The Forks blog

Downtown lunch: Pizza edition

Written by Melissa McCart on

pizzaiolo1Pizza by the slice and bar pies have long been an option for a fast lunch Downtown. Now there's more than one choice for wood-fired pizzas.

City Oven opened Downtown about a year ago, the community-oriented, fast-casual spot with a wood-fired wings and a half-dozen pizza variations, where a red pie with San Marzano tomatoes, provolone and mozzarella starts at $10.79. City Oven offers flatbread pies, rather than Neapolitan-style pizzas.

Stone Neapolitan Pizzeria opened this past winter at 300 Liberty Ave. (the former State Office Building, now the River Vue apartments) near Point State Park. It's a bare-bones outfit that promises traditional thin crust in 90 seconds. A Margherita rings in at $6.35, with a cracker-thin, blistery crust and a sheen of San Marzano tomatoes and cheese.

Customers can create their own pie with said Margherita, the marinara without cheese ($5.25) or the bianca ($5.65) base, followed by one of four types of olive oil (extra-virgin, chili, garlic and white truffle). Choose from dozens of toppings, which include roasted mushrooms, fontina, and hand-pulled mozzarella that owner Rich Werner makes himself.

A fan of Neapolitan pies, Mr. Werner said he wanted to offer this style that hasn't been as popular in Pittsburgh because it has not been as widely available until now. "Anywhere you go for this style pie, you pay $20," he said. "I wanted to offer something more affordable."

stone1A few blocks away in Market Square, the newly opened Il Pizzaiolo turns out handsome pies in an oven custom-built by artisans flown in from Italy. Executive chef Richard Sphatt oversees the kitchen that turns out traditional Margherita pies ($14) as well as such delectable variations as the Santa Lucia with cherry tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, basil, olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil ($15).

Il Pizzaiolo has opened with a ready following culled from the Mt. Lebanon flagship. This pizza garners a higher price for the restaurant's central location, warm dining room, polished service and extensive menu.

Also slated for Downtown is Proper Brick Oven and Tap Room in the former Tambellini space on Seventh Street. Owner Suzanne Hrach will offer 30 draft beers with an emphasis on local breweries, and 20 wines on tap.The menu at the 99-seat eatery will showcase pizza with seasonal toppings, made in a wood-burning oven.

Is Pittsburgh craving pizza beyond its stuffed crusts, Sicilian slices or "pizza-parlor pizza"?  These businesses are banking on it.

Melissa McCart photos from Il PIzzaiolo, Stone Neapolitan Pizzeria

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