The headline does not deceive. It is not often that Munch returns to a place for a second review, but then again there aren't a whole lot of places in Pittsburgh that transform themselves from a Mel's Diner-type greasy spoon by day to an evening purveyor of gourmet Italian dishes that would make Artie Bucco proud.
And this is the case with Caffe Davio on the South Side. Munch visited last summer for a delightful homestyle breakfast with friends and returned recently after learning that the unassuming little spot across from the SouthSide Works now serves prime Sicilian fare after sundown.
The place is the latest creation of David Ayn, who for nearly 20 years has brought Pittsburgh reliably excellent Italian fare at Davio & Palio in Beechview and Alla Famiglia in Allentown, which is now under the excellent stewardship of Jonathan Vlasic.
Munch broke bread with Newlywed Friends of Munch (NWFsOM) and Roommate of Munch (ROM) for an evening that felt inspired by that old "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" song, although we came prepared with several "bottles of red" as the place is BYOB.
The space is small, dark and cozy, with a broad window view of Carson Street. The soundtrack is heavy on the Frank, and the din of conversation peppers the air while Ayn's longtime waiter Errol, aka "The Fat Man," tells of the nightly specials and takes orders.
Caffe Davio offers an excellent deal with a $25-fixed-price menu nightly, something that ROM and the husband half of NWFsOM partook in with great gastronomical gusto.
They each enjoyed that day's pasta course -- cavatappi and marinara -- and a greens salad garnished with fresh lemon and mint and unfiltered Sicilian olive oil, before moving to their main courses. For ROM, it was a well-prepared platter of scallops and asparagus in a cream sauce, while the newly married chap's yellowfin tuna was excellent, and "grilled to perfection."
We all loved the antipasti appetizer bowl that accompanied the hubby's meal. It brimmed with salty black and green olives, roasted red peppers, and a giant mound of cecinini -- "Italian hummus" our waiter described it as -- and the wifely component of NWFsOM said she could have happily made a meal out of the garlicky concoction.
The Missus ordered the Caprese salad ($5) -- sliced tomato and mozzarella -- to start and went for the Veal Alla Palermitana ($17) -- Sicily's answer to veal parmesan. She reports the salad's perfectly ripened vine tomatoes would meet even her Italian grandmother's discriminating standards, along with the thick, creamy slices of buffalo mozzarella. The veal was breaded, covered in a peppery marinara sauce and smothered with melted cheese. It was spicy, but NWFOM likes spice.
Munch seconds the motion on the Caprese, and gives high marks to the Scaloppini Cu Pipi ($18) -- small cuts of veal in a light sauce served in a nest of delicious fire-roasted red peppers -- although they could've been slightly more generous with the veal cuts.
We dug in to share a piece of ricotta and mascarpone cheesecake ($6) for dessert. The cake was rich and smooth and served in a pool of sauce that kept the four of us guessing as to exactly what it was (an Italian liqueur, maybe?), but it was easy to agree it was a molto delizioso way to end the evening in this snug little Sicilian spot on the South Side.
While it may not rank on the journalism epic fail list of "Dewey defeats Truman" or "Steelers hire Grimm," (and thank God they didn't!), last week Munch erroneously reported that BabyFace's in Carnegie had closed. Not true. The establishment merely moved to new digs a block and a half away at 36 E. Main St. They also opened a new location in the ChemTech Building, 1370 Washington Pike, Collier. Munch regrets the error and is wearing the brown bag of shame, but will visit proprietor Brian Lorenz and his place soon.