Monday, April 2, 2012

On Romantic Dining In The Burgh

Clearly spring is here, and romance is in the air. This of course has me thinking about food. Why? Because I think about food way more than I should; and because inherently, I am not romantic. Personally, I tend to believe that romance happens when it happens. However, I won't deny that certain venues can bring ahhhht what little romanticism I have within me more than others. It's a short list...

Here are the three restaurants in Pittsburgh that create particularly wonderful culinary experiences for their diners, and which also create very nice and intimate settings for a romantic evening with the one (or ones) you so adore: Girasole in Shadyside, Casbah in Shadyside, and Dish Osteria & Bar on the Southside.*

Girasole, a little Italian place tucked away on Copeland Street in Shadyside is definitively intimate. Twelve years ago, I fell in love with the warmly unassuming, well- illuminated yet cavernous interior upon first glance; and I've been returning faithfully ever since, oftentimes with newcomers in tow. For lunch (starting at 11:30 a.m.), reservations aren't necessary; but for dinner (starting at 4:00 p.m.), reservations are highly recommended. In terms of your meal (which must be paired with one of their many wine selections), I strongly suggest ordering in tandem. One person should always try a daily special (fish, meat, or poultry), and the other person should try something from the seasonal menu. Sharing adds to the intimacy and ensures that both diners have a chance to savor more of what Girasole has to offer. From the current seasonal menu (Spring), I would order the Cheese Tortelloni (light cream sauce with peas and prosciutto, lunch $14.99/dinner $17.99) or the Polpette di Agnello (lamb meatballs with artichokes, scallions and thyme, $9.99); and the Girasole Insalata (mixed greens, tomatoes, red onions, garbanzo beans, olives, and gorgonzola in a sunflower vinaigrette, $7.99). For your after dinner change-of-taste, desserts are made fresh daily, which are yet another item that provides an opportunity for sharing. Buon appetito!

Girasole on Urbanspoon
(4 stars, 4/4)

I rock the Casbah. In fact, it's my favorite of big Burrito Restaurant Group's ventures. Aside from having an amazing menu that features cuisine from both the Mediterranean and Northern Africa, Casbah has other aspects that I enjoy, most notably, the lush atmosphere. With a shaded outdoor patio, a chic main dining room and lounge, and a separate private dining room, Casbah has many settings in which to cater your experience well. Check ahhhht their online gallery for pictures that are far more descriptive than my words could ever be. It's hard to recommend menu items at Casbah because the menu changes daily; however, take comfort in the fact that everyone I know (and I mean everyone) who has dined here has been thrilled and satisfied with their meals. Personally, I'm to the point now that I will try anything because all of my choices have proven to be delectable and well worth ordering. Furthermore, I had my 31st birthday party here because I knew that everyone would be pleased with their meals, and would still feel like we had an intimate experience despite a crowd much larger than a couple merely on a date. Lastly, Shadyside is a great place for romantic drinking... or any drinking for that matter. Nevertheless, I particularly enjoy the following cocktails while I rock the Casbah: Rumquat Collins (Mt. Gay Eclipse rum, Clement Creole Shrubb, Velvet Falernum, kumquat, lime, soda, $11), Casbah's Sangria (red & white wine, brandy, agave nectar, seasonal fresh fruit, splash soda, $9), and The Sparkler Wine Flight ($12). ΥΓΕΙΑ! Salute! Salud!

Casbah on Urbanspoon
(4 stars, 4/4)

Dish Osteria & Bar
If one didn't know that Dish Osteria & Bar was on the Southside, I wouldn't be surprised. Hidden away from the ebb and flow of East Carson Street, Dish sits gently on 17th Street, calmly waiting for people to enjoy an intimate evening of authentic Italian cuisine (Sicilian and Mediterranean). Open from 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. on Mondays through Saturdays, this restaurant seats few and serves many, so reservations are highly recommended. With a tastefully welcoming ambiance, one cannot differentiate easily whether they are in NYC's Little Italy or just off the beaten [Burgh] path. For an apéritif (or digestif), I recommend the Pear Tart (Absolut Pear, lemon, Prosecco and raspberry syrup served straight up, $8) or Dirty Dish Martini (Boyd and Blair Potato vodka, olive juice and mountain gorgonzola stuffed olives, $9.5). Ordering meals in tandem at Dish is a certain way to enjoy the experience. If one diner gets a daily feature, then the other diner should order something complementary from the dinner menu. One particular item from the dinner menu that I truly love is the Rigatoni alla Scamorza (Italian smoked mozzarella, prosciutto peas, crushed pistacchio nuts in a cream sauce with Parmiggiano Reggiano, $17.5). This dish puts me in culinary heaven; and even though the portions are perfectly sized, I am quite sad when I reach the bottom of my bowl. Finish off your meal with an espresso, and you'll be ready to head back to East Carson Street for some authentic Pittsburgh nightlife n'at. Buon appetito! Salute!

Dish Osteria & Bar on Urbanspoon
(4 stars, 4/4)

*It must be noted that the customer service in all three of these restaurants is impeccable.