After 37 years, D'Imperio's Restaurant in Wilkins will close next weekend

Written by Melissa McCart on . Closings

Dimperios
An Italian-American special-occasion restaurant since 1977, D'Imperio's Restaurant in Wilkins will close Aug. 2.

"It's time to quit while I still have the energy," said owner Tony D'Imperio.

In recent years, the restaurant had been busy during holidays, " but during regular service we had been spending $10 to take in $9," he said.

Former staff has been stopping in to say goodbyes, since D'Imperio's will not celebrate the restaurant's run with a party. Among visitors was Joseph Schilling, executive chef of the restaurant for 33 years until he resigned three years ago.

As a child, Mr. D'Imperio moved in 1955 from Italy to the area with his family. A year later, when he was 11, he got his start in the restaurant business by washing dishes at the Sons of Columbus Italian Club in Clairton, a job he took to help his family out.

From dishwashing, he learned to cook, then left Pittsburgh to bartend in the Poconos and took a break from the business to serve in the Vietnam War. He returned to Pittsburgh to finish college and to open D'Imperio's, a restaurant inspired by the Italian dishes of his youth.

D'Imperio's is among the last of its kind. Originally on 10th floor of the Jonnet Building in Monroeville, the restaurant became known for its piano bar and lounge singers.

"Walt Maddox is singing the Stephen Sondheim song, 'Send in the Clowns;' the accompaniment is a chorus of conversations, laughter, clinking glasses," wrote Marilyn McDevitt Rubin in a 1981 edition of the Pittsburgh Press.
"Anticipation. Pretty women. Blond. Dimpled. Low-cut dresses. Handsome, broad-shouldered men. Tall. Dark. Macho."

Even then, the restaurant was a classic. "It was as if you had drifted back in time to when elegance was epitomized by New York's Stork Club and San Francisco's Top of the Mark."

The restaurant moved to its current location in 1982, smaller than the original, with a 100-seat patio Mr. D'Imperio added in 2001.

He gave away the baby grand piano to a bartender a couple years ago.

"We're now in a keyboard era," he said.

D'Imperio's photo

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Restaurant Echo will close the end of May

Written by Melissa McCart on . Closings

Chris-O-BrienChef de cuisine Chris O'Brien confirmed that Restaurant Echo in Cranberry will close by May 31. Executive chef Brian Hammond's 220-seat restaurant opened in December 2010.

The pair became friends when they worked together at Hyeholde in Moon. As the executive chef there for nearly 20 years, Mr. O'Brien has mentored many of the area's now-executive chefs, including Rick DeShantz of Meat & Potatoes and Butcher and the Rye, both Downtown. 

Mr. Hammond left Hyeholde for Chicago, where he worked at Alinea for a season and Rick Bayless' Topolobampo and Frontera Grill. He returned from Chicago to open the Cranberry restaurant.

Restaurant Echo has a luxurious kitchen that has given the chefs room for a pastry area, a smoker, a meat locker and a meat-curing room. The place is also conscientious about using regional ingredients. "Agriculture is such a huge thing in this area," Mr. Hammond said in an interview last year. "And in our restaurants now, we all want to push that aspect forward."

The chefs are exploring their next move. "Naturally we're disappointed," Mr. O'Brien said. "We're looking at smaller settings and other ventures." 

They've discussed working together in the future but "nothing is yet for certain."

Post-Gazette photo of Chris O'Brien.

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Skinny Pete's, AJ's Inca Peruvian have closed

Written by Melissa McCart on . Closings

inca 1
Open just more than a year, Skinny Pete's Kitchen in Avalon has closed. Though the menu did not specialize in lean cuisine, "This is a bright little spot, with a stick-figure logo," wrote Post-Gazette's Munch. "It features a full breakfast menu; salads, sandwiches, pizzas and flatbreads for lunch; and beginning this week, they're making a soft entry into dinner features, and you can BYOB."

AJ's Inca Peruvian, Downtown, also has closed. The restaurant opened on Liberty Avenue in December 2012, with a menu of Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken and Peruvian entrees, sides, desserts and juices.

