Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chocolat (San Diego)

If there was one regret I have about my San Diego trip, it is that coming down with a cold meant I missed out on valuable opportunities for good dining.  Saturday was my last day in the sunny city, and I wanted to make the best of it.  For lunch, I decided to visit Chocolat in the GasLamp Quarter.  Rodzilla had actually recommended their gelato to me, but being sick and all I really wasn't up for a frozen treat.  What I didn't realize was that Chocolat serves more than just gelato - a friend mentioned the previous evening that she had crepes there and loved it!  So the deal was sealed.  I would go check out the crepes at Chocolat.  (They also serve panini and other desserts.)

I ordered one of the savory crepes, with Portabello and Guyere, and took a seat in the small patio outside.  The crepe arrived in just a few short minutes, and it was highly satisfying.  The crepes themselves reminded me a slight bit of Pamela's famous hotcakes in Pittsburgh - fresh and tasty with a crispy edge.  It was delicious.

Portabello and Guyere Crepe at Chocolat
Portabello and Guyere Crepe

Portabello and Guyere Crepe at Chocolat
Portabello and Guyere Crepe

Sitting by the sidewalk watching people stroll by on this busy Saturday afternoon was the perfect way to enjoy my last day in San Diego.  Before I end my last San Diego post, I leave you with two more photos from the inside of the store:

Gelato at Chocolat
One of two gelato cases at Chocolat

Inside Chocolat

If there is a next time in San Diego, I will be sure to come back for the gelato.

Restaurant info:
509 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
On the web: http://www.chocolatsandiego.com
On Twitter: http://twitter.com/ChocolatSD

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Chocolat on Urbanspoon

Osetra Fish House (San Diego)

While in San Diego, a large group of us had dinner at Osetra in the downtown GasLamp Quarter.  This was my first trip out to this neighborhood and our short walk there and back to our hotel gave me the impression that the GasLamp Quarter is quite a vibrant urban scene at night.

The restaurant itself is quite elegant with a contemporary lounge area downstairs.  Upstairs, a large table was ready for us with a window view.  The service was impeccable; the staff was more than accommodating when someone in our party showed up with two extra guests we hadn't included in our reservation (this was a busy Friday night), and their willingness to separate our checks was also much appreciated.

Being that I was under the weather, I didn't have much of an appetite, so I was only going to order an entree with no appetizer, dessert, or wine.  Even so, the extensive menu made this a very difficult task.  After juggling a number of equally tempting options in my head, I decided to order the Mahi Mahi; the lobster mashed potatoes was what won me over.  The fish itself is marinated in a citrusy concoction and pan seared, served with a lemon brown butter emulsion, roasted almonds, and French green beans.

Mahi Mahi at Osetra
Mahi Mahi ($29)

I loved every bite of this and despite lacking my usual appetite, cleaned my plate in a matter of minutes.  The mahi mahi was cooked perfectly as the meat was soft and moist and the citrus flavor was evident, while the lobster mashed potatoes were savory and delicious.  It was overall a fabulous dish.  Everyone who sat around me loved their food as well.  As with service, the food was a definite two thumbs up.  As a side note, even though Osetra is primarily a seafood restaurant, the owner also owns a steakhouse nearby and Osetra gets their meats from the steakhouse, so their steaks are allegedly high-quality as well.

