Family Affair On The Square

Okay, get your score cards out. Because another new player just entered the Downtown dining scene. The latest entry in the Golden Triangle's revved up restaurant revival is Vallozzi's Pittsburgh, a chic, sophisticated Italian eatery open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday.

With a primo location on Fifth Avenue across from the Fairmont Hotel and law offices of Reed Smith in Three PNC Plaza, Vallozzi's is already building a solid case for itself as one of Downtown's must-taste dining destinations. We dropped in for a chat with owner Julian Vallozzi on a recent chilly Monday and discovered a packed main dining room. Not bad for a joint that opened on March 12 with no pre-opening press hype or giant advertising campaign.

Actually, one of the biggest draws was Vallozzi's much-awaited opening. Merging three former street-level businesses into one location provided some interesting and time-consuming construction challenges. For months, curious passersby peered through the big plate glass windows to view progress, from holes being punched through thick brick wall to tables finally being set with fine linens and wine goblets. So, when the last hard hats called it a day, more than a few people ventured in for at the restaurant's traditional rustic Tuscan interiors with a modern touch — and stayed to enjoy the Old World accented dishes from the kitchen of chef Josiah Henry. Along with a long menu of Italian specialties, Vallozzi's features art work from local talents.

Now here's a little dish on how Vallozzi's landed on Fifth Avenue. Turns out that the original plan was to open the place in East Liberty. But after talking to the Piatts — you know, the guys who developed Piatt Place, MarketSquare Place and other posh Downtown living spaces — Julian and his dad Ernie, the head honcho of Vallozzi's in Greensburg, settled on a location near Market Square. "Downtown is really emerging," says Julian. "And with the new PNC Tower on Wood and Fifth and new hotel at The Gardens in Market Square, this is really the heart of Downtown. We couldn't be in a better spot."

Let's get back to that tie-in to the Square. Along with the upscale dining area and a bar cool enough to be the favorite watering hole of Frank, Dino and Sammy, Vollazzi's includes a tiny, airy breakfast and lunch nook on the corner of Fifth and McMasters Way, in what was the old Candy-Rama store. Serving freshly made morning pastries and midday savories, Mattiniero is ready to please every weekday from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. By the way, Mattiniero is Italian for "the early bird." And if you want to catch sweet treats such as the overstuffed s'mores and Vallozzi's very own potato-dough cinnamon rolls, you better rise and shine with the mattiniero.

A big-time Pirates fan, Julian invites fellow Buccos faithful to stop in for a post-game bite and a beverage or two after Opening Day next week. Now that there's free T travel between the ball park and the Gateway stop, Vallozzi's is only a 3-block walk from the Stadium. And if you're keeping score, that's a win-win all the way around.

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