I was speechless leaving LeoGreta. Finding words to describe the simple and delicious dishes seemed impossible. It was a soul-warming, familial experience with no wrong turns. There was no question about it: LeoGreta did everything right.
Open since April, LeoGreta quickly became the new Carnegie hotspot. Named after chef/owner Greg Alauzen’s parents, Leon and Greta, the restaurant pays homage to family. Silhouettes of Leon and Greta embellish walls, appear in framed pictures, and even adorn the menus.
The tiny dining room only seats 38 people and reservations fill up fast, even on weekdays. It feels metropolitan, with narrow walkways and close tables that leave just enough room for staff. Lucky for last-minute diners, LeoGreta is expanding. Alauzen is planning a two-floor restaurant and event space addition next door.
I was welcomed to LeoGreta by a rustic, charming dining room wrapped in exposed brick. It was comforting, similar to my grandmother’s dining room: loud with laughter and full of incredible aroma with a sprinkling of trinkets.
Family-style dining felt like an obvious choice, and my table ordered a few dishes to share: fennel salad, gnocchi, cavatelli with sausage, the house meat combo, and reggiano risotto.
The fennel salad was the first to arrive. The celery-like vegetable was paired with arugula, grapefruit, and olive oil. It was short and sweet, providing a palate cleanser for the oncoming pasta-palooza.
Main courses followed a plate of crusty bread and olive oil. I started with the house meat combo — sausage, slow roast pork, and a softball-sized house meatball — smothered in red sauce. Clearly, before LeoGreta, I was eating the wrong meatballs.
Next was the risotto, a stark, white plate unique from everything on the table. It was salt-heavy, cutting the acid from dishes heavy with red sauce.
The cavatelli was paired with spicy house sausage, rapini, and pecorino cheese. Together, the pecorino and sausage, which finished with quick-fading heat, balanced the hearty noodles, resulting in a fresh, light dish.
The gnocchi at LeoGreta was a dazzling sight: a gigantic, blown up version of the normal soft dough dumplings, as if a chef took a tire pump and meticulously inflated each piece. Every bite melted away, the pillowy pasta bending under the weight of two sauces.
Every dish demonstrated how dining should be: straightforward, no frills, and good enough that I refused to put my fork down.
I satisfied my sweet tooth with a chocolate-praline pot de cremé, partnered with a sugar cookie. It was a rich, velvety dessert that fell somewhere between Nutella and brownie batter.
As I took the last few bites of my meal, I wanted to go back and do it all over again. At the beginning of the night, our server joked, “If you build it, they will come.” Alauzen built what he knew, returning to traditional roots with humble, heartwarming dishes. And it’s true – LeoGreta was built, and Pittsburgh will come.
1. Coat Hooks - LeoGreta satisfies a common issue with one, simple feature: hooks on the walls. Now, instead of constantly leaning over to pick up a coat because it fell off the chair (again!), everyone can eat in peace.
2. Bathroom Quotes - Leon and Greta aren’t limited to the dining room. In the bathroom, a framed picture of Greta reads, “If at first you don’t succeed, fix your ponytail and try again.”
3. House Meatball - I refuse to let this go. There is a house meatball on the menu for only $4. So, whatever you do, don’t forget. Order the meatball.