I did note two oddities about Osetra, though they are not complaints.  First, when my friend made a reservation for our group of 12, she had to guarantee it with a credit card that would be charged $50 for each no-show.  Is this a "San Diego thing"?  None of us had ever heard of this policy before.  Second, while Osetra has an upscale feel and an upscale price point to match (at $29, mine was one of the least expensive entrees on the menu), you might think that their music of choice would be something to the effect of smooth jazz or classical?  But you'd be mistaken.  Sometime during our dinner, a salsa band showed up downstairs to cover American pop music, which was a little unusual, in my opinion.  I found out later on Osetra's website that this is part of their live music event on weekends, so I'm guessing it is really meant for the lounge crowd rather than the dining crowd, but the second floor is an open loft so we most definitely got a loud dose of the music.  Perhaps this is another "San Diego thing," or more specifically, a "Weekend in GasLamp Quarter thing."  I say this because I was out for dinner in this area again the following evening and noticed two Mexican restaurants next to each other, both blasting impossibly loud dance club music, not to mention the general party scene all over the streets of the GasLamp Quarter.  I guess the moral of the story is that one should expect loud music everywhere in this neighborhood on the weekends, even at places where you might not normally expect it, and the style of music you get may not be what you'd expect either.

Nevertheless, I greatly enjoyed my time at Osetra with great company.  I didn't know what to expect of Osetra at the beginning of the evening as this wasn't a restaurant for which I specifically had a recommendation, but I am so glad to have been pleasantly surprised by the amazing food and attentive service.

Restaurant info:
Osetra Fish House
904 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 239-1800
On the web: http://www.osetrafishhouse.com
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Osetra/137861746241444
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/osetra

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Kaito Sushi (San Diego)

'Twas my first evening in San Diego.  After strolling along the coast in La Jolla Cove and watching the sunset, it was time for dinner.  Fellow blogger Rodzilla (who, by the way, is moving to San Diego soon) had given a multiple thumbs up to Kaito Sushi in Encinitas, which was an 18-mile hike from La Jolla (26 miles from downtown), and this would be the only night I could go as I only had the rental car for one evening.  Between the distance, fatigue (I had been up since 2 am PST after only four hours of sleep and traveling all day), and starting to come down with what would eventually become a nasty robbed-me-of-my-voice cold, I came very close to not making it up there at all.  After all, Rodzilla had other recommendations closer to town for me that all sounded really interesting.  In the end, however, I knew Kaito was one place I would regret not checking out.  Besides, don't I keep saying I need more sushi in my life?  So off to Encinitas I went.

Kaito is not easy to find.  It is inside the same strip mall as Kohl's and Five Guys, but it doesn't have a big sign above the restaurant like every other store and restaurant in the mall.  I finally had to call them and they were very helpful in getting me to the right spot (which wasn't too hard as I was already in the right mall).  Phew!

Kaito's space is small and unassuming, and the sushi bar takes up a whole half of the restaurant.  I was there for omakase, which means chef's selection, and it's a good thing I'm game for almost anything.  I noticed several customers already seated in front of the famous Chef Kaz, and I was directed to a seat in front of Chef Joe.  Being the only one on Joe's side of the bar meant I had 100% of his attention.  It was like having a personal chef!  Awesomeness, I say.

The food came fast and furious!

As soon as I sat down, I was presented with a salad, but it's not like any other salad I've had at other Japanese restaurants, which are often composed of iceberg lettuce and forgettable miso dressing.  No iceberg lettuce in this Kaito salad!  Instead, I found some lovely squid and crabmeat.

Salad at Kaito

My first real course was Sweet Shrimp Sushi, which was completely the opposite of the overcooked shrimp you normally get at many other sushi restaurants.  Each sushi was topped with three shrimps wrapped together, and the shrimp was decidedly very fresh.

Sweet Shrimp Sushi at Kaito
Sweet Shrimp Sushi

My second course was the Snapper Sushi, which was lemony and a little spicy, and very good.

Snapper Sushi at Kaito
Snapper Sushi
(Sorry I screwed up the focus on this picture)

Then came the crispy, deep fried Shrimp Heads that were very well seasoned.  I assumed these were the heads of the sweet shrimp I had enjoyed two courses ago.  I didn't know this before, but the shrimp heads were meant to be eaten whole - yep, eyeballs and all! - but do be careful not to poke your throat with the sharp parts.

