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Four Wood Grille reflects owner's passion for grilling, barbecuing

Background

In August, Frank and Bobbi Jo Pasquarelli decided to expand P.D.'s Pub on Squirrel Hill's Forward Avenue. They have owned the pub for more than six years. They took on a new partner -- George Fisher -- signed a lease on the adjoining space -- a former Russian restaurant -- punched a hole through the wall to connect the dining room with the pub and began renovating the space.

Three months later, they debuted Four Wood Grille, a restaurant that operates on its own merits while allowing diners to extend their night out from dinner in the restaurant to enjoy the late-night live jazz, karaoke or blues entertainment in the bar.

"There's lots of ethnic eateries in the area but no real place to get a grilled steak or pasta or seafood," Frank Pasquarelli says. "The hardwood grille concept offers something new in the area."

Atmosphere

Located directly beneath the Forward Lanes bowling alley, a few doors up the street from the Squirrel Hill Theatre and surrounded by apartment houses, Four Wood Grille is a terrific drop-in spot for moviegoers or bowlers on dates or in groups and multi-generational families.

The recently remodeled restaurant seats 130 diners at cloth-covered tables and booths.

Those hoping for a more intimate setting might well call ahead to request the two-person table that's directly in front of the contemporary corner fireplace.

Crystal wall sconces and ceiling fixtures add a touch of class. Piped-in opera and jazz selections strive to overcome the occasional overhead rumble of bowling balls.

Service is swift, friendly, obliging and matter-of-fact.

When we asked for more information about an unfamiliar wine on the short list of discounted odd-lot bottles, the waiter replied: "It's red and it's available."

Menu

Despite what you might have heard, Four Wood Grille is more than a pun about the restaurant's Forward Avenue location. Although Pasquarelli only uses hickory and mesquite to fire up his grill, he does include other woods in the preparation of menu items such as the beef brisket, which he often smokes behind the restaurant.

Grilling and barbecuing is a passion for Pasquarelli, who previously ran a barbecue restaurant in Swissvale. "Grilled ribs are my forte. I'm in the kitchen every night," Pasquarelli says. "We developed a menu based on what I like to cook -- meat and hearty portions."

Chad Rapp, who has worked at the pub for the past four years, added executive chef duty at the restaurant to his duties as executive chef for the pub. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of Pittsburgh, Rapp previously worked at the Cheesecake Factory, Bruschetta's and Hofbrauhaus, all in the South Side.

The wide-ranging menu offers something-for-everyone possibilities -- a large selection of appetizers, burgers and salads as well as traditional dinner entrees such as steaks, chicken, fish and pasta, as well as a few vegetarian options.

One appetizer stood out from the pack of usual suspects -- the Italian Egg Roll ($5.95) that Pasquarelli's mother, Rose Marie Pasquarelli, devised. The pasta sheet is filled with ground meat, bits of onion and peppers and white cheese, then rolled and deep-fried, melting the cheese on the inside and crisping up the exterior. She also makes the fresh-tasting, hearty marinara sauce that accompanies it.

Order a full rack of the Baby Back Ribs ($19.99), and you'll understand why Pasquarelli counts Steelers among his repeat customers. What arrives is a huge mountain of mahogany-colored, chewy-but-tender ribs, shiny with sauce.

We also enjoyed the Grilled Salmon Filet ($16.99), a generous portion of salmon that was a little dry but pleasantly charred with nice grill marks and a hint of wood smoke.

Entrees are served with a choice of salad or soup as well as a choice of side dish. A big basket of chewy, warm Italian bread accompanies the meal.

The salad and dressings offered no surprises, nor did the baked potato.

But the asparagus spears, which were the vegetable of the day, were cooked just to the point of tenderness and dressed with a sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese and buttery lemon sauce.

Desserts, including the tiramisu, come from a commercial off-premise provider.

Portions are generous enough that you might not have room.

We settled on the Berry Tart ($4.95), which was surprisingly good -- a combination of sweet and tart cream filling inside a crispy crumb crust decorated by a sprinkling of fresh blueberries that looked like they had been waiting a few days for our arrival.

Overall, the experience was pleasant enough that we anticipate returning the next time we visit the neighboring movie house. We hope to explore the promised delights of the Red Roasted Pesto Burger ($7.95) or investigate the Smoked Brisket that wasn't available the night we were there.

Besides, we're told that Italian Egg Roll diva Rose Marie Pasquarelli also makes the restaurant's Wedding Soup ($3.95) and its tiny meatballs, and we look forward to learning what she does with that.

Additional Information:

Four Wood Grille

Cuisine: American with an emphasis on hardwood grilling

Hours: 4-11 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays for dining room service

Entree price range: $10.99-$24.95

Notes: Live entertainment in the adjoining pub starting at 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and from 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Call for specifics. Accepts all major credit cards. Reservations accepted. Handicapped accessible.

Location: 5832 Forward Ave., Squirrel Hill

Details: 412-422-5027 or Web site

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