Ten things to love about Bloomfield, Pittsburgh's Little Italy

Bloomfield's Italian roots go back five generations, according to the Bloomfield Business Association. Today, the neighborhood is more diverse, but there's still plenty of Italian character for people to enjoy. Here are 10 edible reasons to start exploring one of Pittsburgh's great neighborhoods.

1. LITTLE ITALY DAYS: From the Sinatra impersonators to the zucchini "egg rolls," Bloomfield's most famous festival is a celebration of all things Italian and Pittsburgh. There's too much food for one person to try everything, but fortunately the festival lasts for three days.

2. STOCK THE PANTRY: Donatelli's Italian Food Center, where stacks of canned San Marzano tomatoes and jugs of olive oil line the shelves, will make you want to cook for a crowd. Simmer up a pot of Sunday gravy, serve it with your pasta of choice and be generous with the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Where to Go

Donatelli's Italian Food Center, 4711 Liberty Ave., 412-682-1406

Merante's Gifts, 4723 Liberty Ave., 412-682-3370, www.merante-gifts.com

Groceria Italian, 237 Cedarville St., 412-681-1227

Paddy Cake Bakery, 4763 Liberty Ave., 412-621-4477

Sanchioli Brothers Bakery, 4731 Juniper St., 412-681-3401

Grasso Roberto, 4709 Liberty Ave., 412-818-2584

'Burgh Bits and Bites Food Tours, www.burghfoodtour.com

Pleasure Bar, 4729 Liberty Ave., 412-682-9603

Stagioni, 4770 Liberty Ave., 412-687-5775, www.stagionipgh.com

Alexander's Pasta Express, 5104 Liberty Ave., 412-687-8741, www.alexandersitalianbistro. com

Bloomfield Bridge Tavern, 4412 Liberty Ave., 412-682-8611

Thai Cuisine, 4627 Liberty Ave., 412-688-9661

Thai Gourmet, 4505 Liberty Ave., 412-681-4373

Wai-Wai Chinese Cuisine, 4717 Liberty Ave., 412-621-0133

3. INSIDE AN ITALIAN KITCHEN: Are you a novice in the kitchen? Get a little culinary education along with some tasty food. Merante's gift shop offers cooking classes in all of the Italian specialties. This Saturday students will learn how to make "the perfect homemade sausage," along with a few side dishes. Classes are three hours, $40 per person. All food prepared will be served, and students will get copies of the recipes to take home.

4. ANTIPASTO, PASTA AND MORE: Whether you're assembling a party platter or setting out on a picnic, Groceria Italiana makes the cook's job easy. The ravioli there is the real deal, and the fresh mozzarella and prosciutto sandwich (on bread baked at the neighboring Sanchioli Brothers Bakery) is as good a sandwich as any Italian panino.

5. A SWEET TREAT OR TWO: Donatelli's has their famous pizzelles and Groceria Italiana specializes in Sfogliatelle and other stuffed pastries, but if you want to be inundated with choice, Paddy Cake Bakery is the place for you. The bakery specializes in doughnuts and wedding cakes, but also has tons of single-serving pastries and cookies.

6. SUMMER SPECIALS: When the weather is warm, Bloomfield residents prop open their front doors, sit out on porch steps and stroll the streets to take advantage of summer breezes. The best way to cool down in Bloomfield? Try the homemade gelato or Italian ices at Grasso Roberto Cafe.

7. ON THE STREET: Bloomfield restaurants are well-practiced at preparing street food for the neighborhood's many festivals and parades. These offerings tend to pop up at other times as well, so keep eyes (and noses) peeled. Freshly grilled sweet sausages are a regular and delicious offering in front of Donatelli's.

8. TAKE A TOUR: Exploring on your own is always fun, but why not learn a little something extra? 'Burgh Bits and Bites Food Tour of Little Italy is a great way to explore the neighborhood, whether you're a lifelong resident or a first-time visitor. The two-hour tour includes food tastings and a bottle of water; $32 per person.

9. OUT ON THE TOWN: Italian restaurants abound, at a range of price points and styles. From classic Italian-American dishes at the Pleasure Bar to regional specialities at newcomer Stagioni to create-your-own pasta dishes at Alexander's Pasta Express, Bloomfield has something to offer every Italian food lover.

10. INTERNATIONAL DINING: It might be Little Italy, but Bloomfield is also home to an impressive array of other cuisines, including Polish food at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern, Thai Food at Thai Cuisine and Thai Gourmet and Chinese at Wai-Wai.


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