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Mouthwatering desserts keep Gullifty's popular

| Thursday, April 26, 2012, 12:50 a.m.

In the fickle food business, not too many restaurants last as long as Gullifty's has.

The landmark Squirrel Hill eatery opened on bustling Murray Avenue in 1982 and has enjoyed success from the first day, according to Matt Hastie, who bought the business in 1990. Hastie started at Gullifty's as a cook when it opened and now owns Gullifty's with his brother, Mark. He believes he knows the secret to their success.

"Consistency," he says. "We serve great food, with fast and friendly service, at a great price. Nothing is over $13. We are dedicated to keeping prices down without sacrificing quality."

Gullifty's has been known for its mouthwatering, homemade desserts that are created fresh daily by two full-time bakers. The American eclectic menu features no fewer than two dozen desserts, including four kinds of cheesecakes, key lime pie, peanut butter truffle pie, carrot cake, French strawberry pie and many chocolate goodies.

"Our bakers do everything from scratch every day, and we use no preservatives or stabilizers," says Hastie, a 1978 graduate of Mt. Lebanon High School who lives in Carrick. "We sell desserts to the public for special occasions, but they have to call ahead of time."

One of the bakers is Michele Kirwan, 48, who has been working at Gullifty's for a year following a 16-year stint at Christopher's in Squirrel Hill.

"Michele is very consistent in what she does," he says. "She makes recipes the way I want, but is also creative."

Eleven chefs, in addition to the two bakers, work in the busy kitchen. Gullifty's is a two-level, 150-seat restaurant with interior brick walls and high ceilings, and is decorated in pleasing shades of concord grape, avocado and cinnamon. Hastie says his chefs regularly cook 300 to 400 dinners on a weekend night and nearly 150 a night during the week.

"We get a lot of late-nighters, and a lot of large groups," Hastie says. "Some of our customers have been coming here every week since we opened. We get a lot of locals who walk here, and a lot of college students."

There are three other Gullifty's locations at Carnegie-Mellon University, which Mark Hastie oversees.

Matt Hastie says he has been in the restaurant business for so many years, he can't imagine doing anything else. "I started as an engineering student at Penn State and ended up here," says Hastie with a laugh. "I pretty much fell into cooking when I was 18."

Gullifty's menu doesn't change very often, but Hastie does offer 10 to 12 features every day. The appetizers include hummus and baba ghannouj; foccacia bread with melted fontina cheese and a whole roasted garlic bulb and tomato sauce; pulled pork nachos; and pierogies. There are nine entree-sized salads on the menu, five homemade soups, many pizzas and sandwiches and burgers.

The barbecued ribs and pork chops are very popular, Hastie says, made with their signature Lip Smackin' BBQ sauce. Several varieties of pasta, as well as Mexican food, are available, as well as seafood, beef and chicken. Hastie's major suppliers include US Foods in Greensburg, SunFresh Produce in the Strip District, and Dave and Andy's Ice Cream in Oakland, who makes unique flavors for the restaurant.

"I usually come up with the daily dinner specials, and the bakers come up with the weekend dessert specials," he says.

Kirwan says that she and the other baker stick to the "tried and true" dessert recipes for the most part, but they're allowed to experiment.

"I enjoy creating, and I like when people taste something I've made and say, 'Ah, it's so good!'" she says. "The hardest part of the job is not burning myself, and getting cheesecakes out of the pan."

Hastie says many customers come to Gullifty's not once, but twice in an evening.

"A lot of people come in, have dinner, go to the movies, and come back for dessert," he says. "It's a lot of fun."

Macadamia Truffle Tart

Matt Hastie chose to share his popular and decadent Macadamia Truffle Tart with Cooking Class. The ingredients can be found in any grocery store, and the recipe is quite simple.

"This is an easy dessert," he says. "Some of our desserts are so involved it would take a person days to re-create it. This is the dessert we served at the convention center (recently) to 2,000 people. They loved it!"

• Pie dough (your own recipe or ready made)

• 3 cups macadamia nuts

• 3 cups Chocolate Truffle (recipe follows)

• 6 cups freshly whipped cream (recipe follows)

• 1 cup white chocolate shavings, for garnish

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the pie dough to cover the bottom and sides of a 10-inch tart pan.

Fill the crust with macadamia nuts (see Photo 1) . Bake for 20 minutes, until the pie crust is golden brown and the nuts are toasted. Cooking time might vary, depending on your oven.

Prepare the truffle while the crust is baking.

When the crust is done, pour the truffle over the macadamia nuts to fill the shell (Photo 2) .

Cool thoroughly in the refrigerator to set, for at least 1 hour, but preferably longer.

Top with the whipped cream (Photo 3) and garnish with white chocolate shavings.

Makes 1 10-inch tart.

Chocolate Truffle

• 8 ounces dark chocolate

• 1/2 stick butter

• 3/4 cup sugar

• 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream

• 1 ounce Triple Sec or Grand Marnier

Combine all the ingredients and gently heat in a double boiler. Mix well until smooth. If you don't have a double boiler, use a mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water.

Whipped Cream

• 5 cups heavy whipping cream

• 1 cup sugar

v1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour the cream into a mixing bowl and, mixing at low speed, gradually add the sugar and vanilla. Increase the speed and whip until the cream is set. If you chill your mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer first, the cream will set faster.

Additional Information:

Gullifty's

Cuisine: American eclectic

Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-midnight Sundays

Entree price range: $7.99-$12.99

Notes: Major credit cards accepted. Handicapped accessible. Reservations accepted but not required. More than two dozen homemade desserts featured daily. Full bar. Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Balloon art for kids from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturdays.

Address: 1922 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill

Details: 412-521-8222 or website

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