Month: November 2014

Pittsburgh Winery and Matteo’s Lawrenceville Celebrating 2 Years! Have You Stopped In Yet?

As I walked down the staircase I could see the twinkling lights. Candles flickered on the glass-top wooden barrel tables and the smell of grapes filled the air. The band was doing a sound check and I actually got butterflies! I couldn’t help but think to myself- I need to have a party here- it’s so magical! How have I never ever been here before?


Pittsburgh Winery was born when owner and Buzz Poet’s bass player Tim Gaber’s wine hobby got serious. “I was making more and more wine, we [the Buzz Poets] stopped touring and it seemed like the right time,” said Gaber. Making wine with friends in the cellar of an old firehouse, Gaber networked with California vineyard owners and winemakers to prepare to launch his own line at 2815 Penn Ave. in the Strip District, Pittsburgh Winery.

Pittsburgh Winery credits the best grapes from the best vineyards as being responsible for their high quality, incredibly elegant and smooth wine offerings. My favorite on this visit was the California red blend, but I can’t wait to try them all!


Gaber brought his love of music to the winery. Bands, musical talent, and entertainment groups take the stage as the evening entertainment at the winery. With no windows and an incredible sound space, Gaber has equipped the winery with a sound and recording panel. Please check out the website for upcoming events. Get your tickets!! They sell out fast!






For their one and two year anniversaries, Pittsburgh Winery has held grape stomps! What an awesome opportunity and a once in a lifetime experience to stomp grapes and sample the wines! Gaber called Matt Cavanaugh owner and chef at Lawrenceville hotspot Matteo’s for the occasion. Matteo’s was also celebrating their two year anniversary. I tagged along behind the scenes with Matteo’s to see what was cooking.
As you can see in the photo above, our crew had a great time!

Sweet Thai chili wings, pumpkin ravioli, chicken sliders, and Matt’s wife Andrea’s famous rum cake were just a few of the delicious menu items.



Matteo’s food is delicious whether it is catered or served as individual dinners. As Winter 2015 Pittsburgh Restaurant Week approaches, Cavanaugh has rolled out some new winter offerings as well as old favorites!

Like the Lobster Mac and Cheese! Yes, that is a Lobster tail…

Matteo’s winter weather tender and flavorful lamb chops will warm you up!


Flavorful Dumplings…

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts in a balsamic reduction with just enough smoky char to warm you up!

And my winter warm up pick, the linguini clams in a red sauce! I ate the entire bowl! Seriously, ask them, I did!


Hopefully, Pittsburgh Winery will celebrate their 3rd anniversary with another grape stomp and more delicious food from Matteo’s!

Wishing Pittsburgh Winery and Matteo’s the best of luck for another successful year! Pittsburgh is lucky to have you!


Caramel Apple Crumb Cake! A Non-Pumpkin Addition To Your Thanksgiving Dessert Table!

Can a crumb cake be too crumbly? I guess you can add more or less depending on your mood! I love the golden brown almost toasted crumbs, so mine is very crumbly.
For a fall flavor, I added apples to this crumb cake (not pumpkin!) and topped with a drizzle of Hershey’s Caramel Topping! Add your favorite flavor to the basic crumb cake recipe.

You can add pears, plums, cranberries, etc. I have cooked down the fruit with spices first and then added it to the cake batter, but it tastes the same. The texture is more of a soft jellied apple if you cook it first. It is quicker and easier to skip this step.

An apple crumb cake is a great non-pumpkin addition to your Thanksgiving dessert table! Enjoy it with a cup of hot coffee and Pumpkin Spice creamer of course!


Caramel Apple Crumb Cake
(Makes 1- 9inch round cake)

1 cup of light brown sugar
2 cups flour
2 large eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sour cream
2 cups apples, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Crumble Topping:
4 tbsp. Unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

Hershey’s Caramel Topping



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9 inch round cake pan with Crisco and dust with flour.

Cream butter and brown sugar with mixer until light and fluffy.


Add eggs one at a time and beat.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and cinnamon.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix on low.

Add sour cream and vanilla, mix well.

Fold in apples with a spatula.

Pour mixture into greased pan.

Mix crumble topping ingredients in a bowl until it starts to clump and look like heavy crumbs.

Sprinkle the topping over the cake batter.

Bake 35-45 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick test comes out clean.

