Opening Night: Casellula @ Alphabet City

For a place that specializes in cheese and wine in a city neighborhood setting with sleek décor and a location adjacent to a progressive bookstore, the crowd at Casellula @ Alphabet City was expectedly urbane, albeit with a distinctly Pittsburgh bent: some folks arrived after protesting the inauguration of the 45thPresident, others from a rally for the Steelers at nearby Stage AE.

But there seems to be room for all at Casellula, which opened Friday night to the public, provided they’re interested in excellent cheeses. The North Side restaurant is the baby brother to sibling establishment Casellula Cheese & Wine Cafe, which opened in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan in 2007.

Fifteen cheeses in five categories are available for a la carte tastings for $6 each. They range in variety from fresh chevre goat cheese from Goat Rodeo Farm just north of the city, to a Paski Sir raw cow’s milk cheese from Pag Island, Croatia.

Composed dishes by chef Andrew Hill are grouped into snacks, shares and plates ranging from $6 to $18. The menu ranges from marinated olives to a strip loin tartare to polenta with beef cheeks and Pecorino-Romano.

Affable bartender James “Big Mac” McDonald pours the wines, of which 11 are available by the glass ($11-15), and 22 by the bottle ($52-180). A dozen craft beers are also available ($6-8).

Caselulla is a tip-free establishment, and gratuity is figured into the cost of food and beverage. The horseshoe-shaped bar proved to be a convivial setting of folks from the neighborhood, curious food fanatics; and on this night, folks that made their way over from a documentary screening in the adjacent City of Asylum space.

It’s a unique place and a welcome addition to Pittsburgh’s dynamic dining scene.

Casellula: 40 W. North Ave., North Side;


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