Shrimp Heads at Kaito
Deep Fried Shrimp Heads

The next course was was Kampachi (amberjack) from Hawai'i, which I'm not sure I've ever had before, and they were amazing.

Kampachi Sushi at Kaito
Kampachi Sushi

Then came two courses of tuna.  The Blue Fin Tuna Sushi from Spain...

Blue Fin Tuna Sushi at Kaito
Blue Fin Tuna Sushi

...and the Toro, also from Spain.  Both were great, but I was pleasantly surprised by the toro which was flavorful and melt-in-your-mouth good.

Toro Sushi at Kaito
Toro Sushi

And then, there was Clams from Massachusetts.  Again, so crazy fresh, to the point they were "crunchy."

Clam Sushi at Kaito
Clam Sushi

At this point I was starting to get quite full.  I told the chef I would stop at just two more courses.  So for the next course, Chef Joe decided to serve me just one piece of the Kohada (gizzard shad) that's only available from Japan.  It was Chef Joe's favorite as he grew up with this fish.  It had a pretty strong "fishy" flavor, almost like sardine, so certainly not for the faint of heart (or tastebud).

Kohada Sushi at Kaito
Kohada Sushi

My final course was Deep Fried Hama Hama Oysters from Washington state.  They were perfectly done; crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and came with mustard as well as a tomato-based sweet sauce made with carrots, garlic, and onion that the chef explained is a typical sauce the Japanese use to dip seafood in.

Deep Fried Hama Hama Oysters at Kaito
Deep Fried Hama Hama Oysters

During the course of the dinner, I asked Chef Joe what makes his sushi so much better than the rest.  He thanked me, and said they source from the best fish companies and use the fish the same day they receive them so nothing is ever frozen.  It was clear that this was some high quality stuff, and the food was most absolutely worth the drive up the coast for!  I also enjoyed the personable service I got.  Talking with Chef Joe while he prepared and I dined was quite a lot of fun.  I also noticed many regulars at the restaurant on this Wednesday night - I knew they were regulars from the way the chefs greeted them as they walked in.  Clearly, Kaito has a following, and I can certainly see why.  Hey, I came all the way from Pittsburgh, and would dine there again if I ever find myself in the neighborhood in the future.  Thanks for another great find, Rodzilla!

Restaurant info:
Kaito Sushi
130 N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024
On the web: http://www.sushikaito.com
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KaitoSushi
On twitter: http://twitter.com/kaito_sushi

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Ocean Beach Pier Cafe (San Diego)

I spent a few days last week in sunny San Diego for work.  I decided to fly out there a day early and get a rental car so I could explore some outlying areas of San Diego.  Friend Burgh Gourmand had talked of this taco shack out on the pier at Ocean Beach, which piqued my interest, so as soon as I got my car, I drove straight to Ocean Beach in search of tacos.

The pier wasn't hard to find, but I certainly didn't expect it to be so long!  Kind of cruel to make people walk so far for tacos, no?  Are we there yet??

Ocean Beach Pier Cafe
Ocean Beach Municipal Pier

And towards the end of the long walk is the Ocean Beach Pier Cafe.  Really more than a taco shack, but it's not a big place for sure.  It has some indoor as well as outdoor seating.

Ocean Beach Pier Cafe
The Ocean Beach Pier Cafe

Ocean Beach Pier Cafe
The Ocean Beach Pier Cafe

But tell me, why would anyone want to sit inside in beautiful, sunny, 70-degree San Diego?

Ocean Beach Pier Cafe
Outdoor seating overlooking the water

OK, maybe not the counter seats above.  I thought to myself, what could be better than enjoying tacos with a beautiful view of the ocean?  Well, as soon as I set down my tacos at one of the seats, seagulls came crashing my little taco party.  So I moved to the safer patio seats by the entrance of the restaurant.

I ordered the popular Lobster Taco, topped with cheese, cabbage, salsa, and a white sauce.  The taco is a double dose of soft corn tortilla.