Gretchen McKay photo

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Bridge Ten Brasserie has closed

Written by Melissa McCart on . Closings

bridgeten
Bridge Ten Brasserie on the South Side has closed. And owner Dave DeSimone plans on opening a wine bar in Shadyside.

From the press release:

In July 2012, the Bridge Ten Brasserie team set out to offer an authentic French style brasserie experience to our guests from Pittsburgh and beyond. In working with passion and dedication, we have been honored to welcome guests literally from across America and from around the globe. We have learned much and adapted our cuisine, service and ambiance, and judging from you, Bridge Ten Brasserie's friends and core guests, we succeeded more often than not in fulfilling our goal.

Regrettably "succès commerciale" has proven elusive. So after much soul searching, I made the tough decision to close Bridge Ten Brasserie effective with last Saturday's service.

I would like to thank the many folks whose belief helped make Bridge Ten Brasserie a reality. The list begins with our dedicated staff in the kitchen, front of house and bar. Thank you to our vendors, professional advisers, landlord, and investors. Most of all, thank you to our loyal customers. It has been a pleasure serving you. And on a personal note, thank you to my three children and especially my son, John, who worked long hours and added much to the restaurant. Heartfelt thanks to my wife Kate for her steadfast support.

While bidding a fond farewell to Bridge Ten Brasserie, I am excited to be hard at work on another wine bar and restaurant project to be located in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood. It offers a charming, intimate dining room and bar space and includes a delightfully inviting patio and garden. Stay tuned for more details as we work towards a Spring opening.

Here's to a future of sharing good food and wine. Cheers.

Dave DeSimone

Post-Gazette photo

 

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Istanbul Grill lives

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Closings

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Istanbul Grille, the Downtown Turkish lunch joint that supposedly had its last day last month, is still open.

I walked up there this afternoon, as the Liberty Avenue spot is a favorite of mine, especially on really hot days.

The door was open, the front was full of beautiful food, and the owner Coskun "Josh" Gokalp was holding court as usual -- dishing out more than food as he joked with customers, piling extra into their foam clam shells, giving people free bottles of water out of his cooler.

All this was threatened -- is threatened -- because the 7-Eleven store next door wants to expand into his space, where his lease is up after five years.

That's still the case, Josh confirmed today. He said it's "100 percent" sure that convenience store is taking over his space, he said.

But June 28 was not his last day, as a long line of customers that day thought.

His landlord hasn't shut him down yet, and Josh says he thinks he can keep serving for "a couple of weeks" more.

Meanwhile, he continues to look at other spots Downtown where he might reopen, including the space up Liberty Avenue where Indo Asian Fusion had a short run.

His Lawrenceville Istanbul location remains closed -- he hasn't even updated the website -- as he figures out what to do about Downtown; if he finds the right space, he'll consolidate everything there.

Hanging on the walls are letters and screen-grabs of the "Save the Istanbul Grille" Facebook campaign and petition that many customers got involved with to try to keep the place where it is ("Don't take our hummus from us").

Josh says he was surprised by and appreciates the groundswell and customers' continued support.

But as I told him, I think we customers will find Istanbul Grille wherever it ends up.

The photo at the top is my go-to lunch there -- the cold plate. It's basically a scoop or two of all or most of the lovely salads they offer each weekday, and still one of the best deals Downtown. This is what they handed me yesterday; I paid $8. You can get plates starting at $7 and up to $10 if you get meat. The place only is open from about noon to 2 p.m.

That there is no menu throws new people off, as I saw yesterday.

But after two or three times, you come to embrace it.

If you missed the last day at the current spot, try to stop in for one of the remaining last days.

Istanbul Grille is at 673 Liberty Ave., Downtown; the phone is 412-325-3346.

07162013istanbulbar

Bob Batz Jr. photos

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No more Sugar

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Closings

02042013sugarcafe

One of the cutest, sweetest places around -- Dormont's Sugar Cafe -- has closed.

A note on the cafe's website eloquently notes "that dreams don't die, they transform," and invites the community to continue to gather at the site, on Facebook and Twitter for "for blog posts, recipes and conversation."

Pastry chef Kelly James, previously of Downtown's Sonoma Grill, opened the cafe in the heart of the Potomac Avenue business district on Feb. 18, 2011.

Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette photo

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