Let it cool and drizzle Hershey’s caramel topping on top!



Panettone French Toast: A Holiday Breakfast Favorite!!

In our home, we sit down to our Thanksgiving meal in the middle of the afternoon, like a Sunday dinner, between 2-3pm. My typical routine is getting the turkey(s) in the oven and making a beautiful breakfast for the family before starting the side dishes.

Panettone French Toast is a favorite holiday breakfast! Sweet and creamy with a browned, toasted edge, this recipe accentuates the flavors of the season. The panettone is filling enough to hold us over until Thanksgiving dinner is served.

A panettone …


…is a sweet Italian bread from Milan, made once per year in September /October and enjoyed through Easter until they start to dry out. Panettone makes the best french toast!!


Panettone French Toast
(Makes 6 thick slices)


1 Panettone, sliced into 6- 3/4 inch thick round slices (Save the rounded top slice for toast!)
4 eggs
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 cup butter (pan and to butter French toast)


Beat eggs in a mixing bowl.

Whisk together all ingredients except butter.


Melt 1 tbsp. butter in a medium pan or a nonstick griddle.

Dip each slice of panettone in the mixture, flipping to coat both sides completely.

Grill until the slices are golden brown, firm (not eggy), approximately 4-5 minutes per side.





Add your favorite toppings and serve! I like to dust the French toast with powdered sugar and add fresh sliced strawberries for color!


Enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving!

Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts with Bacon! A Delicious Thanksgiving Side Dish!

Brussels sprouts tossed with an olive oil, brown sugar combo produce a delicious, caramelized vegetable side dish. I have been adding bacon or pancetta to my normal recipe to achieve a smokey flavor. The charred edges of the sprouts coupled with the crispness and saltiness of the meat creates a deeper flavor than plain roasted sprouts.  What a beautiful addition to your Thanksgiving table!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon or Pancetta!
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon!

Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts
With Bacon or Pancetta


1-1/2 lbs. brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
4 strips bacon or pancetta, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tbsp. Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, oven roasted in foil until softened and then finely chopped.
2 tbsp. cumin
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 lemon, to squeeze for juice
Fresh grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Add chopped bacon or pancetta to a frying pan and cook until crispy.

I like to cook until charred, extra crispy! Make sure to leave the drippings in the pan!
I like to cook until charred, extra crispy! Make sure to leave the drippings in the pan!

In the same pan, add roasted garlic and cook for a few minutes.

Add olive oil, cumin, and brown sugar.

Coat the sprouts in the pan or pour the mixture over the sprouts.
Coat the sprouts in the pan or pour the mixture over the sprouts.

Completely coat sprouts with the pan mixture.

Place brussels sprouts on a foil lined cookie sheet.


Squeeze lemon and sprinkle with salt and pepper .

Cook for 16-20 minutes, until softened but firm. (Test by piercing with a fork.)


Serve as a side dish or as a meal!
Serve as a side dish or as a meal!

Always top with fresh grated Parmesan! Enjoy!


Quinoa and BlackEyed Pea Tacos!

Quinoa and BlackEyed Pea Tacos!
Quinoa and BlackEyed Pea Tacos!

Because our Sunday dinners are usually packed with pasta, sausage and meatballs, and desserts, a healthy Meatless Monday is always welcomed by all. Very often it comes in the form of Mexican cuisine.

Beans, vegetables, quinoa or rice, seasoned, cooked, and wrapped in a small tortilla. The tortilla is portion control at its finest. The ingredients are a healthy start to the week ahead.

The Quinoa and BlackEyed pea tacos can be filled with black beans, a rice, or any of your favorite taco veggies. Experiment! Use the recipe as a guide and make a healthy and delicious meal! Enjoy!

Quinoa and BlackEyed Pea Tacos
Makes 10 tacos

1/2 cup uncooked rinsed quinoa
1 cup water
1 tbsp. Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 small onion finely chopped
1 cup corn
1 cup blackeyed peas
2 tbsp. Taco seasoning
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup curly kale, chopped
Salt/ Pepper to taste
Sriracha (optional)
10 tortilla shells


Warm oil in a medium deep frying pan.

Add garlic and onions and cook until softened.

Meanwhile add 1/2 cup quinoa and 1 cup water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook on low until water is absorbed.

Add all ingredients to frying pan except kale and tomato and stir.

