This Saturday, my boyfriend and Partner-In-Dine decided it was time we revisited our once-weekly outing known as "date night." We used to look forward to "date night." We'd alternate weeks of covering the check so neither of our bank accounts went overly depleted in the course of a month.
Recently we let the tradition slip through our fingertips as unexpected expenses such as break pads, 4 new tires, gutter replacements and vet bills popped up to surprise us. For over a month we ate salads and Giant Eagle sale steak on the grill as we patiently waited for paychecks which we didn't immediately have to sign over to someone else. We looked at each other this past Friday night -- as we sat on the couch in sweatpants sharing a bottle of Jacob's Creek Cabernet Savignon (which I also purchased on sale for a whopping $6.99) -- and said "it's time."
So we did a bit of research and considered a few friends' suggestions and landed on an outing to DISH Osteria and Bar located on 17th and Sarah Streets in Pittsburgh's historic South Side. The place had always appeared cozy and appealing from the outside, and according to the 11 reviews on pittsburgh.CitySearch.com, this place was a can't-miss.
We'd decided to meet each other there, given that it's almost exactly half way from each of us. I wound up being 12 minutes late -- but not because I didn't get there on time. Finding parking at 6:30 on a Saturday evening in the South Side proved nearly impossible as I passed PID waving on the corner about 13 times during my dismal and redundant search for a spot. When I finally arrived, we made our way through a quaint barroom...
...to get to the dining area where I experienced my first surprise.
Warning: Diners seated at these tables are much closer than they appear. The seating you see above, plus possibly 2 or 3 more tables behind the photographer and one in the bar area, is it. The setting is very intimate which can occasionally work to the advantage of the diner offering more personal service. But in our case, it was a deterrent. To be truthful, I was not overly interested in the educational path that the newly enrolled Duquesne student was describing to her oh-so-proud family of 6 directly to my right.
We, had reservations, but wound up seating ourselves after awkwardly hanging around the doorway in wait of a hostess. Once we sat down it was about 10 minutes before anyone acknowledged our existence, another 5 before our waitress took our drink order, and another 10-15 before any food was ordered at all. Throughout the course of the meal our waitress was repeatedly neglectful. I drink a lot of diet soda (I mean, A LOT of diet soda) and my glass remained empty over half the time we were there. To me? That's not OK.
But I digress. First came the wine.
The menu was very Italian which we'd expected this thanks to our culinary confidants. Our server was, in the very least, accommodating when it came to "translating" and telling us exactly what to expect. I'd been very excited to try authentic Italian wine, but was admittedly ignorant when it came to anything that I couldn't find in my Brentwood State Store. I asked our server what she would recommend to pair with a seafood dish and what might satisfy someone who likes an oakier aftertaste. She looked at me like a deer in headlights, and settled on recommending me the House red: Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo Citra 07 for $6.50 a glass (which wound up being delicious for being the cheapest wine on the list, I will say).
Then came the bread.
When she brought out the bread and oil, I was in heaven. I have to say this was my favorite part of the entire experience. Normally I'm a one-two slice kind of girl, but I'll admit it. I asked for more bread. The herbs infused in the oil were completely perfect. I was salivating while waiting for the next plate!
Then it was on to our appetizer.
I had heard great things about their Calamari alla Griglia (aka grilled calamari, for $8) and so PID and I ordered it right away. Let me start off by saying one of my favorite things about eating is not so much the eating part. I love the smell of freshly cooked food. The aromas produced by grills, herbs, marinates, fats, or even wine corks gets me all tingly (PID has taken note of this and has absolutely capitalized on it when he is the cook of the evening. God bless him). So I was slightly disappointed when the calamari came out and all I could smell was char and strong lemon. Although the calamari didn't appear to be overcooked, it smelled as though someone had left them on the grill a bit too long and attempted to cover up the burn by squeezing an entire lemon all over the plate. To quote PID: "I dont think it was burnt so much as it tasted like it was cooked with a bic lighter." This then translated in to my overall enjoyment of the dish, which was far less than I would have hoped. If all I smell is char and lemon, then all I'm going to taste is char and lemon. CASUAL DINER BEWARE: this is not your run of the mill calamari. It is run of the grill. That means no cocktail or tartar sauce for dipping and no crunchy core. There are no "squiggle pieces" (as the tentacles are so lovingly called in my family). It is, to the untamed eye, a slimy, floppy miniature squid prepared lightly grilled (or in our case, overly grilled) just for you. I wasn't completely disappointed. It was a unique culinary experience and the spinach was remarkable. I feel I can't chalk my whole opinion up to one potentially improperly cooked attempt.
