Friday, July 31, 2009

Enrico's Focaccia Bread - Strip District & Forest Hills

I love Enrico Biscotti's baked goods, but don't seem to get to the Strip District as often as I would like. I was thrilled to find that Enrico's has a booth at my local Forest Hills farmers market this summer!

Enrico's was voted one of America's Top Ten Bakeries by authors Jane and Michael Stern, famous for "Road Food". Enrico's was also inspiration for "The Bread, My Sweet", the lovely movie filmed in the Strip in 2000. The movie, which starred Scott Baio and told the love story of Larry Lagatutta, the owner of Enrico's, and his wife.

And I think I have a new love story of my own with Enrico's Focaccia bread! Focaccia is not quite a pizza, but is more than bread. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, Focaccia is "a flat Italian bread typically seasoned with herbs and olive oil." Wikipedia adds that it "may be topped with onion, cheese and meat, or flavored with ... vegetables."

The Focaccia I purchased at the Forest Hills Farmers Market was thick, yet light and airy. It was seasoned with olive oil, and was dotted with a light tomato sauce that tasted like it contained a hint of wine. It was topped with a light amount of cheese and four perfect leaves of basil.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Veltre's Pizza - Forest Hills

2147 Ardmore Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15221
(412) 271-6500

Freshness counts!

This unassuming pizza shop on Ardmore Boulevard in Forest Hills makes some of the best pizza in the 'Burgh.

The ingredients are fresh, and sauce and dough are both made fresh daily. The dough is hand tossed as the order comes in. It's a small shop, and there are no tables for dining, but there are coolers with cold beverages, and the chefs are happy to let you watch them toss the fresh dough if you have to wait.

Veltre's is a traditional Pittsburgh style round pizza. We've tried both medium and large sizes, with and without toppings. If you order the large, the crust is thinner than the medium. I meant to ask them, but I am wondering if they use the same amount of dough for both sizes, and the large is thinner because it is more stretched. The sauce is light and refreshing, with small chunks of tomato and the flavor of Italian herbs. Veltre's uses a good quality and quantity of fresh cheese and grates it daily. As a nice finishing touch, they sprinkle the perfect amount of Parmesan on top of the pizza when it is hot from the oven.

The sides are also fresh and delicious. I love fried mushrooms - Veltre's are breaded and fried, and the result is a crunchy crust that explodes with flavor and juiciness when you bite in, and even reheat well on the occasions when I haven't been able to finish the entire order.

The fried Provolone was also an unexpected pleasure and unlike the typical fried cheese sticks that we've gotten elsewhere. The cheese is cut from a fresh ball of Provolone and is a rounded wedge shape. The cheese is dipped in fresh homestyle bread crumbs that are flavored with Italian herbs, fried to golden perfection and served with a good marinara sauce.
In addition to their outstanding traditional pizza, Vetre's offers three specialty pizzas: White, Broccoli & Cheddar, and Buffalo Chicken with Cheddar. In addition, they make pizza boats, calzones, burgers and sandwiches, soups and salads, wraps, pita and croissant sandwiches, and pasta, and grilled chicken. Their snack and appetizer offerings include that incredible fried provolone and luscious mushrooms, as well as zucchini, french fries, onion rings, pepperoni rolls and buffalo wings. Their meatballs - as possible additions to pasta or on meatball sandwiches - are also fresh and homemade.
Veltre's makes ten types of steak hoagies - they say they are their #1 seller and I can see why! In addition to the regular steak, they offer cheese, mushroom, mushroom & cheese, bacon & cheese, Italian, pepper steak fried, Philly steak, steak & egg and steak, egg and cheese. Sandwiches are served on fresh Mancini Bakery rolls.
I can't wait to go back!

Veltre's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 24, 2009

Easy Pizza Crust Recipe

Don't be afraid of the yeast! This pizza dough is quick and easy.

1 packet active dry yeast
1 cup warm (not hot!) water
1 tsp. sugar
2-1/2 cups + of all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Dissolve yeast in the warm water in a large mixing bowl. When dissolved, stir in all remaining ingredients. Beat vigorously until blended, then let dough rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a pizza pan or very large cookie sheet with cooking spray, or a light coat of olive oil. (I usually use a cookie sheet - my pizza pan has "holes" in it for aeration and it is difficult to clean when I use it to cook fresh dough.)

