Food For Thought | Scarpino

Food For Thought is a biweekly blog where Kendall Swift reviews restaurants around Pittsburgh.


Kendall Swift | Staff Writer

Rigatoni alla vodka at Scarpino in Downtown.

By Kendall Swift, Staff Writer

Scarpino is a trendy Italian restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh on Penn Avenue.

My first impression of the place was its beauty. The interior of the restaurant is very spacious and has a lot of character. There are exposed brick walls and wooden rafters, and numerous stained glass chandeliers. I definitely got a sense that it is an upscale restaurant as soon as I stepped inside.

I got a reservation for the restaurant, although it is not required. I was seated immediately. Service overall is very quick.

Scarpino serves mostly appetizers, pastas and pizzas, though they also offer other dishes such as salads and chicken-based entrees. The menu is not very expansive — only one page in length, not including drinks — especially if you are interested in cost-effective meals. Despite this, I thought many of the options sounded delicious.

I ended up choosing the rigatoni alla vodka, which is exactly what it sounds like. It also includes Italian sausage. The food arrived very quickly, and I was impressed by the timeliness.

The serving of pasta is definitely generous — a large bowl that is entirely filled. The dish is $24, which I will be the first to admit is very steep for pasta. But I went into the restaurant with the expectation that it would be expensive, so I can’t be too upset with the prices.

The first thing I noticed was that the vodka sauce tasted a bit different than other vodka sauces I’ve had before. I believe this is because the sauce uses tomatoes and parmesan cheese, according to the menu, whereas typical vodka sauce uses tomatoes and cream. I am not saying the sauce wasn’t good, because it was, but it was not as creamy as the typical vodka sauce. Due to the lack of cream, the tomatoes were really the most notable aspect of the sauce.

The pasta itself could have been a bit more firm. I’m unsure if this was an overall problem, or if it was just with my order specifically. Despite this, the texture was still bearable, and did not have a humongous impact on the dish.

Also, there could have been more Italian sausage. There were barely any pieces of sausage, and what was there was small. For the price of the food, I wish there had been more meat. Additionally, the sausage could have used more seasoning. I found it to be somewhat bland.

Overall, I thought the food was nicely made. As a frugal college student, I’m not sure if I would classify it to be worth my money. But if you have money to spend, it would be a great option for you. It was certainly not a casual place to dine, but would be good if you are celebrating a special occasion. The food, along with the atmosphere and service, would lead me to recommend this to people as an upscale place to dine.