Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pasta Night, Ft. Pittsburgh's Macaroni Co & Mancini's Bread

I grew up on the west side of Pittsburgh, in an area called Robinson. If anyone is familiar with Pittsburgh, Robinson is something of a suburb, with a mall & big houses & people walking their dogs in sweaters. Its cute. I spent most of my time, when not sitting in the yard reading a book or cooking in our kitchen that's bigger than my current home, in the South Side or Crafton, the humbler neighborhoods with homes that resemble my current one. I didn't venture often into the city because it was a long bus ride.

The Strip District in Pittsburgh, from my childhood home, was across the Monongahela River and nearly on the North Side, an area that my mother cautioned me against. I never saw Liberty Ave or Smallman St. until I was about 16, when I was in culinary school at Parkway Vo-Tech.

I'll admit, it wasn't quite what I expected. People bustled in small groups from place to place, rushing past traffic to cross the street and duck into store fronts. Everywhere were specialty shops, Asian groceries, produce bins and pan handlers. The chilly air smelled like coffee & fish stalls, not ammonia but ocean. While grey is always the dominant color in Pittsburgh, these streets were lined with bins of strawberries, eggplants, cabbages & collards thereby lending flashes of color to an otherwise drab scene. I was mesmerized, barely remembering to stay with my class.

This time, instead of being corralled by Chef who tried to keep 20 students in line, I was free to wander into stores with my dad, my son high on his shoulders & my husband at my side. My stepmom pointed to some of her favorite new spots and we enjoyed an unseasonably warm day for March.

One place was an indoor market. Aisles were lined with vendors, though some booths were empty during the slow week. We tried samples of fresh perogies, locally brewed beers, and homemade jams. With our new treats in tow, we were off to the Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. on Penn Ave. It was time to shop for dinner.

First we stopped at the fresh pasta counter, where we picked up linguine that had been made that morning and was busy drying. As I gazed into the fridge full of desserts, Ben noticed ravioli. We got some cheese ones for the picky toddler, plus some spinach & Gorgonzola for the big kids. 
The trip home took us through McKees Rocks and we decided we absolutely had to stop and pick up some Mancini's bread. I grabbed two loaves because I had a plan for the second one. There was much deliberation about how the bread should be cut for garlic bread, and the result was meant to maximize the surface area of the bread. We melted butter & steeped it with garlic, then drizzled it over the bread before toasting it in the oven.

The meal was finished with a delightful little salad.

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