Bridgeville’s Cucina Bella has the feel of the New Jersey Italian restaurants where I spent much of my youth. It’s homey and family-driven, and the eclectically decorated dining room vibrates with the happy noise of clanking silverware and satisfied grunts. The only difference? The pizza was never this good. Cucina Bella’s menu features more than two dozen red and white pies, ranging from traditional favorites to creative house specialties. The Torta di Dom, named after Piccolo Forno’s Domenic Branduzzi, is a particular favorite, marrying smoked speck and creamy mascarpone. No matter the pizza, Cucina Bella’s commitment to quality ingredients and proper technique–three days for the dough to rise– is evident. Though it might look like your average suburban Italian place from the outside Cucina Bella’s food is anything but typical and the atmosphere is quite inviting. We’ll be back.
Dinette opened in 2008 and, over the past six years, has quietly established itself as one of the best restaurants in Pittsburgh. Admittedly, Dinette would be easy to overlook. Tucked up near the East Liberty Chipotle and with the sleek, airy look of a trendy store, Dinette’s environment is a bit at odds with its charming, rustic menu. But oh, what a menu it is. A handful of starters, such as a stellar fritto misto, whet the appetite for—what else?—pizza. The eight or so pies change regularly depending on the seasons and the whims of chef Sonja Finn. The pizzas are simple but inventive, built around a single ingredient accented with pops of flavor from cured meats and produce from their own rooftop garden. With its relaxed vibe and five-star food, Dinette brings fine dining and corner pizza parlor together in one delicious package.
Slice on Broadway
Sure, Slice is a bit of a departure from the fancy brick oven spots. But if you’ve been there, you know why it made the list. Slice on Broadway is, naturally, on Beechview’s Broadway Avenue, and it looks like your average New York style slice shop. My go-to order is as simple as it gets—two big slices of cheese pizza. When it’s this good, who needs toppings? The crust is ultra-thin and ultra-crispy, the perfect vehicle for rich red sauce and a bubbly, browned layer of cheese. And those two slices will run you less than five bucks. Slice is a hole-in-the-wall pizza parlor that can hold its own against the larger, ritzier competition. And considering they opened a second location in Carnegie earlier this year, I guess I’m not the only one who thinks so.
There are plenty more great pizza spots that I’ve left out, so let the comments roll. And because this is pizza we’re talking about, we’ll add some readers’ suggestions here.
Take note: some of Pittsburgh’s best pies may be in the not-so-distant future. Rick Easton, whose much-lauded ‘za has only been sporadically available at the Livermore, is opening the doors to Bloomfield’s Bread and Salt before the end of the year. Over in East Liberty, Pizza Taglio, which will serve Roman-style pies, is slated to open later this month. And keep an eye out for more from the Pizza Boat, though whether that’s a brick and mortar restaurant or more of their excellent mobile, wood-fired pizza remains to be seen.