My Comfort Spots

Bistro 19 - Downtown Mt. Lebanon, across from the old municipal building (posted 01/18/2012)

Right now this is my favorite restaurant on so many different levels.

The people who work there from top to bottom are great. The owners, bar tenders and wait staff as well as the chef are extremely friendly and very easy to get to know. They all take the time to get to know you and make you feel like more than a just a customer. They are people you want to share a meal with.

Next the food. The Chef is extremely talented and creative. From the appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts, ITS ALL GOOD. Let me cover just a few of my favorites. For appetizers my favorite is the crab grilled cheese. Crab meat on a grilled cheese, do I need to say anything more. I also have to mention the Calamarie. Not usually a big fan but this is a lemon pepper calamari with a citrus caper remoulade; put it all together and its fantastic.

Moving on to the entrees, I’ve had so many memorable ones I can’t begin to mention all my favorites but here are a few that stick with me. Their signature and its their signature for a reason, Chilean Sea Bass. Its done with an oriental touch so it takes the oilyness or heaviness of the sea bass and lightens up the entire dish. Just “over the top”. Next is the pork tenderloin done with a rub and raspberry chipotle glaze. Forget your knife, it’s as tender as “budda”. One other favorite is the Pasta Bolognese, which is no longer on the menu but sometimes available if you ask. So full of flavor!!!

Now the desserts. Until you get to know me better, I am a dessert freak. I sometimes judge restaurants on their dessert menu (I’m exaggerating…a bit). The dessert menu changes fairly frequently but one that has been around for a while is the Molten chocolate cake served with Chamborg ice cream!!!! It will knock your socks off.

The one thing that I can’t get into in great detail are the specials on the weekend bacause they can be very complex. This is where the Chef’s creativity and talents really shine. Learning what the specials are when you walk in on Friday or Saturday night is half the fun of going there in the first place. I always have to ask two and three times, “what is it that I’m eating” so that I can tell people about it later in the evening or text my sister while I’m still at the bar.

Sorry to ramble on but I had to give “props” to my favorite!!!

“Thank you Chef for all the great meals and a huge thanks to everyone at Bistro 19 for always making me feel at home!” ….Jim at the Bar

Bistro 19 on Urbanspoon
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Franco’s Trattoria – Dormont on West Liberty Ave.   (posted 01/23/2012)

They also have a Peters Township location but I’m not very familiar with that location so my comments are specific to Dormont.

Franco’s is where I go to satisfy my pasta craving. I have never tried anything else on the menu but the meat ravioli, gnocchi, meatballs, and of course their desserts, therefore, this is going to be a very limited review. (But no less passionate!)

Lets start with my favorite, the meatballs are out of this world!!!! When you go, you have to try one…as an appetizer or have it with a pasta dish. Either way they are terrific.  If you can handle 2 get 2 but they are huge.

Lets start with the gnocchi in tomato basil cream sauce. I discovered this dish with the help of the manager one evening. I was sitting there enjoying a dish of gnocchi with marinara sauce and a meatball, when she asked if I had ever had the same dish with TBC. Question marks began to appear above my head. I had to ask, “what is TBC”. She explained, tomato basil cream sauce. I’m pretty sure I heard angels sing and the lighting in the room brightened just a bit as she said “tomato basil cream sauce”.  On my next trip, I took her bait, and ordered the gnocchi with TBC (with a gorgeous meatball plunked in the middle of course) and I don’t know how to explain the experience. I have heard people use adjectives like “nirvana” or “heavenly” in their descriptions, but I’m not sure if they are enough to describe the pleasure I experience every time I eat this dish.  The sauce is full of texture, chunks of tomato, thick and rich, just delightful!!! Oh and the portion is enough for two with the soup or salad starter. If or when I ever go back to the ravioli, it will have to be with the TBC.

All of their desserts are delicious but my two favorites are the tiramisu and the chocolate cake. The tiramisu is very flavorful and fairly light believe it or not. But the chocolate cake is divine. I get mine cut in half and take the other half home to eat with my left over gnocchi. There’s something about this cake that makes it soooo delicious. Maybe its coffee in the batter or cinnamon in the icing….who knows? What I do know is that it goes great with a glass of red wine.

Franco’s is very very popular so be sure to make a reservation several days in advance.

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DeBlasio’s -  Virginia Manor Shops, Mt. Lebanon (posted 01/26/2012)

Some friends might be surprised that I’m including this restaurant in my comfort spots but I find it to be a consistent and reliable place to eat. This is my parents hang out which is not surprising when you look around the dining room and see all the customers with white hair.

They have 2 appetizers that they do as good as, if not better, than most restaurants; stuffed breadsticks and fried zucchini. The breadsticks are stuffed with pepperoni and provolone cheese. Slice it up and enjoy but have plenty of help because they are pretty big(“Loaf” might be a better term than “stick”).  The fried zucchini is done thinly slice length-wise with a very light batter, sprinkled with parmesan cheese and served with maranara sauce. I prefer mine with just salt and drizzled with the juice of a lemon. A Pittsburgh staple done very well.

I  find most of their entrees to be good and consistent. They have one special on the weekends that I really enjoy; Horseradish Encrusted Grouper which is usually served with Au Gratin Potatoes. Very good and flavorful. I was also pleasantly surprised by the Prime Rib which was also a special one night. I’ve also had a number of the regular entrees and have never had any complaints.

Their desserts are also very good. Rather than having a dessert menu, they have a dessert tray. Nice touch but I always feel like I’m asking my server to make an extra trip to the table just so I can play “eenie, meenie, mynie, mo” to pick my dessert. Again, all very good !!!!

This restaurant has a huge following so be sure to make a reservation or be prepared to sit at the bar or even wait for a seat at the bar.

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