Fresh Find: Tour shows city's good taste




A new food tour of the Strip District called "'Burgh Bits & Bites" doesn't sound as if it leaves you hungry for more -- at least not for several hours.

The tour includes:

• Bits of pepperoni and spinach roll at Mancini's

• Bites of hummus with pita bread at Labad's

• Nibbles of cheese at Pennsylvania Macaroni (served by Carol Pascuzzi, the "cheese lady" who calls customers "dear heart."

• Your choice of a biscotti at Enrico's

• An almond or apple mele at Colangelo's

And then the tour ends at Primanti's with Pittsburgh's iconic fries-and-slaw-stacked sandwiches.

Tour leader and company owner Sylvia McCoy says that after one recent tour, a person on it said, "You're definitely going out with a bang on this one, not a whimper."

But that's the point of food tours, a phenomenon that she noticed has been getting bigger in New York and other cities.

The Pittsburgh native has been around, having spent most of the 1990s living in her father's native Switzerland and exploring Europe.

She returned here and worked as assistant director of business development for the Center for Executive Education at the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business.

She also started volunteering as a tour guide for Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, showing school students the Strip's historic charms, but not its edible ones that are the perfect basis for a guided tour.

On hers, which start at 10 a.m. Thursdays in the courtyard at St. Patrick Church, she also talks about history and architecture, but the food is the star. She talks about more food sites than she can get to in the tour's two hours, so attendees can continue to explore on their own.

"I just feel that food is the bond that people all share," says the self-described foodie, who lives with her husband, Don, and their two children in Moon.

In addition to the weekly public tour (of up to 10 people), she does group tours (for six or more) on other days, but reservations are a must for either. Cost is $30 per person (with a 15 percent discount for groups), which covers food and a bottle of water.

Participants in the tour, which she started this winter, have been a mix of locals and visitors, some from overseas. She says she loves making visitors feel at home in the neighborhood and showing locals things they might not have realized, such as the fact that you can eat a fish sandwich at Wholey's. People have found her mostly on the Internet and by word of mouth.

She's just now beginning a push to promote the business with area hotels and VisitPittsburgh. She says that if it takes off, she may start offering tours to other neighborhoods, such as South Side and the "Little Italy" of Bloomfield.

Meanwhile, she's got an ethnic trick of her own to throw in:

Thanks to her time abroad, she also can give the tour in German.

For reservations and more, call 412-901-7150, visit burghfoodtour.com or e-mail info@burghfoodtour.com.


Have a fresh food find? E-mail food@post-gazette.com .




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