Environmentally, restaurants aren't especially friendly. For your gustatory delight, the average establishment wields loads of water and sucks reams of energy. It trucks food and beverages thousands of miles. And it discards 100,000 pounds of food scraps, packaging and more annually.
How would a green restaurant be? You can glimpse a partial answer in Bella Sera, Market Square's new "urban trattoria." Caterer Jason Capps' venture is Pittsburgh's first to be certified by the Green Restaurant Association (just beating out Phipps Conservatory's café).
Bella Sera opened Nov. 16. The earthily elegant, exposed-brick interior seats 40, with a bar. The menu is Italian-inspired, with a full wine list. But as with the Insalata Verde -- literally green with butter lettuce, roasted asparagus and pumpkin seeds -- the greenness is in the details.
With energy-efficient appliances, motion sensors on some lights and regulator-flow faucets, Capps figures to save $5,000 a year on utilities.
Meanwhile, in season he'll source up to 75 percent of his produce locally -- increasing freshness while shrinking carbon footprints. Lately, more restaurants make such efforts, but Capps has inside help: His mom's (pesticide-free) Greene County spread supplies zucchini, cucumber pickles, basil, pumpkins, Brussels sprouts and more. Bella Sera's table water, meanwhile, is premium-purified tap -- no trucking, no disposable bottles.
Moreover, restaurant staff will sort recyclables, which isn't standard restaurant practice. They'll also save food scraps and other compostables for pickup by composting firm AgRecycle, thus both relieving landfills and replenishing the soil.
Capps also plans something he calls Zero Emission Catering: Shortly, orders will be delivered (when feasible) either by foot or by Green Gears pedicab.
Capps' green plan is part stewardship and part finances, but also part habit. The Washington, Pa., kid's grandmother was an inveterate recycler and composter. Such frugality informed South Hills-based Greco's Gourmet Catering, the fast-growing firm Capps launched a decade ago.
Now the industry is catching up. Capps says the Boston-based, nonprofit Green Restaurant Association was recommended to him by celebrity chef Mario Batali. About 300 restaurants nationally are GRA-certified (Bella Serra at the two-star level).
Admittedly, Bella Sera isn't "deep green." For instance, Capps doubts the Pittsburgh market would accept a more vegetarian menu that would have earned him more GRA sustainability points.
But he says patrons like the concept of a green restaurant. "Oh, my God, that's great," they say. "What's that mean?"
And he tells them.
22 Graeme St., Downtown