Del’s Italian Restaurant and Bar, Bloomfield PA: Review

Del’s Bar & Ristorante DelPizzo is located in the Bloomfield section of the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Del’s Italian Restaurant is owned by third-generation Delpizzo family. In December 2011, Del’s underwent a “Restaurant: Impossible” make-over; a Food Network series that sends Chef Robert Irvine into “America’s most desperate restaurants” and infuses them with new ideas, new decor and new hope for the future.

As dedicated Food Network fans, Mark and I were excited about the opportunity to see a “Restaurant: Impossible” make-over first hand. It had been many many years since I had been to Del’s, and Mark had never been there. My memory of what Del’s was like before the make-over is too distant to serve as any comparison. I do know that Del’s has always had a reputation for providing very good, authentic Italian food and to my knowledge had a thriving business with regular clientele. I was very surprised to learn it was a candidate as one of America’s “most desperate” restaurants.

January 7, 2012–my birthday. We set out for an early dinner, arriving and finding a parking spot in the designated section of the shopping center parking lot across the street from Del’s. It’s always nice to find parking spot in these little urban towns around Pittsburgh without incident! Del’s has a bar on one side, with restaurant seating behind the bar and in a separate room beside the bar. We followed another couple into the restaurant and approached the empty hostess station. Workers bustled about but it took several minutes before the couple in front of us was approached and seated. Then several more minutes before a harried-looking, not particularly happy young woman approached us, saying “How many? Two? Follow me” and lead us to a table. Our menus were slapped unceremoniously–and precariously–on the edge of the table.

We took some time to observe the decor and postulate what was pre-existing and what Chef Irvine had implemented. We decided the aqua colored walls, the red light light fixtures and the red shelving lined with pottery all bore the marks of Chef Irvine’s doing.  The gold faux-marble table tops were probably not new, and we determined the chairs had been painted. The photographs on the wall were encased in red frames, matching the light fixtures. The carpet we differed on; I thought it looked old and Mark thought it was probably new…a dark green cross-hatch patterned carpet.

Our waiter (“Mark”) was a nice young man. He brought us drinks from the bar (Sam Adams winter lager for Mark, a glass of Riesling for me) as we looked over the menu. The menu had a number of choices and a few of the daily specials, printed on a separate sheet of paper, indicated that they were “Restaurant: Impossible” items. Mark’s menu, by the way, was missing the list of specials; it held the paper clip where the list ostensibly should have been. Neither Mark nor I, however, ordered one of the “new” menu items. Mark chose the Pesto Crusted Salmon with a salad, and I selected the Ravioli with Artichokes and Walnuts with wedding soup. Bread was served to us first….cold, Italian bread with butter packets. Alas, we had no tableware and our waiter apologized and brought us each paper-napkin wrapped knife, fork and spoon. We also asked to be provided water.

Susan’s meal: The wedding soup was not what I expected but was not bad. There were no meatballs; instead, there were large hunks of chicken. It came in a cup with a good bit of the soup sloshed onto the saucer and a packet of saltines resting in the overflow. I had one piece of the cold bread; I had no desire for more. My entree arrived and initially didn’t look like much: four raviolis in a cream sauce. It was actually pretty tasty but quite salty, and I have a high salt preference. Three raviolis filled me up; they were larger than I originally thought. As it was my birthday, we asked to see the dessert menu. Our waiter brought us a plate with several choices and I selected the Vanilla Almond Torte. A large serving was presented to me, drizzled in a cherry sauce. It was the best part of my meal, and I could only consume half of it. I suspect, however, that it was not made onsite. I could be wrong; there was no printed dessert menu to provide me more information, nor does the website discuss desserts.

Mark’s meal: Mark’s salad contained lettuce, onion, cherry tomatoes and large slices of carrot with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. It was a satisfactory salad. His entree, Pesto Crusted Salmon, was a good portion size served over fettucine. There was no “crust” to the pesto which had been heaped onto the salmon. They had attempted to get the pesto sauce to crust which resulted in parts of the salmon being overcooked and dry. For dessert, a vanilla bean cheesecake which was drizzled with a cherry sauce. Mark gives the cheesecake a “4 out of 5” rating. The taste of the pesto sauce from the entree lingered, however, throughout dessert and even on the drive home.

Overall, our experience with Del’s was unremarkable. Certainly not the worst we have ever had, but also not the best or even very good. We had hoped for more, given Del’s long history in the area and the recent make-over. I’m glad we went and it was fun playing Food Network critics, if only to each other as audience.

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