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Freshly made foods are focus of North Side's PNC Eco Bistro

| Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Picky panini fans can relax at the PNC Eco Bistro in Allegheny Center, North Side. Your wish is the cook's command when the urge strikes for that favorite grilled -- or cold -- deli-style sandwich.

Feel free to ask for tomatoes and extra mayo -- regular, light, roasted red pepper, chipotle or horseradish -- between your choice of wheat, rye, sourdough, multigrain or Italian bread and preferred filling: roast beef, turkey, ham, capicola, salami, chicken salad, tuna salad, hummus or roasted vegetables, with Swiss, American, cheddar, provolone or pepper jack cheese. The price per sandwich: $5.39.

"We just want to make people happy," says PNC Eco Bistro chef David Harris, 35, of Collier, a graduate of the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts, and former executive chef at the Igloo Club, Uptown, and Petersen Events Center, Oakland. "If people have a special request, and we have ingredients on hand to accommodate them, we'll do our best to give them what they want, and keep them coming back."

Folks can build their plate-size, hearth-baked pizza ($4.99) on freshly tossed dough topped with your choice of pesto or red sauce with onions, black olives, banana peppers, chicken, sausage, bacon, mozzarella, feta or cheddar cheese. Slices of pizza ($2.09 to $2.27, plain or topped) are available.

Feel free to eat in, or get your lunch to go in a totally compost-able, paper-like container made from sugar cane.

Speaking of Earth-friendly touches at PNC Eco Bistro, Harris expects to plant herbs and vegetables soon in Allegheny Center Mall planters filled with the bistro's composted garbage. "All of our flatware is recyclable. We compost all our waste," he says.

Parkhurst Dining Services -- part of Eat'n Park Hospitality Group -- operates PNC Eco Bistro under a contract with the PNC Financial Services Group. The bistro seats about 40, and offers additional seating at wrought-iron tables in Allegheny Center's interior courtyard.

PNC Eco Bistro occupies a one-time mall storefront and strives to provide fresh, locally procured foods in an Earth-friendly atmosphere that includes bamboo walls, counters made with recycled bits of colorful glass and a linoleum floor made with organic materials.

Each day, Harris offers a hearth-baked, pizza-style creation ($4.59) made with flatbread topped, for example, with ranch-dressing chicken, bacon and cheddar cheese. Other daily offerings include: chili and two soups ($1.99 to $2.99); vegetarian and meat burgers and hot dogs ($2.69 to $4); and Chef's Corner specials, such as lasagna, beef stew, hot turkey sandwiches and other home-style dishes ($6 to $7).

"Everything is made from scratch. We make our own dough. We make our own sauces, " Harris says. "Our burgers are hand-pressed every day. ... All our soups are made from scratch. All our (soup) stocks are made from bones."

PNC Eco Bistro offers an expansive salad bar ($6.88 per pound), fresh fruits, freshly made baked goods, smoothies, and packaged potato, pasta, Cobb and Caesar salads, plus, Hershey ice cream treats and Smiley cookies.

"I haven't had anything I wouldn't recommend," says regular customer Jill Henkel of West Penn Allegheny Health System, who works at Allegheny Center Mall.

Susie Liposky, another West Penn Allegheny Health System employee, says, "Everything is homemade, so it's delicious."

"Every Friday, we do a fish fry," says Harris, and folks reportedly line up for the hand-dipped-in-beer-batter Atlantic cod sandwiches offered on a Breadworks kaiser roll, with French fries -- or macaroni and cheese -- and a 16-ounce fountain drink for $6.85.

Hot breakfasts, including omelets and eggs with bacon, are available daily before the 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily lunch hours.

Additional Information:

PNC Eco Bistro

Location: Allegheny Center Mall, North Side

Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays

Details: 412-442-1564

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