I’ve been at this blogging thing for over 5.5 years now (geesh), and over that span of time, I’ve gotten my fair share of invitations to new restaurants in the Pittsburgh area. Since I’ve been to a bunch of them, I’ve learned a very important lesson – dress at least a teensy bit fancier than I would just to go to work. I work in a very jeans-and-tshirt-friendly office, so I usually opt for dark wash skinny jeans, boots, and a decent shirt when I attend grand openings – basically, I fall comfortably in between the jeans crowd and the business casual crowd. This strategy has never failed me… until tonight.
When we walked into Trapuzzano’s Italian Chophouse in Shadyside tonight, the first thing the BF said once we’d shed our coats was, “I feel really underdressed.” Indeed, I looked around and most of the guys were in business suits and most of the women were in fancy dresses. It was a wee bit awkward, but absolutely zero people there knew us and so we didn’t really care too much.
The inside of the restaurant is pretty swanky-looking. The bar side is very darkly-lit, and there’s a nice area for the band that was playing for most of the evening. On the other side, where the tables were set up, there was a bit more light. The wall that looks out over Walnut Street is comprised of windows, which makes it seem to me like it would be fun to people-watch there. There didn’t seem to be many tables set up, but that may have been just so they could get more people in for the grand opening. The space didn’t look tiny, but it sure felt like it with all the people. Plus, with how loud the band was, it was difficult to hold a conversation.
We squeezed our way through the horde of people and made our way to the bar. I got a gin & tonic and the BF got an old-fashioned… and woooo baby, they were STRONG! At least you’ll get your money’s worth if you head to their bar.
As we stood around, servers passed by with some hors d’œuvres. We tried arancini, meatballs, bruschetta, and Old Bay scallops. Our favorite was the arancini, but that’s because rice + cheese always equals a party in your mouth. I wouldn’t have turned down some marinara for the arancini or the meatballs, but none was to be found. Regardless, all the hors we tried were good, although the scallops were a tad bit too well-done and they seemed really salty. Other than that, the hors d’œuvres were tasty.
Next, we snagged a table and headed for the chafing dishes full of food. We had our choice of caesar or arugula salad and I went for the arugula. It was very lightly dressed in a balsamic glaze and had pine nuts and cheese shaved on top of it. I was a fan of the cheese, and I would’ve been more of a fan of the rest of the salad if it’d had more dressing on it. I imagine it was dressed this lightly due to the challenge of serving tons of people out of the same bowl – better to underdress a salad than to have it sopping in balsamic.
Next we tried Trapuzzano’s version of chicken marsala and their abruzzo chicken. The chicken marsala tasted ok, but for some reason the taste reminded me of Long John Silver’s chicken. Maybe they used malt vinegar in it? I don’t know. The abruzzo chicken, though, was one of my favorite things from the night. I loved the breading on the chicken and the gorgonzola cream sauce on top – they used the perfect amount of sauce in this instance. The abruzzo chicken was served atop a bed of spinach and mushrooms sautéed in balsamic, but since I’m a shroom-hater, I ignored that mixture. The older couple sitting with us seemed to really like it, though.
The next set of food was a carving table and a pasta station. I grabbed a piece of the beef and then immediately gave it to the BF – it was pretty much rare. There was actually blood on my plate. I know a lot of people love their meat to be bloody, but I find it gross. If you’re in the blood gang, then you’ll love the meat here. Otherwise, it looked really good – nice and soft. I heard no complaints from the BF about the beef, other than it was a bit too rare even for him.
The pasta was just ok. Wanting to try as much as possible, I snagged a teensy bit of the civitella pasta and a teensy bit of the bolognese. The civitella pasta I couldn’t handle because it was just too mushroomy for my taste. I thought that if I ate around the mushrooms, I’d be ok. I was not. I hate to waste food, but I just couldn’t do it. As for the bolognese, I ate all of my portion, but it wasn’t much of a standout.
The desserts were pretty great, though. They set out a nice spread of small plates – cannolis, chocolate amore cake, tiramisu, and lemon cream cups. Each dessert was cut into small pieces, so between the two of us we grabbed a bite of tiramisu, a bite of chocolate amore cake, and one of the cups of lemon cream. The chocolate cake was good, but when isn’t chocolate cake good? Same with the tiramisu. I don’t think I could ever make myself turn down tiramisu, no matter how full I am. As for the lemon cream cups, I was delightfully surprised. Our tablemate described it as, “I dunno… some kind of whipped cream thing,” but he really underestimated it. It was light, fluffy, and lemony, without being cloyingly lemony or terribly sweet. It was really nice, actually, and this is coming from a chocoholic. I also appreciated that I’ve never seen a dessert like this at any other restaurants we’ve been to – usually when you see something lemony on the dessert menu, it’s a limoncello cake or a tart… but this was just like whipped clouds of lemony heaven.
To summarize, Trapuzzano’s seems like a really nice place, but it doesn’t seem like a place we’d head to very often. It was just a bit too swanky for us to feel comfortable, and it seemed to cater to the country club set. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice place and the food and drinks are good, but I see it as more of a special occasion or business dinner type of place and not as a place where a network growth manager and an engineer would head for a date night. That said, I certainly wouldn’t mind going back to try some more of those desserts and to grab a strong drink. 🙂