Just opened (Feb. 1) on Penn Avenue in the Strip District: Gaucho Wood-Fired Grill.
The Argentinian word for such a place is parrilla, and this looks to be Pittsburgh's first.
The Argentinian chef owner is Anthony Falcon, previously of food and beverage director and executive chef of Southpointe Golf Club.
In this warm and cozy little space with an open kitchen, almost unrecognizable as the former Big Mama's, he's grilling simple, casual fare for takeout or for eating at the counters under which his USDA-approved mixed hardwood is stacked.
The menu is thick with steak, from a half-pound bife de gaucho ($20) to the $10 steak sandwich that you can have made with your choice of steak.
Chef also will fire up sausages, chicken, fish and shrimp. And the small plates include some lovely grilled vegetables -- portabello, onions, peppers, zucchinni and asparagus with a fig drizzle ($7).
I stopped in Saturday and tried the veggies with a picada plate -- serrano ham, mortadella, sopressata, provolone, olives, cantaloupe and grilled bread (both plates pictured below). What a great lunch.
Specialties of Argentina, where his father is from (his mother is English), include condiments such as chimmi churri ($3) and a beautiful app of aged provolone, grilled on a flat chapa with fresh oregano, thyme, lemon and olive oil.
Gaucho doesn't have a liquor license, but there is a container of non-alcoholic red sangria.
It's all meant to be simple and good, with the focus on top-quality ingredients.
"Really it's just part of my culture. I think people really enjoy that kind of food," says Chef Falcon, who has done it all kinds of ways, including during several years working at huge properties in Las Vegas before moving with his wife, Amy, to Mt. Lebanon.
Hanging out at the restaurant Saturday were several of their neighbors, some of whom attest to chef's mad grill skills.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tues. through Fri. and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; it's closed Sun. and Mon.
By May, the Falcons want to renovate and open the adjacent courtyard with tables and chairs and room for 20 to 30. Says Chef, "I think it's going to become a very comfortable gathering place for all types of people."
Gaucho is located at 1607 Penn Ave. The phone is 412-709-6622.
Bob Batz Jr. photos