Restaurant Review: DiAnoia's Eatery - A Pittsburgh Classic in the Making

photos by Laura Petrilla Located in the Strip District, DiAnoia's Eatery has quickly become a bridge between the traditional food scene of the Strip and the innovative culinary landscape of Lawrenceville. With its potential to...

DiAnoia's Eatery photos by Laura Petrilla

Located in the Strip District, DiAnoia's Eatery has quickly become a bridge between the traditional food scene of the Strip and the innovative culinary landscape of Lawrenceville. With its potential to please everyone from the most discerning foodies to the meat-and-potatoes enthusiasts, DiAnoia's has the makings of a Pittsburgh classic.

Picture this: decades from now, my successor celebrates DiAnoia's in a Pittsburgh Magazine story about "The Classics." Owners Dave Anoia and Aimee DiAndrea, reminiscing about the early-century food scene with other notable chefs, creating memories and forging lasting connections.

While the restaurant shows promise, there is still room for improvement. The dining room, although comfortable during the day, becomes too bright and loud at night. The wine-bottle chandeliers, while charming, don't quite match the overall ambiance. However, the abundance of locally crafted art, including a vibrant mural by Diego Byrnes, adds a touch of authenticity to the space.

Art at DiAnoia's Eatery

Dave Anoia, formerly the chef de cuisine of Spoon in East Liberty, brings his expertise to the kitchen at DiAnoia's. Drawing inspiration from Italian-American red-sauce joints, Long Island Italian delis, and his travels to Italy, Anoia crafts a menu that changes throughout the day.

For a taste of New York City corner delis, try their egg sandwich, served on a house-made Kaiser roll with a fried egg and American cheese. Pair it with a bracing shot of espresso or indulge in one of their breakfast cocktails, a rarity in Pittsburgh.

Breakfast at DiAnoia's Eatery

Heading into lunchtime, the menu offers a variety of sandwiches, including porchetta, Italiano, and Lebanon sweet bologna. The roasted cauliflower with pesto and pine nut topping brings a toasty, herbaceous zing. And for those seeking a lighter option, the tuna and octopus salads are well-balanced and thoughtfully constructed.

The star of the show at DiAnoia's is their 16-inch pizza. With a thin center, a thicker rind, and a slightly sweet sauce, it rivals the best gas-oven-style pies in Pittsburgh. The meatballs, based on a recipe from DiAndrea's grandfather, a U.S. Navy chef, are a delightful blend of meat, fat, and breadcrumbs served in a tasty marinara sauce.

Pizza and Meatballs at DiAnoia's Eatery

For dinner, the branzino and porchetta are not to be missed. The branzino's shatter-crisp skin, enhanced with citrus and high-quality olive oil, pairs perfectly with airy Pennsylvania potatoes. The porchetta, with its crackling skin, tender muscle, and a side of focaccia, creates a mouthwatering experience.

While the pasta dishes at DiAnoia's can be hit or miss, the gnocchi stands out with its creamy texture and pronounced potato flavor. Surprisingly, the tagliatelle with bitter radicchio, shallots, and Gorgonzola is a delightful surprise. However, some dishes like the tortellini en brodo and the Steak Florentine could benefit from some fine-tuning.

From the warm and welcoming atmosphere to the community spirit it fosters, DiAnoia's Eatery has become a go-to destination in Pittsburgh. While small tweaks could elevate the dining experience further, the potential for DiAnoia's to become a Pittsburgh classic is evident.

2549 Penn Ave., Strip District; 412/918-1875, dianoiaseatery.com

Dave Anoia and Aimee DiAndrea Co-Owners | DiAnoia's Eatery

Why leave Spoon to open your own restaurant? As great as Spoon was and with everything I learned there, I thought it was time to branch out and do my own thing. I got married to Aimee about six months before I departed Spoon. We put our heads together and thought about what our dream would be, and this is what came out of it. We went to Italy two years prior and found we liked this very casual atmosphere.

Why three menus? We needed to fill the space. I felt that we could service our guests better with a sit-down menu for dinner, but I didn't want to do that for lunch. For that, I thought we needed that Long-Island-style deli where you could just walk up, order, sit down, and then someone will bring the food out to you.

You seem as though you're straddling a line between Italian-American and Italian cuisine. How did you think about creating the dinner menu? We want to keep everything super simple, no matter if it's Americanized or if it's traditional Italian. For dinner, we try to stick closer to the traditional Italian, but we've also had to make some changes. For example, we opened with a lasagna that was something I found all over Italy. It's a bechamel-based white sauce with just a little bit of red sauce on the top, but it didn't translate very well; people kept asking for extra gravy boats of red sauce. It's a fine line.

What's the idea behind the different cocktail menus? Heather came up with that. We were trying to figure out how to make a cocktail list rather than just a list of cocktails. What would entice people to buy more than just looking at a list? And the three sections fit perfectly with what we're doing since we're open morning, noon, and night. Morning is low-alcohol drinks like you would find in Italy. You can get anything from any of the sections all day.

You've created quite a community space here. At any time during the day, you'll see people in the restaurant industry but also a place that's been welcoming to the community in the Strip. It just happened. We always dreamed of this. We're so happy with what this is now. When we started, we wanted to do a little deli with some pizzas and things like that, but we think we came across an awesome space in an area that's coming along. It just grew and grew from there into this.

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