When he’s not traveling up and down the east coast preaching the gospel of Pittsburgh whiskey, Wigle’s Wes Shonk likes to enjoy the finest that Western Pennsylvania has to offer. A native of Ligonier, Shonk grew up eating pizza at a little joint in Latrobe. Last week, he took a small group on a pilgrimage to taste the pizza of his youth.
I ate at Jioio’s Pizza in Latrobe (pronounced Joey-O’s), and like any really excellent meal, it ends up being more about who you’re with than where you are and what you’re eating, but the food happened to be excellent. I went with my girlfriend and a few other friends.
Jioio’s makes this style of pizza that’s hard to describe. The crust is fairly thin — it’s almost like a pie crust. It’s a little crispy and chewy and doughy all at once. The sauce was slightly sweet, and if you get pepperoni on it, it becomes this sweet, crispy, salty pizza alchemy. It’s really awesome.
They make a pierogi pizza that’s one of the best you’ll ever have. It’s the same crust, topped with whipped potatoes, crispy onions and a layer of cheese. It’s thick — not deep dish thick, but much thicker than your average pizza. As a Western Pennsylvania native, I think a really good pierogi pizza is pretty hard to come by, and this was just awesome. The only thing is that when they bring it to you, the potatoes are just about atomic hot. You have to give it a solid five minutes to cool before you bite in because it will burn the entire inside of your mouth.
Jioio’s doesn’t have a license for beer, wine, spirits or even BYOB, so they give you complimentary beer. There’s a maximum of two per person. They have Yuengling and Duquesne and a couple of other things available there.
The décor there is really excellent. It’s sort of down-home, Italian-American meets a diner meets your mom’s kitchen. There’s no pretense about it — it’s wonderfully authentic. We fed five people for under $50 and took home leftovers. The other benefit to going out there is that it’s less than 100 feet from Four Seasons Brewing.
In addition to serving as Wigle’s corporate bartender, Wes personally planted a lot of the flora you’ll find growing in the garden of Wigle’s Barrelhouse on the North Side. Next time you’re there, grab a cocktail and ask him to take you on a tour of the botanicals — his extensive collection of mint varietals alone is worth the price of admission.
Check out other Pittsburgh foodies’ best meals, here.