed a lack of the same tools for the general public.

Sure, I could sift through reviews of bars and restaurants in Pittsburgh on Google or Yelp until the cows came home...but I never felt like I could really trust what I was reading.

Additionally, there wasn't a single place I could go to see all of the best specials of the week to decide where to spend my cash.

Thus, Restaurant Gems Restaurant Reviews of Pittsburgh began!

I started small, posting reviews on Facebook for fun. It grew from there as people found my reviews helpful, thorough, and sometimes even comical.

My ultimate goal is to help everyday Pittsburghers find hidden restaurant gems that wonโ€™t break the bank.

Think of me as your good friend who has tried the best restaurants in and around the city, giving youย reviews you know you can trust. That's what this website is all about.

I have written restaurant articles for applications and newspapers, appeared on the radio, am working on my second Pittsburgh restaurant book, and am starting to become well known in the Pittsburgh area as I visit all different types of restaurants from all over the area.

You can get started by reading some of my reviews below!


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๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿฅฉ๐Ÿ’Ž HEREโ€™S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I VISIT A RESTAURANT. (The numbers donโ€™t lie)๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ’ก The Facebook post shows up on tens of thousands of news feeds and gets 1,000s of clicks๐Ÿ’ก Your restaurant gets new customers that may not even know your restaurant existed๐Ÿ’ก The current 6,000 followers on my Facebook Page will recommend your restaurant to other people๐Ÿ’ก Your restaurant will be featured on my membership section of my website๐Ÿ’ก I am selective, I do not just go anywhere. I do a ton of research before I even show up, making sure your restaurant is a good fit!๐Ÿง PM me for more details on how I can visit your restaurant or email me at eric@foodofsteelcity.com. ... See MoreSee Less
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๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿฅฉ๐Ÿ’Ž HEREโ€™S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I VISIT A RESTAURANT. (The numbers donโ€™t lie)๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ’ก The Facebook post shows up on tens of thousands of news feeds and gets 1,000s of clicks๐Ÿ’ก Your restaurant gets new customers that may not even know your restaurant existed๐Ÿ’ก The current 6,000 followers on my Facebook Page will recommend your restaurant to other people๐Ÿ’ก Your restaurant will be featured on my membership section of my website๐Ÿ’ก I am selective, I do not just go anywhere. I do a ton of research before I even show up, making sure your restaurant is a good fit!๐Ÿง PM me for more details on how I can visit your restaurant or email me at eric@foodofsteelcity.com. ... See MoreSee Less
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๐Ÿฅฉ ๐Ÿ•๐Ÿ”ฅAre you are restaurant owner interested in me visiting your restaurant? PM me more for more details! ... See MoreSee Less
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4 days ago

Restaurant Gems of Pittsburgh
LAWRENCEVILLEโ€™s BEST KEPT SECRET is OUT! NOT YOUR STANDARD RUN of the MILL ITALIAN RESTAURANT! Go to my Facebook page to read my full review!๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡Restaurant Gems of Pittsburgh ... See MoreSee Less
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4 days ago