Lobster Taco at Ocean Beach Pier Cafe
Lobster Taco ($4.76)

I also got the Famous Fish Taco, which is pretty similar to the lobster taco but with grilled mahi mahi instead of lobster.

Fish Taco at Ocean Beach Cafe
Famous Fish Taco ($4.62)

Both were delicious!  The seafood was tasty and the tortillas were fresh.  I had wondered why they had doubled up on the tortillas, and then I realized that two tortillas were needed to hold the hefty amount of fillings and the sauce!  Still, the sauce was dripping off my arm so I had to give up and use a fork instead (which was supplied - smart).  All in all, it was a lovely first meal in San Diego.  Thanks for the recommendation, BG!

Restaurant info:
Ocean Beach Pier Café
5091 Niagara Ave, San Diego, CA 92107
(619) 226-3474
(Park along Niagara Ave and walk out to the pier)

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Creamy Italian Sausage Fettuccine with Spanish Peanut Sauce from Cinco de Mayo Salsas

I know I've been posting a lot lately about my dining out adventures, but I've actually been cooking a lot as well!  Lately, I've been doing a lot with Olio Fresca products and Cinco de Mayo Salsas from the Pittsburgh Public Market, and I plan to write a series of posts featuring them.

Since I first discovered Cinco de Mayo Salsas not long ago, I have become a loyal fan.  Last time I wrote about Cinco de Mayo Salsas, I posted owner Arturo's Chicken with Spanish Peanut Sauce recipe.  The Spanish Peanut Sauce is probably my favorite of Arturo's salsas, and here's a second recipe he taught me, and the result is so phenomenal that I've already made this three times in the past month!


1 lb Italian sweet sausage, removed from casings
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 (8 oz) tub of Spanish Peanut Sauce from Cinco de Mayo Salsas
4 servings of fettuccine
Spices to taste


Cook fettuccine according to package directions until just before al dente.  Drain.

In a large skillet, cook sausage until brown while crumbling with your spatula.  Add Spanish Peanut Sauce and heavy cream.  Once heated through, add pasta and toss.

Creamy Italian Sausage Fettuccine with Spanish Peanut Sauce from Cinco de Mayo Salsas
Creamy Italian Sausage Fettuccine with Spanish Peanut Sauce from Cinco de Mayo Salsas

Pittsburgh friends, if you want to make an easy yet delicious meal and support a local small business owner at the same time, go to the Pittsburgh Public Market on Saturdays, buy some Spanish Peanut Sauce from Arturo, and give this recipe a try!  You won't be disappointed!

Click here for more recipes using Cinco de Mayo Salsas, available at the Pittsburgh Public Market during the winter and all around town during the farmers market season.

Waffallonia (Squirrel Hill)

While I was busy keeping up with my Pittsburgh Restaurant Week posts, I got behind on some of my older posts, so I'm going to try and catch up as much as possible!

This was from a visit a couple of weekends ago to Waffallonia in Squirrel Hill.  R. likes waffles, and I had never been to Waffallonia, so I thought we'd make a trip down there to see what it's about.  Waffallonia has an extremely small space that seats only a handful of people at a time, but even though the place is busy, the turnaround is pretty quick.  And because they are busy, the waffles are always freshly made.

Waffle Dough at Waffallonia
Fresh waffle dough

Waffallonia, a play on the name of the Belgian region of Wallonia, specializes in Liège waffles.  They make them using pearl sugar from Belgium that caramelizes over the shell of the waffle, making them crunchy on the outside while soft on the inside.  I had never had this style of waffle before, and I liked it a lot.  I selected the special Holiday Waffle with Belgian chocolate ganache that's made with real Belgian dark chocolate topped with peppermint whipped cream.  It was a yummy combo!

Holiday Waffle at Waffallonia
Holiday Waffle ($5)

R. ordered the Charleroi, which bananas, strawberries, and nutella.  I don't think you can ever go wrong with fresh fruits and nutella!  What a great treat and R. enjoyed it.

