Small focused restaurants are the first wave of openings in 2013, particularly those from restaurateurs familiar to Pittsburgh. Downtown and East End locations are early favorites for debuts, with a few fill-ins on Highland Avenue in East Liberty.
8 Market Square, Downtown
The 40-seat sibling to Il Pizzaiolo in Mt. Lebanon is slated to open in mid- to late January. Executive chef at the South Hills location, Richard Sphatt, will direct the Downtown kitchen. He is training Pizzaiolo staff to take his place at the flagship.
The menu will be "predominantly the same," said Debbie LoVerso, general manager in Mt. Lebanon, "though we will add a few things to accommodate the Downtown crowd."
Like the original, it will have a wood-burning oven that allows for the restaurant to maintain DOC standards (Italian requirements that respect the tradition of the art of Neapolitan pizza making). A true Neapolitan-style pie, for example, must be 10 inches across and feature San Marzano tomatoes and fresh ingredients.
Nicky's Thai Kitchen
903 Penn Ave., Downtown
Nicky's Thai Kitchen Downtown soft-opened Dec. 21, the third restaurant opening from chef owner Ratthasak "Nick" Insawang.
The original location in Verona has since closed.
While the smaller North Side location will remain BYO, the Downtown 70-seat restaurant will offer beer, wine and sake along with Thai beverages.
The lunch and dinner menus will adhere to the originals, though chef specials will vary.
3810 Butler St., Lawrenceville
Expect the debut of Franktuary in Lawrenceville in early January, the second location for the hot dog destination and bar at 3810 Butler St.
Fliers that read "Prepare Ye For the Second Coming" have teased the opening of the 2,100-square-foot restaurant. The space that will accommodate nearly 100 patrons is outfitted with garage doors for open-air seating when weather permits.
Franktuary has seen steady growth since Tim Tobitsch and Megan Lindsey opened the restaurant in 2004 in Trinity Cathedral, Downtown. It's also part of the first wave of the area's food trucks, having rolled out its mobile kitchen in 2010.
With a menu of all-beef dogs and wursts dressed in dozens of condiment combinations, Franktuary donates a percentage of profits to local and national charities. Expect an expanded menu and desserts at the new location.
128 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty
Chef David Racicot has signed a lease to reopen Notion in a 28-seat space on what's shaping up as Pittsburgh's restaurant row.
"Graceful and refined but not pretentious," is how Mr. Racicot described the menu, which he hopes will open late January or early February.
He opened the original location in Oakmont in 2010. It earned 31/2 stars from the Post-Gazette.
Mr. Racicot knew when he opened that location he would likely have to move to a more central area. So in January, he transformed the original space into a family-friendly Italian restaurant, 314 Pasta and Prime, which will close in anticipation of the new restaurant.
The reopening of Notion speaks to his goal to "push the city's food scene forward."
"We may only serve 20 people a night or 120 people a week," he said. "Fewer people means we won't have to compromise on anything."
3615 Butler St., Lawrenceville
Italian restaurant Matteo's may open in late January or early February, chef-owner Matt Cavanaugh said.
He has been working on the space for the past year that had formerly housed an insurance agency. "It has been a long haul," he said.
The 50-seat Italian restaurant will feature steak and seafood, as well as a full bar.
Mr. Cavanaugh is an alumnus of the kitchen at Sarafino's in Crafton, where he worked for a decade.