So it's Oscar weekend and here's a little known fact: A scene from L.A.-centric "Pretty Woman" was filmed in Pittsburgh. The Internet Movie Database says so. Actually, it's less a scene than a couple of seconds of leftover stock footage of an establishing shot of Carnegie Music Hall that was re-used from "Flashdance," but nonetheless, according to IMDB, it's among 1,284 movies, made-for-TV movies and TV show episodes that list Pittsburgh, Pa., USA, as a filming location of some sort, dating back to primitive documentaries made in 1898.
In the time since, we've brought the world zombies and Hannibal the Cannibal and explored religious "Dogma." Batman and Inspector Gadget both made a brief home here and, of course, there was "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh," although later on someone tried to blow up our beloved Civic Arena in "Sudden Death." Sienna Miller insulted us, but the real insult was her film's terrible adaptation of Michael Chabon's book.
Our industrial past provided a gritty and grim backdrop for a best picture in "The Deer Hunter" and we've been a post-Apocalyptic gloomscape in "The Road." Worst of all, we've doubled as Detroit -- twice! ("Hoffa" and "Robocop"). But lately, regardless of the storylines, or if Pittsburgh is even a "character" in the movie (it usually isn't) or if the films are any good (they usually aren't) directors have paid tribute to our beautiful hills, valleys, rivers and skyline with gorgeous sweeping shots and panoramas -- hot and heavy Pittsburgh porn, if you will (and that doesn't even count the one Zack & Miri made in Monroeville).
Our film history is occasionally dynamite, though more often dubious. But one would get my lifetime achievement award for most times watched on Saturdays on the couch, after a night out, while ordering in junk food and drooling during naps: "Striking Distance." With a 15 percent fresh grade from Rotten Tomatoes, it has everything: a terrible sulky Bruce Willis, a wooden performance from Sarah Jessica Parker, the late great Dennis Farina delivering Pittsburghese with a Chicago accent, cameos from Sally Wiggin, chase scenes that are impossible (Duquesne to Grandview Avenue in one cut?) and a killer called the Polish Hill Strangler.
I bring up this 1993 masterpiece-of-awful because of a recent visit to Big Shot Bob's House of Wings, a take-out spot in Avalon (there is also a location in Coraopolis) where Willis' character is memorialized among the signature hoagies and the guiding aesthetic seems to be: add bacon.
The Tom Hardy is a not-at-all-bad and decadent mix of buffalo chicken, bacon, provolone, American cheese, onions, banana peppers and ranch ($10.49). Another called the Soldier has chicken fingers, bacon, gyro meat, provolone and barbecue sauce ($11.99). My colleague loved the super rich and aptly named Heart Attack made of deep-fried cappicola, salami, pepperoni, ham, bacon, American cheese and mayo ($8.99). Robert Pastorelli's killer from "Striking Distance" is paid homage in the Jimmy DeTillo -- 12 ounces of steak, six provolone sticks, additional provolone cheese, and mayo.
The killer's alter ego, the Polish Hill Strangler, is among the names of an almost unbelievable 150 flavors of wings ($5.99 for a half dozen). Drenched in bright yellow honey mustard and flecked with cayenne pepper, these were delicious, as were the outstanding Mean Joe Greenes, topped with "black magic" Cajun seasoning, golden barbecue sauce, and a green jalapeno sauce. I was less crazy about the William Henry Harrisons -- Jamaican Jerk and Parmesan cheese -- an interesting combo, which hopefully will not cause me to drop dead in a month like their namesake. But those three choices represent only 2 percent of the total available at Bob's, so there is plenty of room for exploration.
Not unlike "Striking Distance," the food at Big Shot Bob's isn't going to win any awards for technical excellence (or nutritional merit), but like the movie they are probably best enjoyed, on the couch, on a Saturday, after a night out and between naps. In that context, they are truly worthy "for your consideration."
Big Shot Bob's House of Wings is at 344 Union Ave., Avalon. Call 412-761-7468 or www.bigshotbobs.com.
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