Look out Pittsburgh! In the days to come, the home of the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins will have to face the wrath of The Pizza Snob. Chalk this up to my son, The Philosopher, and his lovely wife who recently moved there to continue their studies and help save this crazy world of ours.
I made my first trip to the Steel City for a quick trip this past Labor Day holiday. This day (September 5th) also had the added feature of being “National Cheese Pizza Day.” However, this designation was less observed than the one honoring employment, and the Snob wore out his cell phone trying to find a pizza joint that would be open on Labor Day.
Finally, I discovered that Fiori’s Pizzaria would be open and therefore earn the distinction as the Snob’s first official Pennsylvania pizza. This visit would be to their original Pittsburgh location. (They also have a new one about 30 miles south in McMurray.) Fiori’s dates back to 1979 which oddly enough was the first time I ever visited Pittsburgh and the last time the Pirates won (or played) in the World Series.
Arriving in town mid-afternoon after a long drive from Jersey, I picked up the kids at their new apartment in Shadyside, and we journeyed over the bridge to the western side of the Allegheny River. Navigating traffic and construction, we found Fiori’s at the bottom of a hill along a short cobblestone road. I immediately was taken by its old school charm and neighborhood feel. This was my kind of place.
Busy, perhaps since everyplace else was closed, we ordered a large cheese pizza at the counter, selecting the large 16-inch (12-cut) for $13.95, staying “Traditional” as opposed to “New White.” They also serve “individual cuts” for $2.20.
There were five people working at the counter and they were really pumping out the pizzas. Friendly and engaging as I always am, I asked the gentleman behind the counter if he know today was National Cheese Pizza Day. His retort? “Get outta town!”
Focusing on pizza, calzones and hoagies, there were also a few other items for what makes up a pretty decent menu. We found a table of our own from which I marveled at the look of this old room. The old pinball machine and rack of gumball machines took me back in time about 30 years. Waiting on our pizza, I started with a zesty Italian salad that was delightfully drenched with a ton of tasty shredded Mozzarella cheese. It was phenomenal!
It was soon pizza time, and at first glance it was obvious that Fiori’s unique creation was much thicker and cheesier than your usual NY-style pizza. Its “12-cut” also meant that these were half slices. Shamefully, it was served with unnecessary knives and forks. On the plus side, the char of the crust had made it through to the top side of the pie. It was a beautiful sight that presented the hope of some good crust.
Below the mass of cheese was in fact a nice thin base of crust that was both crisp and chewy. But, there were some distracting flavor issues that left an aftertaste, notably heavy garlic on top and extra sugar in the dough. All that cheese also wound up making things a bit oily as well. No doubt though, this was a special recipe made with top ingredients and prepared very well. It just came across as a bit foreign, but in the end was rather delicious and delightful.
Fiori’s pizza won’t remind a New Yorker of home, but nonetheless it’s a great local pizza worthy of a try. It’s also a charming family-run neighborhood joint that’s fun to visit. Not too bad for my first of many Pittsburgh pizzas to come! We’ll be back for Thanksgiving!
PIZZA SNOB RATING **** Near Perfection
103 Capital Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15226