Charleroi at Waffallonia
Charleroi ($5.25)

What a great little shop in Squirrel Hill.  I'm so glad I finally got to try it!

Restaurant info:
1707 Murray Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217
On the web: http://www.waffallonia.com

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Waffallonia on Urbanspoon

Bite Bistro (Bellevue): Take Three

UPDATE (8/19/2012): Bite Bistro has closed its Bellevue location. As of this update, the owners are in the process of scouting a new location.

I had two goals for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week:  1) to try something new, and 2) to return to an old favorite.  My first two PRW restaurants, Bella Sera and Habitat, were new to me, and so for my third night it was time to satisfy goal #2.

Bite Bistro has been a favorite of mine since my first visit there and is always on my list when people ask me for restaurant recommendations in Pittsburgh.  They nod knowingly when I mention Salt of the Earth, and usually have some familiarity with Braddock's American Brasserie, but more often than not they have never heard of Bite Bistro.  I guess being in Bellevue makes it less of a hot spot for those who live, work, and play only within the city's limits, but in my opinion, Bite Bistro is worth the (short) trip north to Bellevue.  So as soon as I realized that PRW would be sort of close to my birthday, I decided that it would be the perfect excuse to celebrate and the perfect opportunity to introduce a big group to Bite Bistro.

For PRW, Bite Bistro offered a three-course special for $15, which came with a house salad, choice of veal chili, chicken breast, or portobello, and either lime sorbet or grapefruit granita.  A few in the group opted for the special, but I decided to create my own three-course meal from the other regular menu items.

For my "small bite," I had wanted to get the Foie Gras, but sadly they were out.  I was ready to pick another small bite, but our awesome waitress Casey talked to the chef who said he would especially prepare a duck pâté plate for me.  I couldn't believe how accommodating he was!  It came with three different sauces: apple butter, sweet potato and local honey, and duck glaze.  And it was a slam dunk!

Duck Pate at Bite Bistro
Duck Pâté ($11)

For my "big bite," I chose the Portobello with turnip and balsamic.  It was a great combination and a very satisfying vegan option.

Portobello at Bite Bistro
Portobello ($12)

Since I felt so healthy with my "big bite" selection, it wasn't difficult to justify ordering dessert.  I chose the S'mores, with truffles, walnut crunch, and roasted marshmallows.  This was an excellent dessert, and I particularly loved the perfectly roasted marshmallows with its smoky, caramelized skin.

S'mores at Bite Bistro
S'mores ($6)

S'mores at Bite Bistro
S'mores ($6)

Of the nine of us there, seven were new to Bite Bistro, and since I had been raving so much about Bite Bistro, I felt like I had seven people to impress.  Luckily, I think they all enjoyed their meals.  I had a bite of the Hangar Steak with pork fat fries and Duck Breast, and both were delightful.  A friend who got the Short Ribs described it as "to die for."

And just when we thought our fabulous meal was over, the chef had two additional surprises for us: a blood orange dessert and prosciutto and brie.  Both were lovely.

Blood Orange at Bite Bistro
Blood Orange Dessert

Prosciutto and Brie at Bite Bistro
Prosciutto and Brie

We had such a fabulous time at Bite Bistro - and it's not just the BYOB wine and beer talking!  Great food, top-notch service, and super-fun company made this night all the more special.  It was quite possibly one of my most memorable birthday celebrations ever!  What a perfect way to cap off Pittsburgh Restaurant Week!  Thanks for coming out, everyone!

Restaurant info:
Bite Bistro
565 Lincoln Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15202
On the web: http://www.bitebistro.com
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BiteBistro
On Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bitebistro
Bonus: BYOB

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Habitat (Downtown)

My second Pittsburgh Restaurant Week adventure took Señorita Cibulka and I to Habitat inside the Fairmont Hotel downtown, a first visit there for both of us.  I was particularly excited to try Habitat as their Pittsburgh Restaurant Week special sounded absolutely fabulous!

