On a quiet stretch of Penn Avenue in the Strip District, amidst the industrial and mundane buildings that surround it, the freshly-painted white edifice of DiAnoia’s Eatery stands out like a cookie table at a Pittsburgh wedding.
Newly opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the informal and charming Italian restaurant is already attracting a crowd with its caffé, deli and full menu. (Worth noting: we sat at the bar on a Thursday night since all the tables in the dining area were filled.)
DiAnoia’s owners, Dave Anoia and Aimee DiAndrea, see the center of the Strip slowly shifting their way.
“Obviously, there’s all the new development with Apple and Uber,” notes DiAndrea. “It still has that old Italian feel, but it’s connecting with the ‘new Pittsburgh’ in Lawrenceville.”
Savoy and Salem’s Market, both attracting loyal customers, have found their niches even further down Penn Avenue. Despite it’s off the beaten path location, DiAnoia’s Eatery at 25th and Penn has already found ways to distinguish itself.
First, there’s that name, a combination of the names of the two owners. Skipping the trend towards monosyllabic minimalism (Spork, Cure, etc.), it’s a confusing jumble of vowels, at first glance. Sound it out, though—“Dee-Annoy-Ya’s”—and it’s hard to forget.
Anoia, formerly chef de cuisine at Spoon in East Liberty, brought in another Spoon alum, Benjamin Martin, as pastry chef.
The influence of DiAndrea, whose day job is directing marketing for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, can be seen in the painting of dancers in the dining room and the fresh house-made bagels, ubiquitous in her Long Island upbringing.
“There’s a New York deli aspect we felt was missing in Pittsburgh,” says DiAndrea. “Whenever I’d go back, I’d bring dozens (of bagels) back and freeze them.”
There’s a coffee bar at D’Anoia’s, with unusual items like the Calabrian Mocha—a double-shot of espresso with chocolate milk from Brunton Dairy, dusted with spicy Calabrian chiles.
The bar is covered with blue subway glass, and topped with marble. “We took some inspiration from Venetian glass,” explains DiAndrea. A creative bar program by Heather Perkins categorizes drinks by time of day. The Aperol Spritz (Aperol & Prosecco) is a wake-up call in a glass, for instance. The Martini Perfecto is good for “an old-school three-martini lunch,” notes DiAndrea. “You’ll see a drop of olive oil from the olive in the cocktail, which gives it a smooth taste.”
The wine selection is all Italian, except for a house red by Strip District neighbors Engine House 25.
“There’s red, white, Prosecco and Montenegro Amaro (a bittersweet herbal liqueur) on tap,” says DiAndrea. And in the back, you’ll find a refrigerated selection of bottled craft beer with others such as Peroni, on tap.
For snacking, there’s Zeppoles (Italian doughnuts) and Panzerotti. “That’s an Italian street food,” notes DiAndrea. “Fried dough with various fillings, like meats, sausage, eggs for breakfast.”
Sandwiches, panini, pizzas, and house-made pastas can be picked up to-go from the deli case, or savored slowly in the spacious, comfortable dining room. A large couch and the comforting croon of Nat King Cole invite lingering.
“We want it to be really casual, where people can bring their families and stay awhile, and not have that stuffy-restaurant feel,” says DiAndrea.
Dinner is also pretty informal. Dave wanted to take on the larger, family-style dishes, says DiAndrea. “The Secondi section of the menu—like Steak Florentine, or Branzino—can be for sharing. Though you certainly don’t have to.”
On several visits, we enjoyed the octopus salad and a side of house-made bread, hot and dusted with oil and garlic, along with a healthy stuffed spaghetti squash with quinoa, tomatoes, parmesan and kale. While we waited a bit long for our dinner, eyeing the tempting pasta dishes nearby, the service was otherwise great with friendly and attentive waitstaff.
And on-street parking was convenient and free.
DiAnoia’s Eatery, 2549 Penn Avenue, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays. Brunch service is planned to start in two weeks. Phone: 412-918-1875.