Take me out to the ball game ... to eat

Clint Hurdle in a manager's uniform is only one of several things generating some excitement this year at PNC Park. Pirates fans also will enjoy several new eats, and in one case, even decide which of two competing sandwiches should remain on the menu for the 2011 season.

Gluten-free beer and a veggie cup with hummus are two of the fresh items concessionaire Levy Restaurants will trot out during the home opener against the Colorado Rockies on April 7.

Fans with club- or suite-level seats also will be able to choose between a foot-long meatball sub, a chicken-and-grape-tomato-stuffed wrap dressed in basil aioli and the meant-to-be-shared Big Cheese Rip 'n' Dip, a garlicky cheese bread so colossal it will be served with its ranch and marinara dipping sauces in an 18-inch pizza box.

Fans without a premium ticket, meanwhile, along with reporters at today's annual media event at the park, will help judge the tastier of two new signature 'wiches developed over the winter by Aramark executive chef Rich Montini. The Pulled Pork and Pierogi Stacker piles house-smoked pulled pork on top of a Breadworks pretzel roll with caramelized onions and two potato pierogies. The Stuffed Pepper Hoagie stuffs a banana pepper packed with sausage and cheese into a hoagie roll, and then tops it with fresh marinara.

It could be a close call. The stuffed pepper hoagie has its roots in a popular appetizer served at PNC's Hall of Fame Club, and seriously, what Pirates' fan doesn't love pierogies, or pulled pork?

"They're favorites," says Steve Musciano, general manager for Aramark at the ballpark.

Which will be served until the last pitch sometime this fall remains to be seen; the winning sandwich, decided by online voting and total sales, will be announced after July's All-Star break. Until then, both will be sold at Manny's BBQ (section 142) and Familee BBQ (section 133) for around $8.

"Hot dogs and popcorn are always going to be fan favorites at a ball park, but we also want to keep fans excited," says Mr. Musciano.

And if your appetite is a little less hearty?

Other new offerings from Aramark include a Reubenesque hot dog with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing, a wing sampler (two wet and two dry) and gluten-free and vegetarian options such as a veggie toaster sandwich. For the kids, there will be several varieties of the Polar Shock slushie, a frozen drink they can mix themselves.

Also, Aramark is entering the smart phone business, offering dial-up menus through certain applications.

PNC Park, notes Mr. Musciano, is known for its variety "and we like to keep on top of it."

Gretchen McKay: gmckay@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1419.


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