Monday, September 15, 2008

Back from the Pitt

Originally published in D-Tales here, edited for content.

...So I get to my hotel, drop off my laptop, and head straight to work around 6:00PM. Now, I haven't eaten since the Bob Evans in Toledo around noon, so when we get out of work I'm starving. So one of the girls, who I refer to as Mini-Me, and I go to the Applebee's by my hotel (this is now officially a Pittsburgh tradition), where we partook of the ridiculously huge Pittsburgh portions of food and smoked our last public building cigarettes, as the Pennsylvania smoking ban went into effect at midnight on Thursday.

Thursday I worked 8:00-6:00. Went back to the hotel, slept for 4 hours, and woke up hungry so I decided to get a pizza from the Primanti Brothers, a local chain famous for their sandwiches and a staple of Pittsburghers' diets. I ordered their White Pizza, with garlic sauce, parmesan, mozzarella, tomato, and spinach. Again, Pittsburgh portions are ginormous, but I did my best to stuff myself sick. Oh, and I could taste the olive oil in the freakin' good. This was a damn good pizza. And I ate most of it. Which is the equivalent of 2 Michigan larges. Sick. Me.

SIDEBAR: I love the hotel they put me in when I travel there. The Marriott Springhill Suites has the best "continental breakfast" you'll ever find (waffles, scrambled eggs, sausage, bagels, doughnuts, muffins, fruit, yogurt--EVERYTHING), and there is something strangely comforting about staying in a hotel room that's larger than your 580 sq. ft. studio apartment. Even though I'm there for work, the hotel makes it feel like a vacation. Especially since the sink isn't littered with dirty dishes I don't feel like washing or the kitchen table filled with mail I don't feel like reading.

Friday I opened again, and worked straight through 8:00-4:00 so I could hit the road (in the torrential downpours Pennsylvania was having). I decided that since my Pittsburgh experience was a bit limited this time around, I would make the most of it by cruising into Lawrenceville (the arts district) and having a hearty dinner before hitting the road.

I went to Piccolo Forno, which I had read about on the 16:62 Design Zone website before my previous trip. I had caught them before their dinner rush, and had a quiet, relaxing meal in a mostly-empty restaurant. Piccolo Forno, much like many dining establishments in Pittsburgh, is BYOB, so instead of a glass of wine with dinner I had a damn fine cappuccino (best for driving, anyway). I had the Pomodoro e Buffala salad--halved cherry tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and lightly seasoned with rock salt and pepper, with fresh, salty buffalo mozzarella with dollops of housemade pesto sauce. In a big-ass bowl. Caprese salads are among my favorite to begin with, but when all the ingredients are fresh they're amazing.

To follow up the salad, which honestly would have been enough in itself (portions = HUGE), I then had the special prosciutto and squash risotto. It's risotto. With prosciutto. I'm a sucker for both. I had to do it. Even though I was in pain afterwards and all the way through 3.5 hours at 65 mph Ohio. The risotto was great--could have used more prosciutto (I only found a few pieces), but the squash made for an interesting pairing with the prosciutto, and there was a strong presence of parmesan throughout (which made up for the lack of prosciutto for me). Different varieties of squash were used, but the butternut was the most noticeable, though strangely complimentary despite the flavor being so drastically different from the other primary flavors of the dish.