728 Copeland St., Shadyside
412-682-1074 or www.altolounge.com
Wed.-Sun. 5 p.m.-2 a.m.
Date Visited: Thu., May 27, 2010 Years in Business: Three Crowd: The crowd varies considerably, according to Emily, a friendly bartender who's been with Alto from the beginning: There's usually a middle-age crowd until about 9 p.m., who might stop for a glass of wine after dinner at one of the many restaurants nearby, then a somewhat younger scene later at night. The lounge is compact enough for a private party, and is often used for bachelor/bachelorette parties and university group functions -- such as the recent re-launch party for the magazine Creative Nonfiction. When CP visited, at early on a Thursday, there was plenty of elbow room, with only one regular at the bar. Décor: Blue neon accents the cool blue walls, sleek black bar and black leather couches and barstools. But Alto's best feature is its lofty, peaked ceiling cut with skylights -- it reminds you that you're in a small upstairs clubhouse, which we imagine is what the phrase "Elevate Your Experience" is supposed to convey. TV Situation: Two relatively discreet flat-screens above the bar. Food: A range of appetizers, including sesame-crusted chicken and chicken satay with spicy peanut sauce, salads, an artisan-cheese plate, ciabatta-bread pizza and mussels. Smoking Permitted?: Yes Bring a Date or Find a Date: Find a date. Or, since it's Shadyside -- bring one and find one. Best Drink Special: $4 Captain Morgan and Parrot Bay cocktails from 10 p.m.-midnight every Saturday; daily bargains are usually $2.25 draft specials. Most Unusual Drink: The "Mexican Watermelon," a specialty of Emily's: watermelon Pucker with Patron and fresh-squeezed lime. On the Bar Shelf: Yuengling and Miller Lite are the only brews on tap; the bar boasts a considerable wine and liquor list, and specialty cocktails including the Altotini ("Skyy vodka and white peach puree blended with apricot and lemon").
Odd Fact About Bar: Although you'd be hard-pressed to find traces of the bar's previous incarnation, just coming through the Pittsburgh Deli Co. entrance and going up the stairs will bring back memories of grittier days when this was the performance and party space -- live hip hop, open mics, bodies grinding to reggae and dancehall. Alto and the Deli are now owned by the same parent company; while at Alto, you can order food from the Deli's menu (26 different sandwiches, salads, soups and familiar appetizers like nachos and wings) and have it brought up. Available Diversions: Digital jukebox, DJs on the weekends, dancing Wi-Fi: Yes The Last Word: Alto's a viable option for Shadyside, if you aren't quite ready to join Soba's den of cougars, and a draft at Cappy's doesn't have the appeal it used to back in college. The lack of a happy-hour crowd on a Thursday may be a plus if you're looking to grab a quiet after-work drink. But having seen it in full swing on a couple of occasions, Alto is definitely worth adding to your list of nightspots.