Walking into the Fairmont was like walking into a fancy department store as a hint of crisp perfume was lingering in the air.  Habitat is on the second floor, with an overlook down to the hotel's lobby.  I was first to arrive just before the restaurant opened at 5:30 pm, and was led to our table at the very back of the restaurant with a window view of Market Street on one side and the open kitchen on the other.  Habitat's ambience is decidedly contemporary and refined, which seems to be the theme for the Fairmont.  I took some time to snap a few photos:

Entrance at Habitat
The Glass Door at the Entrance
Can you tell what the pattern is? :)

Open Kitchen at Habitat
Open Kitchen

Candle at Habitat
Candle on the table

Water Pitcher at Habitat
Even the water pitcher is cool!

But what of the food?  As I said, I was drawn by the Pittsburgh Restaurant Week three-course special for $30.  There were three fabulous-sounding options each for the first and the second courses, and for the dessert, anything from their regular dessert menu was game.

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Menu at Habitat
Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Menu

For my first course, I waffled between the Baby Bibb Salad (with local apples, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and toasted hazelnut-dijon dressing) and the Pennsylvania Mushroom Tart (with braised leek and parmesan cream).  In the end, I went with what I thought would be the healthier option: the salad.  It was good, and the dressing had a strong flavor.  There was probably a bit too much of the dressing left in the end as my last few bites of the salad were too vinegary, but overall I enjoyed the salad.

Baby Bibb Salad at Habitat
Baby Bibb Salad

Breaking my own rule, I took a photo of SC's mushroom tart even though I didn't taste it, but it just looked so good!  I'm sure she'll be telling the world all about this soon in her blog.

Pennsylvania Mushroom Tart at Habitat
Pennsylvania Mushroom Tart

For our second course, both SC and I chose the Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi with Braised Organic Oxtail.  This was absolutely amazing!  The consistency of the gnocchi was nothing like I expected.  They were "fluffy," almost like biting into a cloud or a soft pillow of ricotta goodness.  The oxtail and the savory sauce were simply heavenly.  The portion doesn't look big, but it is sufficient.  Judging from the regular menu I saw on their website, this is an appetizer item as well.

Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi, Braised Organic Oxtail at Habitat
Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi with Braised Organic Oxtail

Our attentive waiter, Nate, then presented us with the dessert menu.  I thought my appetizer choice was tough, but it was even tougher to pick just one dessert!  The Pumpkin Pudding made it to my short list, and the Warm Gingerbread sounded good too, but when Nate mentioned that Chocolate Oreo Torte has cream with fresh mint whipped into it and cocoa nibs sprinkled on top, both SC and I were sold!

Dessert Menu at Habitat
Dessert Menu

Chocolate Oreo Torte at Habitat
Chocolate Oreo Torte

I had thought the gnocchi was hard to top, but the Chocolate Oreo Torte really stole the show tonight.  The chocolate filling was rich and decadent, and the fresh mint whipped cream was oh so deliciously fresh!  I kept trying to come up with something I could make at home that could be topped with mint whipped cream.  I really need to try making this whipped cream myself sometime!

Though I had not-so-secretly hoped that I would have room for two desserts (that Pumpkin Pudding just sounded so amazing!), I was quite full after the Chocolate Oreo Torte.  Oh well, maybe next time.  Nate informed us that the menu would remain the same until March.

The service at Habitat, from the host to the server, was excellent, much as what one would expect at a fine dining establishment inside an upscale hotel.  Jerry, the manager, even came by our table to greet us and make sure that everything was to our satisfaction.  I am not used to being so pampered and certainly never demand this kind of attention, but it was sure nice to be treated like I'm some VIP.  Habitat truly exceeded my expectations in every way, and I'm so glad I made it there tonight.

