Al fresco dining: 5 Westmoreland spots to try
Living in western Pennsylvania, we don’t get a lot of picture-perfect sunny days.
So when Mother Nature cuts us a break and there’s a zero chance of thunderstorms, we really should consider taking our food and drink outdoors.
Sitting under a patio umbrella, sipping fruity sangria or a tall glass of iced tea, listening to the sounds of a live band with family, friends or coworkers — it’s almost a day at the beach.
Al fresco dining is the perfect solution for a quick getaway, a leisurely lunch or a relaxing dinner. Some foodies even are convinced that meals taste fresher and better when consumed outdoors.
Several local restaurants and bistros have expanded their dining options to include outdoor patios, porches and sidewalk seating. Some also have outdoor fireplaces, fire pits and heaters for when the temps turn cooler.
These are a few of our favorite places:
The Pier at Sharky’s, Unity
Johnathan Huemme, owner of Sharky’s Café and The Pier at Sharky’s, says the most prominent feature of outdoor dining at The Pier are the stunning views of the Laurel Mountains that the open-air venue provides.
“We don’t just have one door that opens or a patio outside,” he says. “Our entire restaurant opens your dining experience to nature and the outdoors.”
Food is prepared in a coal-fired oven and cast-iron skillets and fresh seafood is brought in weekly. Specialties include 900-degree seared steaks and artisan original coal-fired pizzas. An extensive libations menu uses fresh fruits and homemade mixers for margaritas, Moscow mules, martinis and frozen cocktails.
Specials are offered nearly every day of the week and brunch is served until 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Details: 3960 Route 30, Unity, 724-532-1029 or sharkyspier.com
Connections Café, Ligonier
Fresh Salads and Gourmet Grilled Cheese are among the specialties at Connections, according to owner and manager Sharon Detar. The café’s outdoor seating is popular during summer months, especially on Thursday nights, Grilled Pizza nights, beginning at 5 p.m., with BYOB option, and on Friday nights, when Mexican fare is featured.
The café also is known for its specialty teas, French press coffees and freshly baked desserts and pastries. Light breakfast and fresh organic lunch are served, with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options available.
Details: 109 S. Market St., Ligonier, 724-238-9611 or connectionstearoom.com
Rizzo’s Malabar Inn, Crabtree
Music is in the air on the outdoor patio at Rizzo’s Malabar Inn during the summer months, when live music is provided from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays at Wine Jamz, including July 18, with guest artist John Gilkey.
For more than 80 years, the family-owned and operated Rizzo’s Malabar Inn has served authentic Italian cuisine and other specialties using signature family recipes passed down through five generations.
Owner and Chef Rizzi DeFabo highlights some of the restaurant’s history and recipes in his cookbooks, “Cooking with Rizzi” and “Cooking with Rizzi: Traditions, Memories, and Food,” available in Rizzo’s online shop. Rizzo’s also offers a reception hall and banquet facility featuring three ballrooms, seating for up to 250 guests, two outdoor patios and more.
Details: 126 Rizzo Road, Crabtree, 724-836-4323 or rizzosmalabarinn.com
The Firepit Wood Fired Grill, North Huntingdon
Jeff and Tina Fisher have owned and operated their restaurant, located in North Huntingdon Square Shopping Center, since 2015. Jeffrey describes their menu as “Chef-driven Modern American Food.”
“Our food is prepared from scratch using only fresh ingredients and featured items are cooked over our focal Hardwood Grill,” Jeff says. “Our strategy from day 1 has been to bring a taste of the city to North Huntingdon via a very open, modern and casual restaurant.”
Tina has spearheaded all of the restaurant design work, including the 2,000-square-foot patio, which features flowers, foliage and ornamental grasses designed to provide a relaxing environment. A functioning fire pit on the patio along with gas torches – including a 10-foot-high “Olympic Torch” adds to the ambiance. “Many guests have commented that on a beautiful day or evening, dining with family and/or friends on the patio brings back thoughts of past memorable summer vacations,” Jeff says.
Signature salads, wood-grilled burgers, sandwiches and entrees, and Campfire Kids Meals are prepared by Executive Chef, Mark Lubinsky, who grew up in North Huntingdon and lives a mile from The Firepit. Senior discounts are available on Tuesdays.
Details: 8933 Route 30, North Huntingdon, 724-515-2903 or firepitwoodfiredgrill.com
J. Corks, Greensburg
A new summer menu and live music on the patio Saturdays through the end of August are among the attractions at J. Corks restaurant, offering modern American seasonal and regional cuisine.
Upcoming performers include Bethany James July 21 and Aug. 25, The Joint Commission July 28, East Creek Road Aug. 4, Told Ya So! Aug. 11, and The Bricks Aug. 18.
Dean Dellamalva Jr., assistant manager, says feature drinks – such as last weekend’s Red Moon Margarita and Razzy Lime Mule – and dinner features, such as an Eastern Mediterranean Lamb rack, are part of the Saturday events.
A new Mixed Berry Salad with Lemon Mint Vinaigrette is on the summer menu, as is a signature Greensburg Grindhouse Steak Burger, a fire-grilled 8-ounce sirloin, brisket and short rib burger with leaf lettuce tomato and aged cheddar on a brioche roll.
Details: 25 E. Pittsburgh St, Greensburg, 724-691-0434 or jcorks.com
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.