Thursday, June 14, 2012

Osteria 100, Downtown

"VIP Grand Opening Party passes for two:" something I'm not used to seeing in an email sent my way. If you read my blog, you know I only go out of my way to talk about food I really enjoy, and typically after several visits. I shy away from things like grand openings which don't give a great indication of how the menu will taste, nor what the service is like. I changed my mind on this one.

Chef Greg Alauzen
Executive Chef Greg Alauzen's resume includes tenures as executive chef at the Steelhead Grill and Eleven. He's now the executive chef of a small group of restaurants including Cioppino and Osteria located in the Strip District. This guy's been showcasing local food and generating national press for the Pittsburgh food scene for two decades. One time I bumped into him in the Strip District and he took the time to answer a few of my questions, as he appeared knowledgable, clipboard in hand and in chef's whites, and me just a beginner in the business. He's friendly and approachable, with a down-to-business and no bullshit attitude. This is also how I would describe the menu at Osteria 100.

Osteria 100 is a sister restaurant to both Cioppino and Osteria. It's located at the South end of Wood Street near the Point Park campus, in a modern, airy and almost industrial feeling two-level space with a ground-level patio looking onto Boulevard of the Allies. I'm not sure that this is going to become a hangout for Art Institute students, but I can see it as an ideal spot for gathering over wine and food for the after-work crowd.

We were greeted by a young and friendly waitstaff, eager to sample us Elysian Fields ground lamb sliders. I indulged in at least four, and several bottles of Peroni which was refreshing on this hot Summer day after a cross-town walk. I tend to pick something I like and eat a lot of it, relishing and lingering in the flavors for as long as possible. There's a word for that: overeating. I can say on the basis of this slider alone, I will return to sample the rest of the menu. The slider was plump and juicy ground lamb with not a hint of lamb gaminess, seared perfectly, pink inside and topped with caramelized onions and a sharp cheese (I believe gorgonzola), portioned just enough to make you want another. Chef Alauzen has been "doing these for years" and it's one of his and his customers' favorites. And mine.

Elysian Fields lamb slider.
I sampled more of the foods: some antipasti including fresh mozzarella and olives, salami, prosciutto and ham, and grilled vegetables. I brought back a plate of meatballs to the table, but apparently I was the only one not already stuffed. Everything was good. The only item I was not keen on was a cheese bruschetta--more of a crostini if you ask me, that just seemed a little out of place. Everything was fresh, and though it was set up buffet-style, the service was friendly and attentive and handled a large crowd capably. One of the highlights was a pastry table with small delicious bites of traditional desserts like tiramisu.

This is a nice place to visit, and I recommend it. I will be reporting back as I try more of the menu which is listed here. I am intrigued by the growing sophistication and variety of food offered downtown. This city has for a long time gone to sleep after the work crowd left at five, and it's nice to see that there are more choices, especially those that are locally-owned showcasing local food. The walk back cross-town was tranquil in the deep blue dusk, and the city is looking better than ever.

Osteria 100 on Urbanspoon

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