As a self proclaiming restaurant offering "Seasonal Fare with an Italian Flair," Stagioni, located along an ever bustling Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield, Pittsburgh's Little Italy, lived up to its slogan on all accounts.
A small and quaint little place with crisp white table cloths and simple yet oh-so-clever artwork made from old wine corks adorning the walls, Stagioni, a B.Y.O.B. restaurant is a lovely place for a relaxing and wonderful meal.
The menu was not too big, and not too small, but complete list freshly grown and freshly prepared plates of fine cuisine. Being that I visited in July, I noticed the presence of yummy, rich, heirloom tomatoes in many of the dishes. To start, my dinner date and I ordered a plate of Made To Order Mozzarella to go with our bottle of wine that had just been opened. I am no stranger to the luxury of fresh mozzarella... or so I thought. What arrived at our table was a perfect cylindrical shape of melt in your mouth mozzarella - still warm and supple from the kitchen. The cheese was drizzled with olive oil and a sweet and tangy balsamic reduction, also accompanied by marinated heirloom tomatoes and salty prosciutto.
Though tempting, I did not order one of the small salads on the menu, as I made an executive decision to save room for dessert (oh heavens... the things a girl must sacrifice). All of the salad choices, however, looked delightfully summer-y. From shrimp and cantaloupe with prosciutto and a tarragon aioli, to spinach with sun dried tomatoes, cannellini beans, olives, and lemon vinaigrette, the decision of which salad to order would have been a difficult one to say the least.
The entree menu was filled with 10 tantalizing choices of freshly cooked, homemade items, plus a several daily specials. With items such as Hanger Steak with smoked cherry tomato compote, to fresh crab cakes, to Pork Chop Milanese, to Pan Seared Potato Gnocchi, eanie-meanie-minie-moe the only plausible solution to make a dinner selection. Our delightfully charming waiter, was able to offer some excellent recommendations supported by scrumptious descriptions of how everything was prepared and tasted. He knew what he was talking about, and his suggestions did not disappoint. I ordered the Seared Sea Scallops served on a bed of crispy pancetta, itty bitty Yukon Gold potatoes, corn, scallions, and smoked sea salt. This sea scallop, was straight up, the best scallop I've ever had - seriously. It was luscious... soft and rich with just a touch of seasoning to compliment to natural deliciousness but not overpower it. The salty pancetta, sweet corn kernels, potato and scallion mixture complimented the scallop with a variety of different textures. Though served with dinner, I think it would make a wonderful breakfast hash as well.
My dinner date, accomplished author, Siobhan Vivian, ordered the linguini dish which was served with little neck clams, Chardonnay, garlic, olive oil, bottarga (a kind of caviar). The linguini, along with the other pasta dishes at Stagioni, are freshly made in house. Now is there anything better that fresh pasta? I think not. Unlike many restaurants which will only give your a few clams, this pasta bowl was filled to the brim of little neck clams. The garlicy Chardonnay sauce was traditional, simple, and delicious.
Last but not least... dessert. I can't even remember what the other options were, because when the waiter said, "Nutella Mousse," well, that was it for me. Frankly, just a jar of Nutella and spoon would suffice, but to turn it into a mousse? Heaven! Topped with whipped cream and toasted hazelnuts, added a lovely crunchy contrast to the velvety mousse. Mmm...
As a restaurant who uses nothing but the best and freshest ingredients in conjunction with the changing seasons, I am looking forward to paying a visit to Stagioni in the fall to see what kind of delicious meals they have to offer then. My fingers are crossed for all things pumpkin.