Pittsburgh Restaurant Week highlights local restaurants, celebrates new year

Pittsburgh+Restaurant+Week+is+a+biannual+event%2C+taking+place+in+both+January+and+August.+This+winter%E2%80%99s+week+takes+place+from+Jan.+10+to+16.

Image via Pittsburgh Restaurant Week

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week is a biannual event, taking place in both January and August. This winter’s week takes place from Jan. 10 to 16.

By Anna Ligorio, Senior Staff Writer

After finishing a bowl of pasta bolognese at The Porch at Schenley this week, you might find that your total is an unusually specific amount — $20.22.

The $20.22 price represents the new year, 2022. As a part of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, it’s an annual tradition for restaurants to reflect the new year in their pricing, according to Pittsburgh Restaurant Week founder and director Brian McCollum.

“The pricing for menus this season is anywhere from $20.22 to $40.22,” McCollum said. “The 22 cents comes from the year of the event, so it goes up a penny every year— not bad considering inflation.”

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week is a biannual event, taking place in both January and August. This winter’s week takes place from Jan. 10 to 16, with some restaurants extending it until Jan. 23.

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Restaurant Week isn’t limited to restaurants inside Pittsburgh itself, so restaurants located both inside the City and in the surrounding area are all welcome to participate. Participating restaurants include The Porch at Schenley, The Commoner, Fujiya Ramen and Condado Tacos.

Enjoying Restaurant Week at these locations is as simple as going to the restaurant and trying something on their featured menu, according to McCollum.

“Restaurant Week isn’t a ticketed event,” McCollum said. “There’s nothing you have to subscribe to or buy other than making a reservation and going to participate.”

According to McCollum, instead of designing Restaurant Week as a discounted event, it’s a week for restaurants to create special menus that wouldn’t otherwise be featured during the year. These winter menus follow the theme of “new dishes for the new year.”

“Restaurant Week isn’t a discount program, it’s simply an opportunity for restaurants to create limited-time menus,” McCollum said. “It’s a great opportunity to try new dishes out on the public or feature something that you can’t reliably produce year-round.”

Some restaurants, such as Garbarino’s, offer a special with multiple courses for a set price. Others highlight a specific meal. According to Courtney Caprara — manager of direct channel marketing at The Porch’s parent company, Eat’n Park Hospitality Group — The Porch will offer only one special.

“For our menu, we are once again offering our pasta bolognese for this Restaurant Week coming up,” Caprara said. “This recipe is actually adapted from the recipe that we served for this past summer’s Restaurant Week.”

Although the pasta bolognese is the same dish from the summer, Caprara said they tweaked the recipe for a winter variation.

“We’ve changed it up a bit for the winter, where we’ve swapped the feta for ricotta cheese, which makes it fresher,” Caprara said. “And it’s just the perfect winter comfort food.”

Other participating restaurants, such as Carmella’s Plates and Pints, don’t have their official menu chosen yet. But according to Carmella Salem, co-owner of the restaurant, the menu will likely feature vegetarian options to cater to the restaurant’s high volume of vegetarian guests.

Even though Salem hasn’t chosen the featured restaurant menu yet, she said the menu always experiments with new dishes to gauge customer opinions.

“We always try to lean towards plates that we’re looking to put on the menu,” Salem said. “So we’ll try it out on Restaurant Week because that gives us a good indication of how guests like it or not.”

This year’s winter Restaurant Week will mark the 10-year anniversary of the event. Formerly a food blogger, McCollum founded Pittsburgh Restaurant Week in 2012 with the help of his connections in the food industry.

“I have a passion for food, Pittsburgh didn’t have a Restaurant Week, and I had a background in project management, so I decided that I would take on creating Pittsburgh’s first Restaurant Week,” McCollum said. “The restaurants were very pleased, it was very well attended.”

After initial success, McCollum said he listened to restaurant requests and expanded the event to take place twice a year. According to McCollum, Restaurant Week brings restaurants business in their slowest times of the year, along with other benefits.

“The restaurants really see an uptick of business because it helps avoid the traditional dips of revenue in the month that they would otherwise struggle with,” McCollum said. “It also exposes them to new diners that may or may not think of them on a regular basis.”

McCollum said the toughest months for restaurants are January, July and August.  Salem agreed with this sentiment in respect to her own business.

“New Year’s you slow down a little bit, but then you’ve got this great pop in the middle of January for a whole week, and same with August,” Salem said. “That’s a lot of travel and vacation time people take, so it boosts a slow time of year and it definitely brings a lot of new clientele in.”

According to Caprara, Restaurant Week also gives The Porch an opportunity to highlight its finest meals while welcoming new guests. 

“It really gives us a chance to showcase the best of our menu alongside so many other great restaurants in Pittsburgh,” Caprara said. “It’s really just a great way to put our name out there and welcome in those folks that have or haven’t heard of us, and we’re always happy to have them.”