When sisters Beth and Katie Talarico decided to open their own restaurant, they wanted to recreate the feeling of Sunday dinners at grandma Ida’s house: a warm and friendly space where everyone feels like family.
In fact, many of the people working at Piazza Talarico are family.
Mom, Deb Talarico, discovered the location on Penn Ave. in Lawrenceville and continues to play a vital role in the daily operation. Dad, “Papa Joe,” oversees the wine operation making blends on-site from grapes grown in California and Italy. There’s even a couple of cousins on the small staff, helping Beth and Katie with kitchen and service duties.
“We wanted a place where we could feature simple, fresh Italian food,” says Katie, who along with Beth is a University of Pittsburgh grad. Both are long-time local residents. The idea to open a restaurant was inspired by their travels in Italy, along with family traditions and recipes passed down to them. Both sisters worked at Enrico’s Cafe in the Strip and credit owner Larry Lagattuta for helping them shape their vision.
The recently opened Piazza Talarico has a casual neighborhood vibe with nods to Italy. There’s a cozy dining space for 16, with room for more on the outside patio. The stand-up bar features several varieties of Papa Joe’s wine on tap, along with KingView mead and local brews. Instead of a full-service set-up, customers place food and drink orders at the counter and are served at their tables.
Menu highlights include a Talarico family classic, Baked Maccheroni, made with rigatoni, grandma’s sauce, pepperoni, cheese and boiled eggs. “It’s a recipe that’s been in the family for well over 100 years,” says Joe. Italian classics like soppressata pizza, chicken piccata, sausage and peppers and meatballs are just a few of the other selections.
“One thing we learned from our travels in Italy is to create dishes with simplicity, using only a few ingredients, so that flavors really shine,” says Beth, who handles most of the chef duties.
The wine menu features mostly dry reds and whites with a small selection of sweet options, all available for tasting and sold by both the glass and bottle. Joe Talarico has been making wine for nearly 40 years and the sisters have been helping their Dad with the process since they were children. The tannat, a dry red, is one of the house favorites.
In addition to their dining room, Piazza Talarico offers a take-out menu and hopes to expand with an upstairs private dining room in the future. One unique detail: The restaurant has a no-tipping policy. Instead of gratuities, employees earn a higher hourly wage and share of the revenue.
Piazza Talarico and Papa Joe’s Wine Cellar is located at 3832 Penn Ave. in Lawrenceville. After a soft opening in December, the restaurant began regular hours in January. They’re open Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 8 p.m, and on Friday and Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. They are closed Sunday and Monday. The outdoor piazza will open as soon as weather permits.