Then it was on to our meal.
Not that we're exactly the same or anything, but PID and I just happened to be in the mood for the exact same dish. So the exact same dish we both ordered. This doesn't happen often. We typically order two different things and share (which I'm sure would benefit my readers giving them more options and opinions), but tonight we were both very hungry (given our wait) and that night, we were both very hungry for what DISH calls Linguine ai Frutti di Mare (which translates to Seafood Linguine, for $18.50). Personally I loved this meal.
I immediately made a comment to PID regarding its perfect portion size. I've been to so many restaurants that give you so much food and you're tempted (and thus attempt) to eat it all. You leave either feeling stuffed with a strong desire to unbutton your pants, or you leave with an inconvenient doggy bag. When I order seafood pasta and get a huge portion, I want to throw it at the wall. On a sidenote: if you are one who reheats your seafood pasta PLEASE share with me the wisdom of your ways. I've never once enjoyed a restaurant leftover reheat involving seafood or pasta. So, back to my story. At DISH, they portion it perfectly. Not too much, not too little. But keep in mind this is my opinion and mind alone. PID was left wanting. He's a growing boy (and by growing, I mean those muscles of his) and he wanted substance. The plate was a medium sized bowl without much depth placed atop a typical dinner round. PID pointed out that, though smaller portions may be better, we're still paying $18.50/plate for 1 mussel, 2 scallops, 3 shrimp, a calamari ring or two and I think there may have been a clam in there. Well played, PID.
Then it was on to our dessert.
I promise that next time I'll take photos of my meals on my CrackBerry... but for now you'll have to trust me that their Panna Cotta was not only delectable, but quite aesthetically pleasing as well. For $4, PID and I shared the dessert that, in both size and shape, was strikingly similar to that of a hockey puck. A single leaf of mint rested atop the gelatin tart. Their vanilla bean cream recipe was filled with a light but delicious raspberry coulis (strained, pureed fruit) which oozed out beautifully behind every spoonful. It was so light and fluffy yet full of flavor that I literally felt like I was eating heaven...and I wasn't sure whether or not to feel bad about it.
Drinks: 1 House red @ $6.50 (I'm a lush and drank alone)
2 diet Pepsis @ $2.50
Appetizer: 1 Calamari alla Griglia @ $8
Meal: 2 Linguine ai Frutti di Mare @ $18.50
Dessert: 1 Panna Cotta @ $4
Tax: @ 7% (Allegheny County only) $4.24
Tax: @ 7% (Allegheny County only) $4.24
Tip: (around 17% for highly disappointing service) $11
TOTAL FOR TWO: $75.74
DISH did not live up to my expectations. Given the reviews I'd read and heard, I had expected a much better overall experience. But though I was slightly disappointed, I was not remotely appalled. The wine, portion size and dessert were fantastic in my eyes! However, for the price, parking difficulty and generally small size of the dining room, I will not revisit. I can't say I wouldn't recommend it. Many of the negatives I experienced could be one-time flaws. You may not have our server, the calamari may be cooked properly, and you just might be more like me than PID and appreciate smaller portions if the taste is worth the price. So here you have it. My less-than-professional opinion (I have decided to scale on 5 stars, not 4):
BUON APPETITO, Ciao!