The Forks blog

Michele Savoia of Dish Osteria and Bar

Written by Melissa McCart on

dishosteriaAs a dining critic for this newspaper, I forgo in-person interviews and pass opportunities to see chefs at work in their kitchens. Instead, I rely on multiple restaurant visits to research food, ambiance and service at a place. 

I also gather information by "barnstorming" to learn more about neighborhoods, the industry and the culture that shapes Pittsburgh restaurants.

Barnstorming is the term a friend uses for making rounds at three or four places in a day or night, pre-visits to find stories and to decide when or whether to review a restaurant.  

After such initial visits, I'll go back for more lengthy experiences.

Admittedly, the drop-in and fast exit can seem abrupt. An industry person called it the practice of a "food gangster" who eats and runs.

The coda to a restaurant visit is the phone interview, of course. At times, a phone interview feels constrained because I cannot see the expressions or gestures of the person on the other line.

With Michele Savoia, owner of Dish Osteria and Bar, it was more fluid. He conveyed himself with artful storytelling on his Italian childhood, the growth Pittsburgh's food scene, and how his restaurant has come into its own. 

Below is an outtake from my favorite exchange from the interview. Feel free to read the review here.

Question: Your menu is very seafood-heavy. Can you speak to that?

Mr. Savoia: I grew up on the Sicilian coast with my grandmother. My mother passed away when I was very young. I was in love with food. I still am. I especially loved going to the fishmonger. I don't care how it smells. For me, it is like perfume.

One of my favorite pastimes was going to the fishmonger just to look. The fish market was in one of these Gothic buildings with other stalls. By the fishmonger, people were yelling and singing. I love to see this and I thought, you know what? This is the soul of the place.

I remember one trip to Syracuse. I went to the fishmonger of course and ended up eating sea urchin for breakfast, with sellers showing me how to clean anchovies after I ate.

Some of the best seafood I had in my life was shellfish that attaches to rocks [barnacles] that still has the moss on it. I took it home and cooked it with the moss still on it. The moss gave the dish such. . . flair. 

I don't know when i will be able to do that again. I will have to go back.

Post-Gazette photo

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