Sunday, August 7, 2011

Restaurant Review: Lidia's Italian Restaurant, Pittsburgh

When we stopped in Pittsburgh on our way to Washington, I had the opportunity to eat at a restaurant I've been dying to try for a long time, Lidia's in Pittsburgh.  I'm a big fan of her show, Lidia's Italy, and enjoy trying her recipes at home.  A few weeks back, her lamb recipe was part of my weekly menu plan.  When I saw that she had a restaurant in Pittsburgh, I knew I had to try it. 

Location: Lidia's is located at 1400 Smallman Street, in the Strip District of Pittsburgh. The outside of the restaurant is simple, with a small sign indicating that it's there. The inside is much larger, and was designed by the well-known architect David Rockwell. The main dining room on the ground floor has a warehouse-type feel, but with decorative details that create a warm, family atmosphere.  The private dining room on the 2nd floor can accomodate private parties of up to 80 people.  The strip district is located within walking distance of the downtown, but in a more industrial part of the city, close to the Convention Centre, the ball park and the river.

Atmosphere:  The restaurant is upscale, but not stuffy.  When we called to ask about bringing a two year old, the response was that children are "absolutely welcome".  We asked for a 6 pm reservation, and there were several families with children there as well.

Food: The menu is simple, and can be found online HERE.  There are different menus for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, as well as a daily pasta tasting menu featuring unlimited portions of three different pastas.  There are no listed children's menu items, but the waiter was able to offer us several children's options, for $8.50.  Lidia's restaurant does not have gluten free pasta options, but I was curious to see what they offered. 

The children's plates are all items that contain gluten, but there are many meat dishes on the regular menu that are gluten free, and the staff is extremely knowledgeable and accommodating.  Our server, Chris C., spoke with the chef and told us that we could order any non-pasta item for our son, and that the chef would prepare it gluten free and dairy free and would charge us for a children's entree.  We ended up ordering the chef's suggestion of chicken breast on a bed of yukon gold potatoes and green beans with tomato sauce.

The restauarnt also has dairy free sorbet, and my son enjoyed a citrus sorbet at the end of his meal.
The food was delicious, and the price was excellent for the quality.

My son's "children's meal" prepared gluten and dairy free

My son "cutting" his meat.  He loved his dinner!

My husband ordered the pasta tasting trio, and enjoyed fettucine, orechiette with sausage and brocolli rabe, and ravioli with leek and potato.  Servers came to the table and served him each pasta individually, and then returned to offer him more whenever he was running low.  His meal cost $29.99 and came with a salad, unlimited pasta and dessert.  The price was reasonable for a three course meal, and actually low considering the quality of the food.

Pasta Trio

I ordered an appetizer of prosciutto with beans and shaved cheese.  The prosciutto melted in my mouth, but I would have liked the beans to have been a little bit softer. 

My appetizer

As my main course, I ordered the gnocchi in a braised duck sauce.  The pasta was the perfect texture, and the sauce was quite complex.  Duck is not something I order often, but I didn't want to take the safe route.  The meat was dark and flavourful.  The portion was quite large, and I couldn't finish the entire plate.
Gnocchi with braised duck sauce

Verdict:  I will admit that I went to this restaurant a little bit biased because I enjoy Lidia's show as well as her recipes.  I had high expectations, and I wasn't disappointed.  The atmosphere was classy but not stuffy, and children are welcome.   The prices of the plates are reasonable for the class of restaurant and the quality of the food, and the dishes were familiar, but with something a little bit special, like the pairing of duck in a traditional pasta dish. 

From a gluten free standpoint, I was surprised at the level of knowledge of the server, and the willingness of the chef to adapt any dish to suit my son's needs, and without increasing the price. 

I would highly recommend Lidia's restaurant when in Pittsburgh.  The staff is attentive, the food is delicious and people with food restrictions are happily accommodated.

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