Munch goes to Abate Seafood

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If Munch can be distilled to a single phrase, a few words that capture Munch's essence, it would have to be "crushing good looks."

But after that would be "redemption." Munch is all about second chances. Munch is talking about Abate Seafood at The Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills -- after the restaurant opened, Munch read some nasty online reviews about the slow service and the foodstuffs.

But Munch doesn't scare easily. You want proof? Munch once polished off a turkey-and-hummus sandwich from a local cafe, which by itself isn't so extraordinary, until you consider that in the moments before the consumption of the sandwich a roach had bolted out of the rice pilaf. Those roaches, always bolting. You never see a roach just sauntering, do you?

One PG intern turned ashen, on the brink of swooning. The rest of Munch's companions were merely horrified. Poor little guy was probably more frightened than Munch was. (Still squished him, though.)

But enough of the bug talk. Abate (ah-BAH-tay) had built a good reputation in its previous location at the Waterworks Mall, where it spent the past two decades before its abrupt closure in 2006. Munch wanted to give the new spot a chance to prove wrong those snarky, anonymous Internet reviewers (as opposed to those snarky, anonymous newspaper reviewers). Abate and its sister restaurant, Dingbats, have recently filled the 25,000-square-foot void left by the dearly departed Lucky Strike Lanes, the upscale bowling alley known for its Hollywood clientele and ridiculous leather sofas. Paris Hilton endorsed it, but Len from Lawrenceville apparently was content to keep on bowling at Arsenal Lanes, where the martini list isn't as extensive but at least you won't feel so bad after spilling nacho cheese on the furniture.

On a Friday, Munch and Dear One of Munch (DOOM) zipped up Route 28 (insomuch as one can technically zip up that particular stretch of roadway, where construction season never ends). DOOM rightly remarked the decor was on the sterile side of clean -- no photos on the walls.

In addition to the seafood, this place specializes in wood-fired pizzas and a bit of Italian cuisine, all of it at reasonable prices, at least by seafood restaurant standards. DOOM, an Italian in good standing, combined the seafood and the Italian specialties, ordering the shrimp manicotti ($10.99). Munch, who just loves it when food things are stuffed with other food things, saw flounder stuffed with crab meat on the menu ($13.99).

You want to know how the food was, right? Munch would have liked to know that, too, except that we sat there and sat there and the food never came out. DOOM, more aggressive than Munch when it comes to flagrant food-service violations (remember, Munch is capable of eating a roach sandwich without fussing to management) flagged down a server to find out, Hey, what in the blazes is up with our food? And where's my glass of wine, now that I think about it?

The server promised to check on that, and then told us, whoopsie daisy, the order had never been received by the kitchen, but they promised to start working on things just as soon as they had a free minute. But at least we scored a free cup of wedding soup out of the deal, and DOOM, something of an expert on wedding soups (as well as French onion) said it was in the top half of wedding soups she's tasted, with ample meatballs and just the right amount of greenery.

OK, Trivia Time: Why is wedding soup called wedding soup? Not because it's served at weddings, but because it's translated from the Italian minestra maritata, which refers to the marriage between vegetables and meat. Who knew? Impress your friends the next time you eat out. If they yawn, don't worry, that's a sign of admiration.

Back to our show. The manicotti was dense, heavier than the crepe-style manicotti DOOM likes best, but that's not a knock on it. Tasty. The flounder-crab marriage was light and sweet, and enlivened by what appeared to be a yogurt sauce on the side. The bread? Glad you asked -- a highlight of the meal, joined by a thick oil-and-spice dipping goo, and Munch devoured it.

And then we waited some more -- for someone, anyone, to clear our plates, present a dessert menu, bring us a cup of coffee. The help was nowhere to be found -- except for our server, a maddening dozen or so feet away, chatting with another party for a good 10 minutes while we stewed. When we finally paid the bill, the server looked at her watch, and said, "Hey, it's been a long dinner for you, hasn't it?"

Upon hearing this, Munch wanted to ... well, let's just say Munch had some disturbing thoughts. But the food was good. We just hope you don't mind waiting for it.

Abate Seafood, The Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills, Route 28 in Frazer, 724-275-1051.


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