Saturday, May 26, 2012


 I just spent five days in Pittsburgh and I haven't been able to stop talking about how much I enjoyed my stay.  What was it about Pittsburgh?  I loved the city with its mix of old and new architecture.  I was impressed with the cutting edge attitude toward incorporating environmentally-friendly practices towards development and construction.  I ate fabulous food -- a great deal of it fresh, locally-sourced and organic.  I enjoyed a wide variety of cultural experiences.  But, thinking back, the icing on all this wonderful travel cake was the people of Pittsburgh.  In my part of the country, we pride ourselves on friendliness but I learned that we don't have a corner on the commodity.  The people I met in Pittsburgh were not only friendly, they went above and beyond to extend hospitality.  What great ambassadors for a great American city!  Here are just a few of Pittsburgh's best --
 Larry Lagattuta owns Enrico Biscotti Company.  Employed in the tech industry, Larry gave up a corporate career to embrace skills he learned from his mother, aunts and grandmother.  In addition to the bakery, he has a charming little restaurant (with a winery in the basement) in The Strip -- a warehouse district that has become a popular spot for its great ethnic shops and cool eateries.
 Cartoonist and collector Joe Wos turned his childhood passion into an attraction to share with the world -- the Toonseum.  Here he's sitting at a drawing table from Walt Disney's first studio.  It belonged to Paul Satterfield, animator, who was one of the directors for "Fantasia" and "Bambi."
 Now HERE'S a photographer!  Larry Roberts is a staff photographer and visual columnist for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.  I caught him on the corner of Fifth and Smithfield photographing a group of Mennonite youngsters who were doing some street corner evangelism.  He was proudest of a great shot he got of several of the young women with their long skirts and neat caps being passed by a Muslim mother in her long, dark outfit and hijab pushing a stroller.  "They probably won't use it," he told me.  "They'll think it is too controversial."  He was right.  The next morning's paper had one of his pictures -- a group of girls crossing the street.  Good shot -- but not as interesting as the one he liked best.
Mancini's Bread Company was just steps away from my hotel and I stopped in to learn a little more about it.  Owner Nick Mancini Hartner told me he was a third-generation baker on one side of his family and fifth-generation on the other.  The family business was founded in 1926.  He turned the shop over to one of his assistants and took me down the street to Market Square to point out interesting and historic businesses there. His great-grandfather had had a bakery here.  Before I left, he gave me a wonderful loaf of bread filled with pepperoni and cheese and accompanied with a container of marinara sauce.  All my Weight Watchers' habits went out the window and the warm bread went right in my mouth!  Over the next day and a half, I ate the whole thing!  I stopped back by my last afternoon in Pittsburgh and got a pepperoni roll to take on the plane.  I'll be working off this particular orgy for the next couple of weeks but it was worth it!
This is just a small group of the great staff at the Fairmont Hotel.  You know you're in a great hotel when they anticipate your every need before you even have a chance to ask!  It's good to be home but I miss sweeping the curtains aside revealing a floor to ceiling view of downtown and the Monongahela River; checking out the New York Times and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and going downstairs to be greeted by name by some of the nicest people in town.  I know it's their job -- but I felt, like Sally Field -- they liked me!  They really liked me!  And I LOVED Pittsburgh!

P.S.  The picture at the top of the post -- taken from the Duquesne Incline.  That's the Allegheny River on the left, the Monongahela on the right.  And where they meet -- viola! the Ohio River.