Over in Downtown Pittsburgh is a pretty cool spot called Sienna Mercato. Instead of relegating itself to being just one restaurant, it’s instead divided into 3 floors, with the bottom one called Emporio and dedicated to the art of meatballs. As a lover of meat, this clearly sounded great to me so we paid a visit to the bottom floor.
We began with an order of their bacon Poutine despite the options to a ball, fried egg or pancetta because, well, bacon. It turned out to be unlike any poutine I’d ever seen before. Sure there were fries, cheese and gravy, but the cheese was some sort of strange alfredo-esque sauce instead of curds. The bacon was nice and crispy, as were the fries and the gravy was just fine too. Nonetheless, without curds it was no friend of mine.
For my main course I ordered a couple of balls and some mac and cheese. The way they do their balls is actually pretty unique. First, you have to decide whether you want them in slider form, panini form, grinder form or just on a plate with sauce. Then you have to decide the type of meatballs you want and the sauce to go with them. It’s a good old fashioned custom meatball fest. My first was the Spicy Pork with Pork Bolognese sauce, because there obviously is never enough pork. It was a lovely sandwich with just the right amount of kick and just the right amount of moisture in the meat.
The second was the Classic Beef with Creamy Parmesan sauce. It was completely different from the porky slider. The beef flavor was delicious and nicely seasoned. While the sauce might have distracted from the flavor of the meatball, it was actually pretty accentuating. As for the mac and cheese, it was like a fancy Kraft mac and cheese. I had a choice of sauces, but went with what they called Government Cheese. The noodles were weirdly short and stubby and overall it just wasn’t overly impressive.
In general, Emporia succeeds at what it sets out to do. That is, assuming it has set out to be a meatball joint. It does a damn good job of putting those together, but the other things it does could use some work. Come for the meatballs, stay for, well…the meatballs.