Pittsburgh restaurants deliver the art of charcuterie
They are the perfect choice for an appetizer to share.
Charcuterie offerings have been around for a long time but have really taken off in the past three years, says Jason Shaffer, executive chef at Braddock's Pittsburgh Brasserie inside the Renaissance Hotel, Downtown.
“It's communal,” says Joey Hilty, manager of Livermore in East Liberty. “It offers a huge variety of tastes and flavors.”
“More and more diners are selecting lots of small plates so they can share and try different items,” Shaffer says.
Pittsburgh doesn't have a shortage of charcuterie spots. Here's a sampling.
Crested Duck Charcuterie
1603 Broadway Ave., Beechview
5 to 10 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. 412-892-9983 or crestedduck.com
Many of the charcuterie meats you'll find at local restaurants come from the same place: Crested Duck Charcuterie in Beechview. As the appetite for cured meats —items like pork belly confit and duck pate — has taken off, so has Crested Duck, going from a small booth in the first Pittsburgh Public Market (since closed) to a full-size restaurant and butchery.
Chef-owner Kevin Costa says the meat comes from within 150 miles of Pittsburgh and that many of the Duck's preserving and curing techniques date to the 15th century.
The dining room is small and open only a few days a week. The two-size charcuterie plates ($12 to $24) can vary, depending on what's been made. With luck, it will be something like spreadable pork terrine — made with pistachio, pancetta and cherries — or merguez (lamb) sausage, strongly flavored with garlic, roasted red peppers, smoked paprika and oregano.
There's also Charcuterie Sliders ($12) — little burgers topped with whipped lardo, crispy ham, tomato confit and greens.
1230 Grandview Ave., Mt. Washington
5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday brunch; valet parking, $6. 412-904-4442 or altiuspgh.com
Altius, a new fine-dining spot next to the Duquesne Incline on Mt. Washington, is one of the many top local restaurants that gets its charcuterie ($14) plate from Crested Duck.
The specific cured meats and plating can change, but the thinly sliced mortadella — bologna, basically — with pistachio nuts is fairly standard, as is at least one variety of curly, fat-marbled prosciutto.
On the side is grilled housemade bread, sweet grainy mustard, jam, impossibly fresh-tasting honeycomb and slivers of pickled vegetables in a shot glass.
5336 Butler St., Lawrenceville
5 to 9 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 412-252-2595 or curepittsburgh.com
Chances are, if the name of the restaurant is Cure, then there's bound to be some cured meat on the menu. And the popular Lawrenceville site, headed by chef-owner-butcher Justin Severino, doesn't disappoint.
The housemade charcuterie plate comes in two sizes: salumi ($12), suitable as an appetizer for a couple of diners, and SALUMI ($40), which could be a starter for the whole table or a meal for two or three people.
Offerings change frequently. On a recent day, the smaller plate included ciccioli, soppresatta, lardo (cured strips of fatback with rosemary and spices), duck speck and nduja (spreadable pork sausage).
The larger sampler also included smoked duck and pork rillettes, pate campagnola, rabbit terrine, salami negroni, Spanish chorizo, pepperone and more. The plate often also has olives and pickled, smoked or roasted beets, along with a variety of mustards and bread slices.
The cured meats also make their way into many of the main courses, but if you need to “cure” your hankering for charcuterie, this is the place to be.
Cure, named one of the country's best new restaurants in 2012 by Bon Appetit magazine, remains an in-demand dining spot, so reservations are a good idea.
124 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty
4 to 11 p.m. Sundays through Tuesdays, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. 412-361-0600
“Drinking and charcuterie go hand in hand.”
The words of Livermore manager Joey Hilty are true night after night as the meat-and-cheese platter ($28) remains the trendy bar's biggest seller.
The large plate is made up of sweet coppa, bresaola, grain mustard, Tomme De Savoie, dolce gorgonzola, cornichons, housemade pickled peppers, bread and seasonal complements, such as apple preserves. Items come from a variety of vendors and change depending on what's available, Hilty says.
The product's long-lasting properties also make charcuterie popular among restaurant owners, he says.
The plate, which can easily keep a table of four occupied for some time, is labor-intensive for Livermore staff, but Hilty says it's well worth it.
“We like to make them, and people like to eat them,” he says. “That's all that matters in this business.”
The Porch at Schenley
221 Schenley Drive, Oakland
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. 412-687-6724 or theporchatschenley.com
With charcuterie plates popping up on menus all over the region, they may seem like something new.
But the Porch at Schenley has been serving its salumi plate ($15) since the day it opened four years ago.
About 25 percent of customers at the bar order the plate, and it's a popular option for large parties when platters are served family style.
The Porch's executive chef Kevin Hermann named the plate as a shorthand reference to salumeria, the Italian craft of preserving and air-curing port meat. The name also is general enough that he can change the items on the plate according to what's available.
At the moment, ingredients include slices of both dried and spicy coppa, also known as capollo; dried Spanish chorizo; sopressata and prosciutto, as well as crostini and pickled vegetables.
None of the items on the plate is housemade, although Hermann does make the restaurant's bacon, fresh sausages and pancetta.