Don't you just love all of the colors! Add bell peppers, jalapeños, habaneros,  black beans, or any of your favorites!
Don’t you just love all of the colors! Add bell peppers, jalapeños, habaneros, black beans, or any of your favorites!

Cook until heated through approximately 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes and kale and stir.

Serve in warmed tortilla shells. For a spicy kick add Sriracha!



A&E’s Godfather of Pittsburgh Meet the Cast: An Isoldi Family Sunday Dinner Exclusive!

Meet Vince Isoldi. Godfather of Pittsburgh
Meet Vince Isoldi. Godfather of Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy of a AENetworks

“People think I’m a gangster, but I just do what has to be done.”
Vince Isoldi

For Vince Isoldi, life is about family. Creating a better life than he had, helping those who find themselves in trouble, and cultivating businesses that will help his family flourish for years to come. Sounds like the description of a typical Italian American businessman willing to stop at nothing to provide for those he loves. Unless they cross him…

Well, that is the question- How far does Vince go?

The new A&E series Godfather of Pittsburgh follows Vince, his wife, Carla, and their sons Enzo, Adolfo, and Romeo. While showing their family life and relationships, the series also focuses on Vince’s balance with his businesses.

Meet Carla Isoldi,  the Isoldi family matriarch.
Meet Carla Isoldi, the Isoldi family matriarch. Photo courtesy of AENetworks.

In my recent interview with Carla, she described her family’s portrayal in the series as a busy family trying to raise their boys with the knowledge of right and wrong in this chaotic world.

Like a typical Italian American family, the Isoldi family cherishes Sunday dinners! Carla explained that Sundays bring the whole family together. No matter what happened that week with the businesses, Sundays are special. Her most requested dish?
“My meatballs,” says Carla. “They are the family favorite. The boys love eating them as an after school snack.”

Sunday dinner with the Isoldi family is not complete without Carla's meatballs!
Sunday dinner with the Isoldi family is not complete without Carla’s meatballs!

Thank you Carla for sharing your recipe with us!

Isoldi Family Meatballs
Serves 6 prep time 30 mins.


1 lb. ground chuck meat
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. of onion salt
1 slice of white bread broken up into small pieces
1/2 cup of plain breadcrumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup vegetab;e oil


Combine and hand mix the first 10 ingredients.
Form small meatballs.
Heat 1/2 cup of oil in a skillet.
Place meatballs in the skillet and cover with a lid.
Turn over when bottoms are golden brown.
Cook through.
Salt lightly when cooling and sprinkle with Parmesan

Carla’s biggest cooking influence is her father, “Junior” Williams, also feature on the show.  Junior was recently released from prison on racketeering charges.

Carla Isoldi's father Junior Williams. Photo courtesy of AENetworks.
Carla Isoldi’s father Junior Williams.
Photo courtesy of AENetworks.

Carla’s father was a big game hunter and she would help him prepare the pheasant, deer, elk with lots of marinating techniques and red wine. “Some of the wild game would even have he BBs still in the meat. Being a girl it was hard for me to deal with that,” Carla explained.

Carla and Vince’s favorite date night spot in Pittsburgh is Il Pizzaiolo. With a second location in Market Square, The Mt. Lebanon Italian eatery owned by Pittsburgh native Ron Molinero, serves traditional Neapolitan pizza, fresh pizza and pasta, fresh fish, and decadent desserts. A perfect date night spot with outdoor seating!

Carla and Vince on their wedding day! Photo courtesy of the Isoldi family.
Carla and Vince on their wedding day! Photo courtesy of the Isoldi family.

I must say the Isoldi’s seem like a normal, busy, successful American family, so is Vince really a gangster?
Watch the eight episode series Godfather of Pittsburgh premiering Monday November 10th at 10pm and find out!

Here is a clip:
Godfather of Pittsburgh

A&E has just posted two of the recipes Carla shared for this interview on the Godfather of Pittsburgh homepage under Exclusives! In addition to the meatball recipe, Romeo’s favorite Sunday Dinner Lasagna recipe is also featured!



Fall Back: Homestyle Chicken and Biscuits!

Comfort Food!
Comfort Food!

Daylight savings should be call fall back into a dark, cold tundra here in Pittsburgh.

This was 5:05pm yesterday!
This was 5:05pm yesterday!

