Telluride Inside... And Out In Pittsburgh: A Dinner At Alla Famiglia

IMGP0672 On the road, Telluride Inside… and Out, especially on family visits to big cities on both coasts, tends to build our days around friends and museums and our evenings around theatre, music, or dance. Now and again, food is the main event.

Kjerstin Viebrock Klein, TIO's partner in charge of social networking and optimization, lives in Pittsburgh with her family, husband Greg Klein, entrepreneur and owner of Willi's ski shops, and their two children/our grandchildren Dylan and Anna. On our weeklong visit, Kjerstin and Greg suggested an evening out at their favorite Italian restaurant.

Our brother-in-law, Oscar nominated film editor Steve Rosenblum, happened to be in town to cut a movie for director Ed Zwick ("Blood Diamond,"Last Samurai," "Defiance".) Zwick's romantic comedy "Love and other Drugs" reunites  Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, who costarred in "Brokeback Mountain" in 2005. Our niece, Zoe, is on the production team and my sister Debra flew in from Los Angeles to visit her family. All three are big foodies.

Kjstertin and Greg's local pick is Alla Famiglia, an eaterie with a come-to-the-neighborhood feel like some of the best restaurants in Little Italy. The neighborhood isn't the greatest, but the food, service and warmth of the place more than make up for the immediate surroundings. (There's also a parking lot just across the street.)

IMGP0667 Alla Famiglia's Chef/Owner Jonathan Vlasic has food in his genetic stew: his maternal grandparents are Roman. His aunts and especially his momma mia taught him to wield a ladle. The result: food that speaks in a familiar idiom with an Italian accent. Our meal, made with top tier, fresh ingredients was authentic, inventive, and robust. The straightforward nature of the dishes left plenty of room for refinement, subtle touches that made all the difference like the spice that lit up a simple plate of zucchini with grapes.

Our first course, the antipasti, included the aforementioned zucchini platter. There was also trifolata, assorted mushrooms and currants in marsala cream; calamari and shrimp quick fried in garlic oil with garden leaves, herbs and fresh lemon; and the house's signature meatball. Choices for main courses included an unusually indulgent array of fish, meats and pastas. The home-made ravioli were as delicate as vintage silk and a bistecca fiorentina with an exotic salt packed a wallop. Our shared dessert, mamma's red cake, is a Pittsburgh favorite. When in Rome…

IMGP0664 Our waiter for the evening, Steve Alexander, was as good as they get in the trade. He knew when to be there and when to back off. His suggestions were right on, including  a Zisola 2006, a full-bodied, dry Sicilian wine.

Alla Famiglia is located at  804 East Warrington Avenue in Pittsburgh.  412-488-1440. Tell them TIO sent you…

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