Archive for September, 2010


In this months issue of Pittsburgh Magazine they featured a long list of “The Best in the Burgh.”  One of my selections was the home fries and Ham Off the Bone that they serve at Nancy’s in Wilkinsburg.  They couldn’t include a photo in the article so I thought I would post one that I took this morning.  I was happy to see that the little restaurant was humming with warmth and activity.  The food is real and so are the people.  A big hug from me to Nancy and the whole family.  You are the Best of the’Burgh!


The picture quality is terrible but I did want to post a few photos from the dinner at Benihana this week for the benefit of the three Rivers Adoption Council.  My son, Joseph. and I were stationed at a table with the folks from PNC Bank.  They seemed to have a good time and no one got cut or burned – so I guess it was a success.  Have to also mention that the staff at Benihana is so very gracious and helpful for this event.  Many thanks to them.

First Winner

And the first cookbook goes to….. John Michael Keba.

Best thing he ever ate?  Just go to the “comments” section at the bottom of the posting.  Now I’m waiting for number 10.


There’s no way for me to tell if anyone is checking out my blogs.  So I came up with an idea.  I’d like to ask all of you to send me a response to this blog listing the best thing you ever ate.  I’ll send an autographed cookbook to the 1st, 10th, 20th. 30th and 40th response I receive.  It would be great to hear from you.

It might have been these pastries I ran into in Paris – I’ll have to think abouot my answer.  In the meantime, send me yours and you’ll have a chance to get a free cookbook.


While I wasn’t looking, Sunday has become another booming day down in the Strip district.  Most of the stores used to close their doors for a day of rest but that’s no longer the case.  I went down this past Sunday to take advantage of the lobster sale at Wholey’s (ya gotta love Robert Wholey standing out in front of the store with a microphone shaped like a lobster.  He calls it his “shell phone”) and the sidewalks and the stores were filled with shoppers.  Just a few doors down at the New Sam Bok Oriental Food they were serving up tasty skewers of marinated chicken, egg rolls and a delicious scallion pancake with mung beans.  It had a crunchy exterior and an almost creamy center.  I didn’t get the name of the chef but she was kind enough to pose for a picture and to cook one extra crispy for me.  It was delicious.  They have srirachi available if you’d like to spice it up.

She looks like a tri-athlete and cooks like Martin Yan.  And although the New Sam Bok serves food every day, she mentioned she is only there on Sundays.  Another great Pittsburgh character!


When we were visiting my daughter, Maryann, in Rome last summer, I was completely captivated by the coffee culture in Italy.  In the morning people might linger over a big bowl of coffee into which they have poured hot milk and crumbled some day old bread.  On their way to work they might stand at a coffee bar for all of 10 seconds while they down a quick shot of espresso.  The afternoon might call for another shot while lingering at a cafe to chat or watch the world go by and then a cappucino for dessert after dinner with a little biscotti.  Different coffees for different times of the day in different kinds of cups.  The picture above is my afternoon pick-me-up.  Just a quick shot of pure coffee joy to get me through the afternoon.  The crema on top is what makes it perfect for me.  Thanks to Jura Capresso for the machine and LaPrima for the beans.

Field Trip to Penn Hills

I’ve been to Penn Hills many times but apparantly I haven’t seen the best parts – until today.  Thanks to Fred Vaccarelli for introducing me to Pasqualino’s Restaurant on Frankstown Road where the soups are better than home made and for guiding the way to Leonard Labrila’s store just a few hundred yards down the same road.  That store is AMAZING with one of the largest selections of DiCecco pasta I have ever seen and the greatest variety of canned tomatoes, olive oils and other Italian food specialties this side of the Strip District.  But the star of the show out there is Elvira Palumbo how hand makes the crispiest, and yet most tender pizzelles you’ve ever eaten.  They taste home made because they are!  She’s right there in the store with her little griddles turning them out two at a time.  But she is a machine!  She stopped long enough to give me a sample and a smile.  I don’t know which was sweeter.


You all know how reluctant people are to cross bridges and go through tunnels.  Last night I went all the way to Beaver to spend the evening with the folks from the Beaver Counter Medical Society.  The draw?  Cheesecake.  Not the cloying, overly sweet and decadent kind from the restaurant of the same name.  These were actually made by Phyllis Loffreda-Mancinelli (of Ravioli Lady fame) from a recipe I got from my mother.  They are barely sweet with a hint of lemon flavor and a creamy texture.  Phyllis must have stayed up all night baking and cooling all these cakes.  And they all came out looking (and tasting) perfect.  We served them with fresh berries.

After dinner and the cooking demonstration, they started dance lessons and that was my cue to head back East to Regent Square.  My thanks to the Medical Society for inviting me to the dinner, to Phyllis for doing all the hard work and to her husband, Claudio, for his hospitality (and two great bottles of wine to try at home.)  Here’s the recipe in case you’d like to try this at home.


6 eggs

6 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 pounds ricotta, drained

1 pound of cream cheese or mascarpone cheese

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 pint sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9″ springform pan.  Beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the vanilla.  Beat in the cheeses and lemon juice until the mixture is smooth.   Fold in the sour cream and then pour into the prepared springform pan.  Bake for 1 hour and then turn the oven off and leave the cake in the oven for 3-5 hours.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.