Restaurant Gems of Pittsburgh
LAWRENCEVILLEโ€™s BEST KEPT SECRET is OUT! NOT YOUR STANDARD RUN of the MILL ITALIAN RESTAURANT! Piazza Talarico and Papa Joe's Wine Cellar๐Ÿค” There is something special about an Italian Sunday dinner cooked by Grandma. The smell of the homemade spaghetti sauce slow cooking in the pots that has been passed down from the generations. The potent homemade wine that kicks like a mule. The breaking of Italian bread and salad to follow. A lot of people will tell you that a family that eats together stays together. ๐Ÿ”ฅ Carrying on the tradition of Sunday dinner, โ€œPapa Joeโ€ Talarico, Deb, and daughters Katie and Beth started Piazza Talarico and Papa Joeโ€™s Wine Cellar. What started out as the family purchasing a commercial winery license selling their wine at expos and farmerโ€™s markets has grown into not only a wine cellar, but also a restaurant that serves delectable, rustic, southern Italian food. Let us explore how this Italian restaurant and wine cellar has skyrocketed in popularity in the trendy neighborhood of Lawrenceville. ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น There is a certain level of mystique when it comes to Italian cooking. One of the biggest keys to Italian dishes, like most culinary dishes, is the use of fresh ingredients. Daughter, Beth Talarico, can best be described as a โ€œmagicianโ€ in the kitchen, pumping out amazing, southern Italian culinary dishes. Let us see what she is cooking up! ๐Ÿง€ Antipasto/appetizers - If you talk to Pittsburgherโ€™s who have been to Piazza Talarico, most will tell you that they have arguably the best fried zucchini in Pittsburgh, let me explain why. The fried zucchini planks are deep fried and breaded with a side of their famous grandmaโ€™s red sauce for dipping. Texture is often overlooked when it comes to food and cooking in general. The zucchini is cut super thin, fried to a golden brown, and is soft and velvety on the inside and crispy on the outside, delicious! ๐Ÿ• Pizza - First things first, the pizza crust is homemade, 10โ€ in diameter, and is thin and crispy and extremely light. The pizza sauce is made from hand crushed San Marzano tomatoes. The base cheese is whole milk mozzarella which gives you a touch of grease that adds to the flavor pop. A pet peeve of a lot of people is lack of abundance of toppings, Piazza Talarico loads on the toppings. Pizza selections include pepperoni, soppressata, margherita, Leonetta (white), and quattro formaggi (blend of Italian cheeses). ๐Ÿ Meatballs โ€“ As you would expect, Piazza Talarico understands the concept of making a tasty meatball. First things first, fat equals flavor. Piazza Talarico uses the right fat content ratio that keeps the meat juicy, so it does not dry out. They also do not make the mistake of rolling them too tightly which can cause the meatball to be tough, rubbery, and hard to chew. They are seasoned generously, and Pecorino Romano cheese is also added to the mixture which give the meatballs added depth and flavor pop. The results are a mouthwatering meatball that when cut into does not crumble into pieces and holds its integrity. ๐Ÿ Macaroni โ€“ The baked macaroni is a recipe that has been passed down from the generations and is over a century old. Piazza Talarico uses Swiss cheese with hard boiled eggs, continuing the family tradition traced back to Calabria in the 18th Century. They are so particular in that the pepperoni they use for the baked macaroni comes from Philadelphia. You can add meatballs or sausage to the macaroni dishes for a small upcharge. Check their menu for macaroni selections. ๐Ÿจ Dolce/deserts โ€“ I have been to many restaurants in my travels, it is going to be hard to find deserts made with such passion and love. The โ€œSea Salt and Olive Oil Gelatoโ€ features Mercurioโ€™s vanilla bean gelato drizzled with Corto extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with black sea salt. The olive oil addition, discovered by the Talarico family in Bedford, PA and then again in the Napa Valley, adds a depth of flavor that is beyond belief. The โ€œZeppoleโ€ is fried Italian dough that is so light and fluffy it implodes when you cut into it. It is served with a side of Nutella. ๐Ÿท Wine โ€“ Established in 2013, โ€œPapa Joeโ€ Talaricoโ€™s Wine Cellar prides itself on creating great tasting wine using the same hard work and fervor as their ancestors. Fan favorites include the โ€œTannat (red)โ€ which is full bodied with high tannins, a good balance of acid, and notes of raspberry, blackberry, and leather. It has a nice kick with a ABV of 15.5%. The โ€œFrascati (white)โ€ is a dry white table wine that is composed of a blend of Malvasia and Trebbiano grapes which is imported as juice from the Lazio region of Italy/Rome. It has a citrus aspect and some floral notes. It is a light bodied wine and served chilled. The โ€œVino da Tavola (red table wine)โ€ is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese grapes from the Lodi region of California. It has hints of black cherry, licorice, black pepper flavors, and is medium bodied.๐Ÿง My final take โ€“ There are a lot of Italian restaurants in the Pittsburgh area that serve tasty Italian food and are highly successful. The Talarico family wanted to do something a little different. Their vision was to create an Italian restaurant and wine cellar that was โ€œoff the beaten path,โ€ much like a neighborhood restaurant that you would find in Southern Italy. There is a wine bar with indoor seating, and an outdoor area that gives you privacy and great ambience, and an upstairs dining area for special occasions. If you have never been to this place, you will be blown away by the quality of the food, service, and hospitality. To show you their dedication for the familyโ€™s mission and passion for their restaurant, โ€œPapa Joeโ€ indicated that rather than model a typical Italian-American restaurant to focus on increased business and growing their customer base, they want to do it their own way, featuring traditional Southern Italian peasant food, and are extremely proud of what they do. With this type of attitude, success will follow!๐Ÿ”ช Score1. Taste and Flavor โ€“ 5/52. Portion Size โ€“ 4/53. Ambience โ€“ 5/5 ๐Ÿ–Š Score rubric1. Taste and Flavor โ€“(1) Bland, no taste at all, under/overcooked/dry(2) Edible, but below average, little to no spices, herbs, or seasonings, under/overcooked/dry(3) Decent quality, spices/herbs/seasoning used. Not going to rave about the food but also not going to complain.(4) Restaurant/dish lives up to reputation. Flavorful, it is clear spices/herbs, seasonings are used effectively. Dishes clearly thought out and well executed. What you would expect for your hard-earned dollar.(5) Exceeds expectations. Not only are spices/herbs, and seasonings used to perfection, at this level, highest quality ingredients/meats used. Processes such as aging, brining, and marinating are used at this level. Food is cooked to perfection at this level and meat is unbelievably tender and juicy. You tell all your friends and family immediately about your food experience. 2. Portion Size โ€“ How much food do you get, is there left-overs? 5s need to wow me. 3. Ambience โ€“ The mood or feeling of the restaurant. Decorations, history, memorabilia, etc. Is it an atmosphere you could spend hours at? ... See MoreSee Less
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