So what do we do? We eat comfort foods, fill our bellies, and hibernate on the couch until bed. Hearty chilis, stews, and pastas filled with pumpkin, squash, and potatoes hit our menus. The food is a welcomed change! The weather is totally not! The holidays will get us through!

Here is one of our favorite comfort food dinners:

Homestyle Chicken and Biscuits
Serves 12 (Lots of Leftovers!)


1 32oz. Fat free sodium free chicken stock

3/4 cup flour

6 boneless skinless whole chicken breasts – cubed or whole for shredding

4 carrots, chopped

4 celery stalks, chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, pressed

1 tbsp. chopped parsley

1 tbsp. chopped rosemary

Salt/pepper to taste

Add peas, corn, asparagus, or any of your favorite vegetables!
Add peas, corn, asparagus, or any of your favorite vegetables!


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a stock pot on medium -high heat combine garlic, chicken stock, carrot, celery, onion, and spices.

Stir every 10-15 minutes for a few minutes and don’t be afraid to let it boil. It will help the thickening process of the flour.

Meanwhile, rub chicken breasts with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Bake chicken for 35-45 minutes or until juices run clear and a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.

Let chicken stand and cool for 10 mins.

Dice chicken to desired size or shred with a fork.

Add to stockpot and stir.

Cook an additional 20 minutes.
(If the gravy is not as thick as you would like, temper some flour or cornstarch and water. Add the mixture to the pot while stirring. Let it cook to thicken.)

Serve over your favorite biscuits or waffles!

I bought a tray of Pillsbury biscuits at SAMs Club! They are delicious!
I bought a tray of Pillsbury biscuits at SAMs Club! They are delicious!

Diners, Drive- Ins and Dives has a fabulous biscuit recipe from The Counter Cafe in Austin, TX. If you are feeling adventurous here it is!


My Favorite Dunk: Pumpkin Spice Biscotti!

Coffee and Biscotti…


Should I mention I brewed some pumpkin coffee? I'm obsessed, I know!
Should I mention I brewed some pumpkin coffee? I’m obsessed, I know!

If you are a coffee addict, chances are you are also a cookie dunker. My favorite dunk? Biscotti, of course! So delicious!

In Italy, biscotti are usually served after dinner with wine and are “dunked” in a wine called Vin Santo. Vino Santo, or holy wine, is a dessert wine usually white, but often made into a rosé when using Sangiovese grapes.

I dunk my anise biscotti in red wine, but I prefer coffee for flavored biscotti.
I dunk my anise biscotti in red wine, but I prefer coffee for flavored biscotti.

Here is the recipe for the pumpkin spice version of my anise biscotti. I also added honey roasted pecans, but you can totally leave them out!

Pumpkin Spice Biscotti
(Makes 24 biscotti)

4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tbsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice (OR 2tsp. Cinnamon, 2 tsp. ground ginger, 2 tsp. nutmeg, 1 tsp. all spice, 1 tsp. ground cloves)
2 eggs
1-1/2 cup pumpkin
1 tbsp. Vanilla
1/3 cup crushed honey roasted pecans


Preheat oven 350 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice in a large mixing bowl and stir.

Using a whisk, combine pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla.

Sometimes I just love a "no mixer required" afternoon of baking! Less cleaning more eating, maybe?
Sometimes I just love a “no mixer required” afternoon of baking! Less cleaning more eating, maybe?

Add wet pumpkin mixture to dry flour mixture.

Note: Mix dry ingredients in a slightly larger mixing bowl! This makes adding the wet ingredients much easier!
Note: Mix dry ingredients in a slightly larger mixing bowl! This makes adding the wet ingredients much easier to combine!

Fold in pecans.

Dough will be dry- No worries! It will be great after kneading.


Wash hands and knead dough until a beautiful dough forms.

Form a log that will fit on your baking sheet- the length of your baking sheet and 3-4 inches wide.

Bake 25-35 mins. or until center is firm and the bottom is lightly browned.

Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Let log cool for 10 minutes.

Slice into 1 inch wide pieces with a serrated knife.

Slice horizontally in half and then on a diagonal into 1 inch wide cookies.
Slice horizontally in half and then on a diagonal into 1 inch wide cookies.

Lay them cut side up and bake 8 -10 mins. on each side or until crisp!

8 minutes and flip them over!