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Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

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Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

PileZ brings Rochester’s ‘garbage plates’ to Oakland

PileZ+opens+on+the+corner+of+Atwood+Street+and+Bates+Street.
Liam Sullivan | Staff Photographer
PileZ opens on the corner of Atwood Street and Bates Street.

PileZ, the new restaurant occupying the space that used to be Mad Mex at the corner of Bates Street and Atwood Street in Oakland, had its grand opening on Friday, Jan. 5. PileZ serves garbage plates, a dish from Rochester, New York, that consists of a mashup of meats, vegetables, home fries and sauces. 

Zechariah Vanzo, the owner of PileZ, describes the garbage plate as “mac salad, home fries, topped in cheeseburger, hot dog and meat sauce and other condiments on top.” Vanzo, who was part of the Mero restaurant group that owns CHiKN, Stack’d, Viva Los Tacos and Melt’d, decided to branch out and open his own place. Vanzo said the Mero group were “a good group of guys,” but he wanted to bring something that hits another target audience “besides just lunchtime or like middle of the day food.” 

“The meal is a large meal meant to be shared by two people,” Vanzo said. “[It] gives the opportunity for people to share food whether it’s a late night or breakfast.”

Vanzo said his childhood in Rochester inspired the idea for PileZ. He came to Pittsburgh for school and decided to stay in the city. He said his journey with the Mero group led him to the creation of PileZ. 

“I thought, you know, let’s give it a try and see how it goes,” Vanzo said. 

Vanzo said PileZ adds a Pittsburgh twist to the garbage plates. 

“I decided to do mac salad, french fries, just to give a little bit of Pittsburgh in there, and do the cheeseburger, hotdog option,” Vanzo said. 

PileZ offers variations on that basic model. Many of the dishes on the menu come in handheld or pile form. Vanzo also teased the possibility of a seasonal gyro option. 

Since its opening, some Pitt students have tried PileZ’s plates. Jack Finegan, a senior business information systems and supply chain management major, said he has been to Rochester and has tried the original Rochester garbage plate. Finegan said the food at PileZ “leaves a lot to be desired.” 

“It’s always hard to beat the original,” Finegan said. “I’d definitely say the couple of times that I’ve played up in Rochester, they’re definitely a lot better than what you get at PileZ.” 

Finegan said PileZ has fewer customization options than he would like. 

“You can only take things off as opposed to adding things on. They only have three meat options and adding sauce costs extra money,” Finegan said. “The typical garbage plate in Rochester has a ton more customization options, including, most importantly in my opinion, meats.” 

The exterior of PileZ remains similar to when Mad Mex occupied the space, with colorful shapes painted on the sides of the brick walls. The interior, however, was completely remodeled. PileZ’s interior is very minimalistic, with lots of empty space, bright lights, big TVs and tablets. They have minimal seating spaces, as Vanzo said he expects PileZ to be more of a takeout place. 

“I wanted it to be right there in the central part of Oakland,” Vanzo said. “It’s really just based on pick-up and convenience.”

Compared to the original Rochester garbage plates, Finegan said PileZ was a respectable homage. 

“It hits the mark pretty well. It’s of the specific class of regional U.S. foods where it’s pretty much just a bunch of stuff thrown together. So hard to mess up. But still, it certainly has some authenticity, especially with the meat sauce on top.” 

Finegan also said the portion sizes were massive, saying that it is definitely $15 worth of food. 

“I easily had two portions, and I eat a ton. Anyone who eats smaller portions can easily get three out of one single plate,” Finegan said. 

Emma Smith, a recent Pitt engineering graduate and Rochester native, said she has not gone to PileZ yet but would like to try it out. Smith said she wanted to see if it compares to her favorite garbage plate place in Rochester. 

“I am a big fan of garbage plates. I get one every time I visit home,” Smith said. “They are great drunk or hangover food, so it’s a good idea to sell them in a college town.” 

Smith also said in her experience, people in Rochester can be picky about their plates. 

“People are very particular about their plates and everyone has a favorite place that they will argue is the best, so it will be interesting to see how Rochesterians feel about PileZ,” Smith said.

About the Contributor
Kelly Xiong, Senior Staff Columnist