“I wish I could do my own drying. But I don't have space for it,” Hermann says.
Braddock's Pittsburgh Brasserie
107 Sixth St., Downtown
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. 412-992-2005 or braddocksrestaurant.com
The charcuterie plate choices are always changing at Braddock's Pittsburgh Brasserie inside the Renaissance Hotel, Downtown.
On this day, it included coppa secca, Turkish salami, duck prosciutto, bourbon candied bacon, country terrine, chicken liver mousse, bacon caramel — for something sweet and rich — and caraway mustard for its tangy flavor, and housemade pickled vegetables.
Braddock's offers a full butcher-block board for $25 and half boards for $14. Serving this dish on an elevated board with no edges makes for a nice display and ease of which to take something from it to try.
Executive chef Jason Shaffer says it is fun to come up with new combinations. Some of the items they do in-house and others they get from local places such as the Crested Duck Charcuterie. He says the charcuterie boards are popular with customers — both those staying in the hotel and the locals who often dine there.
Paris 66 Bistro 6018 Centre Ave., East Liberty
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch Sundays. 412-404-8166 or paris66bistro.com
Every item on Paris 66 Bistro's menu is guided by its mission of providing everyday French food for everybody.
So the ingredients for the Plateau Campagnard ($21) never change — from the housemade country pate and the slices of ham, cheese and sausage, right down to the crisp, tart French pickles known as cornichons.
“It should always be the same,” says Fred Rongier, who co-owns the 6-year-old East Liberty restaurant with his wife, Lori. “The chef (Larry Laffont) is from Bordeaux. He wants it to be authentic.”
The French way to enjoy it is with an appertif while chatting or playing the card game piquet with friends, Rongier says.
But diners at Paris 66 most often order it as a first course for sharing as part of dinner or lunch.
It's large enough for two people to have with a glass of wine or for four to order as an appetizer. “It's a nice platter to share with others,” Rongier says.
Osteria 2350 / Cioppino
2350 Railroad St., Strip District
Osteria 2350: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, noon to 10 a.m. Saturdays . 412-281-6595 or osteria2350pittsburgh.com
Cioppino: 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 412-281-6593 or cioppinoofpittsburgh.com
“You can't always get what you want” could be a theme song at Osteria 2350 and Cioppino in the Strip District. But if you try sometime, you'll get what you need.
“It all depends on what is hanging back there,” Osteria chef Matt McClelland says.
He's talking about the reason the salumi platter ($11) at the restaurant is subject to change.
The platter consists of three meats, some seasoned vegetables and cheese. But, to keep it at its freshest, he uses only the meats that his staff has prepared or that are available from other processors nearby.
The salumi platter went onto the menu recently, and, in its first day, drew five or six orders. The reaction makes McClelland believe he had correctly read the interest in charcuterie. On that first day, it was centered on bresaola, lardo and chorizo.
Its sister restaurant next door, Cioppino, doesn't have a similar salumi platter but uses some of the same charcuterie on its antipasti platter ($12), chef Greg Alauzen says.
But if a customer came in, mentioned the salumi platter and wondered if it were available, Alauzen says he would try to make it so. “We can just walk over there and see what he has,” he says. “We practically share the same kitchen.”
But don't count on the meats being the same.
Point Brugge Cafe
401 Hastings St., Point Breeze
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (kitchen closes at 10 p.m.), 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. 412-441-3334 or pointbrugge.com
Prospering in a location without a lot of street traffic, the Point Brugge Cafe is a neighborhood restaurant in tune with the taste of residents of Point Breeze, Squirrel Hill and Regent Square. It's known for its mussels, served with twice-fried, Belgian-style French fries.
The cafe already had a cheese board on the menu when it noticed the trend of local charcuteries, around the time in 2009 when Crested Duck opened in Beechview. The Brugge Cafe soon began offering Crested Duck meats and Parma Sausage on its menu.
Three years ago, it began making duck confit in-house. “It's cooked in its own fat for at least four or five hours, although most of the time, we do it overnight at a very low temperature,” manager Jay Seghi says. “It's pretty straightforward. Simple ingredients and simple preparation makes for the best product.”
Dish Osteria and Bar
128 S. 17th St., South Side
5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays (kitchen closes at midnight). 412-390-2012 or dishosteria.com
If you are hungry to enjoy a charcuterie appetizer with friends, you can order the Formaggi e Salumi at Dish Osteria and Bar in the South Side.
This menu item contains mountain gorgonzola cheese cut into triangle slices, along with Sicilian Ragusano and Fiore Saldo cheeses. The meats are the pork-based spicy soppressatta and finocchiona sausages, along with coppa and prosciutto de parma. Centering the platter are walnuts and fresh fruit.
A serving for one is $9.50, and for two, $18. The Dish Osteria chef often makes monthly swaps in meat and cheese for variety. Formaggi e Salumi is a popular choice for people at the bar splitting an appetizer.
“The dish keeps you company,” says owner and chef Michele Savoia, a Sicily native. “It's a good plate to share.”
— Kellie B. Gormly