The evening of the Bruce Springsteen concert here in Pittsburgh, I ate at an extremely unique restaurant. It was essentially a “meatball joint;” I don’t think that’s the type of restaurant found in too many cities. Located in the city’s Cultural District, it was just the type of place to dine before hearing popular hits like “Born in the USA” and “Glory Days” being performed. Meatballs and booze…yeah, I don’t know how well that would have gone when paired with an evening of Mozart and Strauss.
Emporio is actually one of three restaurants located under the same roof, its official name being Sienna Mercato. Emporio serves different types of, well, balls while Mezzo offers woodfired pizza along with wine and charcuterie offerings and the third, Il Tetto, is a rooftop beer garden. Sienna Mercato is extremely new to Pittsburgh, Emporio opened first and the other two followed shortly after (both of which I still need to try out).
I went to Emporio right after work and even around 5 PM it was pleasantly crowded (for a Tuesday in April that is). Reservations are not accepted at any of the restaurants but they all do offer the No Wait app which basically allows you to get in line with your phone (you text a number, add yourself to the wait list, and lastly, arrive on time and check in, voila). I was able to get a table right away though, no need to wait.
I’m going to say this, you won’t want to dine at Emporio if you’re counting calories or not in the mood for a lot of fatty and/or greasy things. Although there was a greens section on the menu, “indulgence” is more the theme here. We started off with an order of the Poutine ($7), that comfort food treat that is courtesy of our neighbors to the north. You have the option of adding bacon, meatball, fried egg, or pancetta as an extra (that is, in addition to the fries, cheese curds, and gravy). Since adding a meatball to your poutine where the main courses are meatballs, well, that just seemed like overkill. So I went with bacon which was an additional $1.50. I’m going to pretend that the menu didn’t actually list “tater tots” in the poutine section (as in you could opt for either fries or tater tots…poutine is fries, nothing else).
For the meatballs, it’s a pretty simple concept. You have your choice of four meatballs (classic beef, spicy pork, vegetarian, or chicken). You choose a gravy (the options are endless, everything from Sunday gravy to pork bolognese to government cheese to even tzatziki. And lastly, you select your serving option which is either meatball sliders (the smallest amount of food for $3.50, it has 1 ball) to a meatball panini ($7.50, 2 balls) to a meatball grinder ($9.50, 3 balls) to lastly the saucy balls ($11, 4 balls).
I went with the Classic Beef topped with pork bolognese and served as a panini. The sauce actually came on the side, which was nice since I had to cut portions of the sandwich due to its size, so this allowed me to easily dip it in the sauce.
D went with the Spicy Pork meatballs (chili peppers and herbs) topped with the creamy Parmesan and as a grinder.
We both really liked our meals and as I mentioned above, the concept is new, different, and most importantly, fun. Although it didn’t seem like we had eaten a ton of food, by the end of the meal I was pretty full so unfortunately there was no room for dessert.
For a fun time and a good meal Emporio is definitely the place to go. They also have 32 draft beers, never a bad feature either if that’s your thing.
942 Penn Avenue Pittsburgh