Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Stagioni: Bringing Class to East Carson Street


Let’s play a word association game.  When I say East Carson Street, what’s the first thing you think of?  Bars? Yeah, sure.  There are so many bars and so little time that many have been known to awaken next to the porcelain throne in a fetal position.  Noise disturbances and fistfights you say? Hmm…perhaps I should just cut to the chase.  Yes, it’s definitely true that East Carson Street has a reputation for excessive libation and poor decisions, but there’s a diamond shining among the rough.  It’s time to ignore the ruckus and treat yourself to the food and atmosphere that Stagioni has waiting for you. 

Stagioni resides in the once Le Pommier, after relocating from their smaller locale in Bloomfield.  I rather adore the residential feel you get when opening the door.  A staircase, with a lovely wooden railing, will greet you before entering the cozy bar area.  You could dine there and enjoy watching the creation of an elegant cocktail, or you may have reserved one of the granite, tabletops in the dining room.   

New Fashioned
Once seated, you’ll anticipate laying your eyes on the ever-changing, seasonal menu.  Some staple items consistently appear, like their delicate ricotta gnocchi.  But I prefer to take the road less traveled.  One dish that stood out recently was the grilled swordfish with salsa verde.  The swordfish was perfectly tender and bathed in the bold flavors of fresh herbs.  Ordering the fingerling potatoes as a side is a must.  Unlike the many boring potato presentations I’ve encountered, this was a medley of flavors and textures.  Crunchy pine nuts, salty olive tapenade, and Parmesan cheese worked together to bring inspiration to what would have been a typical menu item. 

Grilled Swordfish with Salsa Verde
Fingerling Potatoes
While dinner has been nothing but stellar, Stagioni’s Italian take on Sunday brunch has a delicious grip on me.  Cara DelSingnore, co-owner and designated greeter, has seen my mug many a Sunday.  A thoughtful treat of complimentary dried cherry scones and sinfully, delicious coffee cake (made in house of course) are presented shortly after you order your bottomless French press coffee.  These sweet morsels keep your hunger at bay while you peruse the menu. 

Complimentary Sweet Breads with Brunch
While everything I’ve tried is seasonally delicious, the steak and eggs is unbelievable.  I usually regret ordering this item at other eateries because the steak portion is often paltry and overcooked; yet I find myself paying a premium price.  Chef and co-owner Stephen Felder has officially restored my steak-loving faith.  There’s nothing measly or bland about the charred, peppered cut of beef that consumes your plate.  It leaves just enough room for spicy potato hash (a mix of roasted peppers, potatoes, and onions) and two fried eggs.  The only thing better than eating medium rare beef, is eating beef with a side of ricotta pancakes.  These are perhaps the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten.  Forget mountains of whipped cream to hide a less than desirable cake.  No, this cake is nakedly divine with the exception of a drizzle of syrup and dollop of mascarpone.  If you don’t close your eyes and make provocative noises while eating this, I’ll be shocked and disappointed in you.  For less than twenty dollars, you’ll be completely satisfied well into the dinner hour. 


Steak and Eggs
Ricotta Pancake
If you want to try something special, reserve your spot for one of Stagioni’s Sunday Suppers.  In keeping with the homey vibe of their d├ęcor, you’ll be served four family style courses.  Feel free to BYOW (bring your own wine) on these event nights free of corkage fees. 

I know some people avoid East Carson Street, especially beyond dusk on the weekends.  The scene can be unsavory at times and parking can be an epic nightmare.  That said…get over it.  Life is too short to let a few annoyances stand between you and a delectable meal.  Instead, give those rowdy frat boys some high-fives, chime in with the “woo!” of the passing bachelorette party, and be grateful when you cross Stagioni’s threshold.   

I give Stagioni: 5/5 forks
2104 E Carson Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
412.586.4738

Tip: Make a Tuesday-Thursday night/brunch reservation, or claim an earlier Friday-Saturday spot to avoid parking fiascos and ghoulish behavior.   

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