Next door is Labad’s, where coulis and bulgur burst from barrels and hummus and baklava crowd the refrigerated case. Make nice with one of the brothers, Larry or William (the latter’s the one sporting the handlebar mustache), and he’ll throw in a dried fig or two with your purchases.
Across the street at Parma’s, housed in a classic one-story 1950s structure covered in white tile, the Spinabelli family has lined the walls with an international sampling of cooked and house-cured pork, including bratwurst and andouille, kielbasa and mortadella.
Behind the counter, Casey Romig greets McCoy heartily, then reels off statistics for his visitors. “We sell about 10,000 hams and sausages a week,” he says, referring to sales to both walk-ins and wholesale customers. “We carry about 10 different varieties of salami: sopressata, pepperoni, chorizo, you name it,” he adds, indicating an array that spreads from mild to spicy, from fine to coarse. Although Romig is the frontman, the business is owned by the two sons-in-law of Rina Edwards, whose father, Luigi, started Parma’s in 1954.
Free samples are part of McCoy’s tour here, as at other places. But if you’re on your own, don’t be shy about asking.
Sated by the slices of succulent meat we’ve tasted, we soldier on. McCoy peers down an alley, then waves for us to follow her. The space opens to reveal a little luncheonette where tourists and businesspeople are scarfing down pizzas, piping hot and straight out of the wood-burning oven from the adjacent bakery, Enrico’s.
Before moving on, we pick up some of the bakery’s famous biscotti. It offers not only the traditional variety but also ones studded with almonds, apricot, ginger or hazelnuts, to name a few.
The shops continue, each promising temptation inside: pasta, cheese, chocolates. As we walk east, the Strip begins to peter out a bit, but McCoy still has a few more must-sees on her tour. She leads us to another side street and into Colangelo’s, a relatively new bakery with its own specialty, this time a Northern Italian turnover called mele. Bowing to modernity, there’s variety here, too, but the apple filling is certainly the best.
In an adjacent room, a barista pumps out espressos while the lunchtime crowd chows down on pasta and salads.
The walk ends with yet another peek at the neighborhood’s ethnic heritage at S&D Polish Deli. Here, at last, we sit down — and are presented with another set of dazzling options. Plump pierogi go for $6.75 a dozen, and you can choose from among potato and cheddar, kraut and mushroom, cabbage or sweeter flavors, such as plum and blueberry.
Some of the others in my group troll the aisles, stocking up on jams and sausage. Me, I sit still and try to savor all the flavors of Pittsburgh that I’ve enjoyed in the space of one 10-block, two-hour walk.