Restaurant info:
510 Market Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
On the web: http://www.habitatrestaurant.com
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HabitatRestaurant
On Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/HabitatPgh

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bella Sera Urban Trattoria (Downtown)

UPDATE 4/15/2012: Bella Sera is under new ownership and is now known as Sienna Sulla Piazza.

It's Pittsburgh Restaurant Week!  I haven't been around long enough to know the full history of this event, but from what I understand, there hasn't been much of a history, and the bloggers over at Pittsburgh Tastebuds are trying to revive this tradition.  And gosh, they're doing a darn good job at it!  The restaurant additions trickled in slowly over the past month or so, and in the end there are some 30 local restaurants participating in this event, including some of my favorites and a few I have been meaning to try.

Because of various work and life obligations, I didn't get to start my PRW adventures until tonight, even though the week began this past Monday.  But I have three days of fun eating-outings planned and I'll try to post about them shortly after each visit.

Kicking off my three days of PRW was a dinner at Bella Sera Urban Trattoria in Market Square downtown, which was suggested by friend and fellow blogger Mike over at Foodburgh.  Bella Sera has been on my restaurant wishlist for some time so this was a great opportunity to check it out.

Bella Sera is cute in a classy way.  I particularly loved the exposed brick walls on the interior of the restaurant.  There is a bar that seems to have a wide-ranging alcohol selection.  I would think this is a good happy hour hangout.

The bar at Bella Sera Urban Trattoria
The bar at Bella Sera

Neither of us ended up going with the PRW special which was a flatbread special and wine for $20.12.  Instead, Mike ordered the Bella Chopped Salad (with roma tomatoes, red onions, cucumber, hearts of palm, gorgonzola, and red wine vinaigrette) and the Prince Edward Island Mussels in a white wine sauce to share.

PEI Mussels at Bella Sera Urban Trattoria
Prince Edward Island Mussels ($10)

I thought I was going to give Bella Sera's grilled eggplants a try, which is a feature in the Linguini with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto.  I'm always a bit leery of eggplants as my reactions to eggplants span the entire range from love to hate, depending on how it's prepared.  When I was in Italy back in the summer, I loved the eggplants there, so I figured I might like Bella Sera's version.

Linguini with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto at Bella Sera Urban Trattoria
Linguini with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto ($13)

The pasta was very tasty, and I actually liked that the portion wasn't huge.  But I poked and prodded and didn't find any eggplants!  I thought maybe it was blended into the sauce, and even convinced myself at the time that I could taste hints of eggplant.  Another curious thing occurred when the bill came and I was charged $13 for the pasta, even though I could have sworn it said $10 on the menu.  I didn't argue with Tracy, our waitress (who was real nice, by the way) on either of these discrepancies.  Honestly, I'm exhausted from a long week at work and just didn't think too much about it.

I solved the mystery later when I got home and took a look at Bella Sera's menu online, which mentions nothing about eggplant for the Linguini with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto, and that the linguini is listed as $13. So it turns out they have an online menu that reflects more accurately what they're serving than the physical menu at the restaurant!

I had originally intended to try their tiramisu for dessert, but I was really full from my pasta and decided to be good and skip dessert this time.  After all, I have two more big meals coming up!

Both Mike and I were satisfied with our meals.  Bella Sera was pretty much on par with our expectations.  The menu error was an unusual one, and I plan to let them know so they can remedy it soon.

UPDATE 1/20/2012:  I called Bella Sera and notified them of the menu error.  They said there's been some issues with misprintings in their menus but that they are actually switching to a new menu next week with a new chef coming in.  It is too bad that they weren't able to showcase the new menu for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week but I am curious to see what new items they have to offer.

Restaurant info:
Bella Sera Urban Trattoria
22 Graeme St, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
On the web: http://www.bellaserapittsburgh.com/mktAbout.html
On Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/BellaSeraMSq
Bonus: Free Wifi

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