Flour a clean work surface, and lightly flour a rolling pin. Roll out the dough until it will fit the pan you are using. Place dough into prepared pan. (If you don't have a large work surface, simply press the dough into the pan and spread out using clean, floured hands.)

Spread pizza sauce over the dough and add any toppings you desire.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Monte Cello's of Cranberry

30325 Perry Highway
Cranberry Twp, PA 16066

Every so often, we get a craving for a nice, thick slice of Sicilian style pizza - and when we do, we head straight for Monte Cello's!

Monte Cello's has 8 locations in the Pittsburgh area - downtown Pittsburgh, Sewickley, Shaler, Ross Township, Wexford, Hampton, Zelionople, and Cranberry. The only location we've tried so far is Cranberry. It has two dining areas; one side is a family friendly restaurant and the other a more casual lounge with plenty of tables and booths, a couple of video games to help pass the time, and televisions tuned to sports channels. We usually place our order for take-out pizza, but then sit in the casual bar area and have soup while we wait. The restaurant staff are all very pleasant and accommodating - we've always had excellent, friendly service!

They make four different styles of pizza - Traditional (round, thin), Sicilian (square, thick), Chicago (round deep dish) and Pan Pizza (round, thick). They offer plenty of variations in these basic styles, including a white pizza with fresh toppings, Buffalo Chicken pizza, Taco pizza, and Joe's Special Pizza among other others. On a recent visit, we were told that the dough is fresh daily and the sauce for the Sicilian pizza is made fresh daily at their location. I was pleased to see that they offer a whole wheat crust as an option, but we haven't yet tried that.

The Sicilian pizza is hearty, with a thick, breadlike crust and a rich sauce. They are very generous with the cheese - which, according to their website, is 100% fresh mozzarella and provolone - and the toppings are plentiful. We like to ask for extra sauce but light cheese, and that makes the proportions a little closer to our personal taste. (The pizza in the photo is with the normal proportions of cheese and sauce.)

Monte Cello's has an extensive menu, from appetizers and snacks to full dinners. We love their Wedding Soup, which is very thick with lots of ancini de pepi, tiny and delicious meatballs, and broth that tastes fresh and homemade. We sometimes order the Pressure Fried Chicken, which is one of their specialties. It's wonderfully tender, non-greasy, and very reasonably priced - a small order of four pieces, with a side of mashed potatoes that's easily big enough to share, is only $5.50!

Monte Cello's-Cranberry on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sunseri's Pizza - Baldwin

2805 Custer Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15227
(412) 885-8833

Sunseri's is a long time family favorite with consistently good pizza and menu items. Established in 1974, Sunseri's is a small take-out only pizzaria. It sits on the top of a hill on the Baldwin/Carrick border across from St. Wendelin's Church - said to be the highest point in Allegheny County - which means that if you have to wait for your pizza, you can enjoy the great views of Oakland and downtown Pittsburgh!

The crust is made fresh daily and is rolled by hand, and hand tossed - which sometimes makes for charmingly uneven crusts. The crust is a round, traditional Pittsburgh style, with a chewy top layer and a crisp bottom.

Sunseri's pizza sauce is also made fresh daily. It is a thick, rich sauce with lots of tomato flavor, with hints of oregano and a nice amount of spiciness. Although the proportions of the pizza are fine, I like a lot of sauce (and their sauce in particular) so usually ask for extra sauce on the pizza.

The chefs also have a very generous hand with the cheese and toppings!

Sunseri's has an extensive menu and the menu items are very reasonably priced. Some of our other favorites are the steak or meatball hoagies, wing dings and fried mushrooms. I tried the onion rings for the first time last week and they were excellent! Sunseri's meatballs are also freshly made - they don't take the easy way out and use frozen meatballs the way some restaurants do.

If you plan to order your pizza to eat while watching a Steelers game, be aware that Sunseri's opens at 4:00 p.m. on Sundays. If the Steelers are playing a late game, you're in, but if it's an early game you might be enjoying your pizza while watching another team play.

Sunseri Pizza on Urbanspoon