Monday, January 23, 2012

Wintry Trip to Pino's Contemporary Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar

Between SP's preferred work schedule, traffic, and weather, we did not get to enjoy Pittsburgh Restaurant Week as much as we would have liked. Friday evening we had reservations at Toast, but the winter storm warning that went into effect at 7 pm scared us off. We were afraid that with on street only parking, we would have trouble with snow and the wheelchair. We didn't want to drive home in bad weather, especially after SP's Wednesday evening commute that took 2 hours (to go about 15 miles, usually takes half an hour), and we didn't want to be trying to push me on a snowy front walkway. Pittsburgh did get 4 inches of snow Friday night, but the winter storm event was over by the time we got up on Saturday. SP shoveled, did some errands, and we decided it was OK to head out because where we live, everything was completely clear and dry. We left at 5:15 pm for dinner and we figured that 7-8 hours was more than enough time for Pittsburgh to clear the streets.

Ha. On our way to Reynolds Street in Point Breeze, we drove on some slushy/less than ideal roads and we passed a lot of side streets that looked as if they had not yet been touched by a plow. Completely covered in chunks of dirty, dark gray slush. No visible road. As soon as we were in front of our destination, well, even before then, we regretted our decision to go to dinner at a restaurant in the city with street only parking. SP is out of practice with parallel parking in heap of slush/snow, so it took him about 4 tries. The street was a dirty slushy mess. He parked 2 feet from the curb because there was an enormous mound of snow on the edge of the curb, so we couldn't put the wheelchair up on the curb for me to get out. Turns out we could barely get the wheelchair through the slushy mess on the street between the car and curb. SP ended up 'shoveling' a path with his boots. Yup. The bottoms of his jeans looked great. We 'joked' about the need to buy a plastic shovel to keep in the car for such situations.

The street was a mess. We tried to go down the center, the least messy part, but even that was difficult to wheel through. I had huge chunks of slush stuck in the front tires, spinning and the spitting about. The leg rest was dragging through snow and slush because the snow/slush was piled so deep. The bottoms of my jeans got dirty and slushy and wet.

So we got to the end of the street and... um... curb cut? Apparently Pittsburgh doesn't care about clearing curb cuts. Terrific.

I was kind of in a super crabby mood by the time we made it inside the restaurant. I try to not let my health problems get me down, I try to not wallow in self pity over being stuck in a wheelchair, but the reality is that sometimes it just really sucks and it really prevents me from enjoying things that 'normal' people take for granted. It is not easy to move a wheelchair through snow/ice/slush. Street parking is always an issue, even in sunny dry weather, because of curb heights, and it's nearly impossible in bad weather like what we just had. Most people do not think twice before heading out to a city restaurant with street only parking, but for us, it can turn into a logistical nightmare, snipping at each other, near accidents. I've bonked my head countless times on the edge of the car sliding up and out into the wheelchair when it's sitting up on a 4 inch or higher curb. There have been many near sliding/wrecking disasters when the roads/sidewalks have been icy and SP loses traction trying to push me uphill. Like a car, even if I stop the wheelchair and put the brakes on, if it's slick, the wheelchair can keep moving. That's always fun. When sidewalks are uneven or missing chunks, the wheelchair can quickly and abruptly come to a halt, sending me pitching forward and nearly onto the street. So frustrating.

We made it inside with no near accidents, just us getting very wet and slushy and dirty. Our destination was Pino's Contemporary Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar. It was warm and inviting inside. The hostess was quite friendly and had our table ready for us. There were quite a few menus to sort through - the daily specials menu, the regular menu, the PRW menu, the wine list. Our server brought water and explained the specials, etc. While we thought about what to order, I admired the tables:
Interesting! There also is art on the walls, which I presume might be from local artists since there were numbers next to the pictures and I suppose the numbers correspond to some kind of key/information chart - ? The dark woods, maroon ceiling, green walls, and dim lighting were cozy and relaxing.
We both decided to order from the PRW menu. I chose to also try the wine pairing. As usual we each stole bites from the other's plate, and SP tried my wines. Here's what we enjoyed:
Tasty, warm white bread with a cream cheese spread - it tasted almost like a garden vegetable cream cheese to me. 

First wine: champagne, served with my salad.

We both chose salad for our first course. It was served with a thick Italian dressing on the side. The dressing was very tasty. The salad was mixed greens, carrots, tomatoes, olives, chick peas, and onions.

SP's entree: Pasta Arrabbiata. Chicken, sausage, hot banana peppers,  burgundy wine, and marinara. He thought it was quite tasty, not too spicy upon the first bite but with a heat that builds. I liked my bite of pasta & sausage. 

I ordered the Eggplant Cannoli in addition to the two small plates I ordered for my entree. Eggplant, prosciutto, peas, cheesy risotto, marinara. This was good, but as I usually find, I had trouble with the eggplant skin. I find the skin tough to cut and tough to chew, but without the skin to help the cannoli hold its shape, this dish wouldn't work. The skin difficulty is an issue for me even at home when we make eggplant.

Stuffed Portobella - lamb bolognese, tomatoes, fontina, balsamic syrup. My favorite of everything I tried.

The portobella, all cut up and strewn about the plate. Sorry for the blurry photo.

Mac & Cheese. Seasoned ricotta, tomato basil cream. Tasty, but since I was filling up and still had dessert coming, I ended up getting this wrapped to take home.

Underneath the cheesy top layer. This was good, but I probably would not order it again because I definitely tasted garlic, and long time readers of this blog know that I avoid garlic because it bothers my stomach.

There were four wines from which to choose for with the entree. I chose a white wine, I think it was a Spanish Wine - ? I don't remember, I just remember that I didn't recognize anything in the description! A nice, crisp, dry white, whatever it was.

There were two desserts for PRW. SP ordered the Chocolate Molten Cake with Brandied Cherries. This was really tasty, especially the cherries, and not as rich/dense as I expected, which was nice.

The other dessert was Tiramisu. One of my favorites.

The dessert wine. SP drank most of it since I am not a huge dessert wine person. He really likes them. This was tasty - rich and chocolaty.
I have to say we were pleasantly surprised. We were a bit concerned after some of the reviews we read on Urbanspoon and we were starting to reconsider our PRW choice. Then on Wednesday, the City Paper reviewed Pino's and gave it a good review/CP Approved stamp, so we felt better and decided to keep our reservation.

Overall, we enjoyed our evening at Pino's. The hostess and server were very friendly and knowledgeable. The food was tasty. We didn't have any problems with lukewarm/not hot food. The wines in the wine pairing were very tasty. SP's iced tea was fresh brewed. It can get quite noisy once it fills up, but I find that to be the case in a lot of restaurants. I can't say that anything really stood out as 'must come back here because this was so gosh darn tasty' but at the same time, nothing was bad. I also think the service we had was quite good, so that would encourage us to return. I'd like to go back in warmer weather when the huge, glass front is open, and relax and enjoy a glass of wine and a small plate or two.

Pino's Contemporary Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. I've been to this restaurant several times and have a slightly negative opinion. The food is decent but overpriced. The service was slow but not horrible.

  2. We came here during restaurant week so we got to try a bunch of different options. As a table, we decided to go with the bone marrow and mac and cheese, the braised short ribs, and the lazy seafood lasagna. Everything was amazing, minus the bone marrow. The risotto on the side of the bone marrow was excellent but now I know not to ever try bone marrow again.

  3. ohhh and i've to add, :) The atmosphere is very nice-small and cozy and the waitress was great. I will definately come back and try this place again.