Before “foodie” was part of the popular lexicon, Pittsburgh chefs shopped Strip District wholesalers to procure produce, meat, cheese and other menu must-haves. Then, the Food Network begat a string of celebrity chefs and wannabes followed their favorite kitchen professionals into this select, though somewhat gritty, enclave of edibles east of downtown Pittsburgh. In the past 20 years the district has evolved to please palates of the public as well as the professional.
The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company serves up historic ambiance with basic metal shelves stacked high with Italian specialty items, from industrial-sized tubs of Nutella and 10-ounce boxes of macaroni shaped like farm animals for the grandkids to glass cases of imported cheeses and charcuterie for grownup gatherings. Across the street Robert Wholey & Co. Inc., offers professionals and homies 24-ounce lobster tails, eels on ice and tanks of schooling fish.
The setting is sophisticated at Mon Aimee Chocolat which supplies chocolates from 45 countries as well as from Pittsburgh-based confectioners. You’ll find olive oil, seasoned salt and kitchen supplies among others. Perhaps the only evidence of a real chain on the Strip is the Penzey’s Spices outlet. And, by its alternative nature it defies chain stereotypes.
Bring a cooler and your appetite. I wish I had. Street vendors, food trailers and restaurants tempt with tastes from Thai to tapas.
The Strip District runs between 13th and 33rd Streets and includes three main roads — Smallman St., Penn Ave., and Liberty Ave.