The James Beard Awards may be a big deal nationwide, but in my years in LA and Pittsburgh, I didn’t feel like there was enough official recognition of local talent. Not so much in Arizona, which just had its Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame Awards. The event was at the snazzy Wrigley Mansion in the Phoenix Biltmore area and had some light apps to go with the awards.
It’s not often that a fancy restaurant like Via Veneto invites you to check them out as a blogger. But alas, I found myself a few tables away from Zach Galifianakis ready to take down some of the fanciest Italian food in Santa Monica. It began with a couple of glasses of champagne and then we moved on to the real deal.
Off to the side of Shayside’s Walnut Street is an Italian cafe that goes by the name of Girasole. From the looks of it, you’d expect it to be a little bit dingy and perhaps a little bit pretentious. It turns out it is neither of these things, being both airy and friendly. Yet, I wasn’t looking to make friends, I was looking for some grub.
Piccolo Forno in Lawrenceville has apparently emerged as a Tepper student’s top date spot. The BYOB policy may have something to do with it, but I had a feeling the food was probably pretty good as well when I decided to make it the place for my wife’s birthday dinner. As with most cool places, they don’t take reservations so we arrived early enough to get a table quickly.
Ever since arriving in Pittsburgh, I have been told to make my way to Root 174 in Regent Square. It took me a while, but that wait ended recently when the mother-in-law paid a visit to the ‘Burgh. The menu was nothing short of beautiful, but we started out with a little something called Devils on Horseback. This is, of course, dates stuffed with chorizo and manchego topped with a port wine reduction. It was a solid, if not spectacular start, but it whet my appetite for what was to come.
Amidst the dirt and grime of Marrakesh’s souks is a bit of a fine dining experience that feels totally out of place. There’s alcohol on the menu and not a beggar to be seen. I know, weird. And unlike other spots that offer both Italian and Moroccan food, I had a feeling that Cafe Arabe knew how to do them both right.
Since Niagara-on-the-Lake is a wine region, it comes as no surprise that there is a restaurant called the Old Winery. It may, however, come as a surprise that this spot features blues music on Saturday nights. It also features a pretty good selection of beer, pasta and grill items. Although I am typically a man of the grill, the pasta called my name because it went by the name of Gnocchi.
Lettuce Entertain You is kind of a juggernaut of restaurant groups in Chicago. It’s hard to throw a stone in the city without hitting one of their many successful restaurants, and their empire goes beyond just the Second City. Yet, while in that city my sister booked us a table at RPM Italian, which I can only assume stands for Rotations Per Minute Italian. Oh and the super skinny lady from E! News is somehow involved, but I’m guessing she doesn’t eat much of the food.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Big Burrito restaurant mafia in Pittsburgh is kind of a big deal. Such a big deal, in fact, that I recently visited a third member of their family: Casbah. Featuring a menu with dubious claims of Mediterranean origin, there could be no doubt that the ever-changing menu looked nothing short of delicious. It also looked nothing short of beyond a student’s budget, which is why I found myself there with the in-laws.