Less than two years ago, Max Stein was a writer and blogger with a passion for fine food and spirits. Now, after stints at Meat & Potatoes and Acacia, he’s a veteran of the Pittsburgh cocktail scene and a daily staple at the James Beard-nominated Butcher and the Rye. His schedule keeps him behind the bar most evenings, but he relishes the opportunity to have dinner with with his colleagues on Sundays and Mondays, the traditional service industry nights off. His best meal this past week?

I went to Stagioni for dinner with some friends last night. Every month, they do this large, family-style dinner in their upstairs dining room. You pay $35 and they just keep bringing out food.

The first thing out was grilled bread with olive oil and peas on a bed of whipped ricotta. That was followed by some roast pork belly that was marinated in this amazing honey-balsamic drizzle. There was a salad with gorgonzola, hazelnuts and an incredible, house-made lemon vinaigrette, then a casserole with green beans, shredded cabbage and carrots.

The main dish was roasted chicken with a salsa verde, and there were these artichoke hearts baked with breadcrumbs and butter. It was unreal.

For dessert, they served a chocolate flan topped with a fresh raspberry sauce.

These dinners are BYOB, so we brought some madeira, a couple bottles of Priorat [Spanish red wine] and a bottle of white burgundy. I also brought a 22-ounce can of Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout.

If you catch Max on a slow night and he happens to have some pear puree available, ask him to make you a Xiuhuitl (sha-wee-tull). It’s a sweet and smoky mezcal cocktail he considers one of his best, and we’re inclined to agree.

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