Many happy returns add to Pittsburgh restaurant scene

A common thread of boomeranging — back to Pittsburgh, back to the kitchen and back to an original location — highlight some recent changes in the city’s dining scene.

Chris Frangiadis came to Pittsburgh in 1991 and worked at some memorable restaurants of that era: Mount Washington’s Isabela’s on Grandview, Southwest Bistro in the Cultural District and Bikki in Shadyside. He left in 2004 for the balmier climes of St. John’s in the U.S. Virgin Islands and started a family there, but returned more than a decade later.

On Thursday he’ll open Spork in Garfield in the former home of the Quiet Storm cafe, 5430 Penn Ave.

“I always loved Pittsburgh, and I knew I was going to come back,” he said. “I kept an eye on what was happening here and it seemed like a great time to do it.”

The name comes from the plastic picnic utensil because, as general manager Jonathan Corey said: “A lot of places take themselves a little too seriously, and we wanted to get away from that rigidity.”

The menu focuses on small plates and features fresh pastas and house-cured meats. The bar will incorporate house bitters, tonics, vermouth, cordials and tinctures.

“The culinary scene changed so much while I was away,” Mr. Frangiadis said. “The people here are doing such a fantastic job and I hope I can do my part and add a small part to it.”

Over in Regent Square, Jennifer Burfield is glad to be back in the kitchen. Last Wednesday, she reopened Cibo at 1103 S. Braddock Ave., which was closed for the past year.

A graduate of the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Ore., Ms. Burfield came to Pittsburgh four years ago and was the general manager at Cure in Lawrenceville.

“My roots are in the kitchen,” Ms. Burfield said. “We’ve given the place a face-lift. We kept it Italian. This menu is a little more diverse — it still has the classics, but also with a bit of a Mediterranean flare to it.”

The BYOB spot will feature items like rabbit stew, braised lamb shanks on polenta, handmade pastas and a salt cod mousse called Baccala-Mantecato.

Finally, a Shadyside institution in its 69th year, the Elbow Room will officially reopen Wednesday at its original location at 5744½ Ellsworth Ave. after spending a few years on Walnut Street.

Owner Michael DiFiore will drop the existing 1947 Tavern name but incorporate some elements of the menu and bar program.

“We wanted to bring back that comfort and familiarity,” he said of the business that’s been in his family since 1979. “We’re excited. After awhile the place sort of becomes your identity.”

Some other notable openings and closings:

● Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream will open on March 15 at 232 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside.

● Streets on Carson, an ambitious dedication to international street fare, will open in mid-March on the South Side.

● Pork & Beans, the Downtown collaboration on Sixth Street between Richard DeShantz and Keith Fuller, remains on track for a late April opening.

● Bakersfield, a Cincinnati-based casual taco and cocktail spot, will open in Downtown later this spring for its sixth location in five states.

● Urban Tap gastropub owner John DeMauro said that he’ll open a second location of his this summer in Shadyside in the former Buffalo Blues site on Highland Avenue.

● Bloomfield bakery Bread & Salt officially closed over the weekend. Owner Rick Easton has moved to New York City to take a position at a bakery in Brooklyn.

Dan Gigler:; Twitter @gigs412.


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