No small treat at StonePepper's Grill
StonePepper's Grill at Settlers Ridge is the third location of the local chain for owners Jeff and Barb Joyce. Having opened in August 2010, it is quickly gaining a following to match those of its sister restaurants in Upper St. Clair and Cranberry with its large, inexpensive portions, 17 high-definition televisions and DJ and live entertainment on the weekends.
Jeff Joyce has taken the best elements of his former restaurants, the 1902 Tavern at Market Square and Firewaters on the North Shore, along with the suggestions of his staff, to develop a business model in the same vein as Primanti Bros. or Mad Mex, paying attention to what Pittsburghers want.
"Jeff is good about listening to our ideas," says Robinson general manager David Mick. "We're getting ready to put a new menu out and we all make suggestions to find what works."
Though the specialty is brick oven pizzas, the grill has evolved to pay equal attention to chopped salads, fresh pasta and burgers.
After passing through a smooth cave of cool stone, we were escorted into a spacious carpeted dining room, bathed in warm mustard paint, gilded mirrors and old "Rolling Stone" covers. A suspended ceiling, cut into a wave pattern, falls away at certain points, revealing glimpses of a soaring, black, exposed ceiling.
Colorful cloth cylinder lights in shades of blue and yellow seem to almost float in space above diners.
Wooden elements range from light oak to a rich teak finish.
StonePepper's Grill is a decidedly family restaurant. Tables were full, and laughter and animated storytelling was visible all around.
Everything about the menu, which is a collaborative effort between Robinson location executive chef Tim Rummel and Jeff Joyce, is massive. There are 14 types of brick-oven pizzas, which also are available on whole-wheat dough for the more health conscious. Instead of a few salad offerings, there are 13, ranging from the Maryland Lump Crab & Fruit Salad ($13.99) to the filet mignon salad ($13.99).
The nine pasta dishes are made to order at a pasta-and-wine bar. There also are numerous burgers and entrees.
It was tough to narrow down appetizers from so many delectable offerings, but the Brick Oven Chicken Quesadillas ($8.99) and Maryland Crab Dip ($9.99) were too good to pass up.
We were surprised with the dinner-sized portions you get for your money. The crab dip was heaped in a small casserole dish straight from the oven. A generous pile of warm pita triangles were clustered off to the side. The buttery, seasoned crab was lumped high above the cream cheese base, making it the dominant flavor.
The crisp quesadillas, dusted with dried herbs, were packed thick with chicken, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese, finely diced onions and tomatoes and rings of jalapenos. Salsa and sour cream were served on the side.
The appetizers alone would have been enough to fill us, but we also were anxious to try the Pan-Seared Shrimp and Scallops ($16.99) and Mushrooms Gone Wild Ravioli, two of the newer options on the menu.
The fat shrimp were ever-so-lightly breaded and sauteed with rich scallops, hefty hunks of artichoke and finely diced tomatoes in a light lemon-herb caper sauce. It was actually more like a seaside peasant dish, a smart decision given the time of year and quality of the seafood. A heavy sauce would have ruined the delicious simplicity of the dish. The large portion also was served with a side chopped salad of fresh tomatoes, onions and celery on greens and a side of thin asparagus spears.
The ravioli, packed tightly with a wild mushroom medley, had the quality of handmade pasta. The golden-brown bundles were swimming in a roasted red pepper sauce, punctuated with walnuts and fresh asparagus.
We wanted to try a pizza and one of the rich desserts as well, but knew they wouldn't taste as good at home. We'll definitely be back to try the Fresh Garden on Whole Wheat Pizza ($12.99) and Cinnamon Bun Dessert Pizza ($5.99).Additional Information:
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays, noon-11 p.m. Sundays
Entree price range: $11.49-$18.99
Notes: Major credit cards accepted. Handicapped accessible. No reservations accepted. Pasta and wine bar. Gluten-free meals available. Children's menu offered. Available for parties. Terrace dining. DJ entertainment on Saturdays through September.
Address: 1200 Settlers Ridge Center Drive, Robinson; 1614 Washington Road, Upper St. Clair; 300 Adams Shoppes, Mars