… and quite liked it.
Emperio: A Meatball Joint
942 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Last week, I headed downtown to Emporio for a casual dinner. It was the second time I’ve been to this joint in the last few months, and I’ve really enjoyed it both times- good food, good beer & good service. It totally cashes in on the hipster vibe. Emporio is part of Sienna Mercato, three restaurants in one building kinda deal, a la Italian Village in Chicago (which just so happens to be one of my favorite places). Emporio occupies the ground level and one floor up is Mezza: Charcuterie with its fine wines, fancy cocktails and wood fired pizza and pastas. Head up one more level to Il Tetto: Rooftop Beer Garden for, you guessed it, tasty craft beer and some small plates.
But, back to Emperio. I’m gonna start off straightaway with the star of the night (besides my date, of course) the warm mixed & marinated olives, ciliegine mozzarella. Sweet shit. I had this both times I went to Emporio and I have since dreamed about it on multiple occasions. It’s a little salty, spicy taste of heaven. And the portion is huge- in olive world, that is. They were all warm and delicious. Be warned though, if you are more into it for the cheese, there were only three little motz balls, but a gaggle of different types and sizes of olives. Small green ones with the pits still in them. They were peppery and tart. The larger pink ones were more mild, but just as good. The two of us ate all of them, but could have happily shared with two more people. Plenty to go around. But, get them. I promise, you olive lovers, they are amazing.
Upon first looking at the menu, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of veggie options, but don’t fret, even with only one veggie ball on the menu, there are plenty of options. The sauces/gravies, soups, apps, etc. that are for us veggie folk are clearly marked with an *. Thanks, menu creators. And you can put your chosen ball on whatever you want…veggie meatball, that is. Sliders, panini, poutine, solo. You create your own ball masterpiece. The first time I went, I just did the slider with spinach-almond pesto. It was a good choice, but I learned my lesson and stepped it up the next time. Behold, the Fried egg, Veggie ball, Poutine special covered with a spinach-almond pesto. Perfection, is actually what I have named it.
They might as well just put it straight on the menu. It’s a winner. The perfectly fired cheesy goodness of the tots (poutine) with the over medium fried egg. Once the yolk broke over top of the veggie ball and mixed with the pesto, it was a marriage for the ages. I know. I am kind of a food genius. Look away from the panini and sliders and go straight for the trifecta of poutine, veggie ball and egg. A winner. My only recommendation would be to not eat the ball solo. It’s a little bland and pretty squishy. Mixed with everything, it is very good. Solo, it leaves something to be desired. And, since it is, after all a meatball joint, I was a touch disappointed in the lacklusterness of the ball.
Empoiro has a great beer selection, but to up my hipster points (I wanted to fit in) I ordered a PBR. It was good, cheap and reminded me of my undergrad days. A win in my book.
Overall, I am a fan of Emperio: A Meatball Joint. Good for an easy night out with your sweetie or a group of people for a happy hour spot with friends. Get crazy with your meatball (veggie ball) concoction. Go with the spinach-almond pesto. And DON’T miss the warm olive app.
Overall Grade: B+ (if the veggie ball gets a touch more flavor, this grade would sky rocket!)