If you plan to open a destination restaurant, you have to have a destination chef. Greg Alauzen fits the description.
The Lamatrice family -- Angelo and sons David and Joe, who operate the Clark Bar & Grill on the North Shore -- branched out to fine dining nearly 10 years ago with the opening of Caffe Amante at Fifth Avenue Place, Downtown. Now it's time for more growth as they finish construction on two new establishments, Cioppino restaurant and Il Mercato specialty food store at the Cork Factory in the Strip District.
Overseeing the culinary side of the businesses is corporate chef Alauzen, a Bridgeville native and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. He is a familiar name to Pittsburgh diners, who enjoyed his talents with seafood and fresh, local ingredients at the former Steelhead Grill at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center, Uptown. He also was opening executive chef for Eleven restaurant in the Strip District, where CIA graduate Derek Stevens, who helped to open Eleven, is now in charge.
"I took a year off," Alauzen says. Part of that time was working as executive chef at The Club at Nevillewood, a private golf facility in Collier. But Alauzen is back to make headlines again with the opening of Cioppino -- an upscale American restaurant -- and its sister food store in mid-July. He also is tweaking the menus at the Clark Bar and Caffe Amante.
The chef is excited.
"The new restaurant features a lot of mahogany," Alauzen says, which makes for a comfortable atmosphere. "I want it to be fun and approachable.
"There's a wine cellar in the corner of the back of the dining room, which will seat 60, a bar and lounge with 60 seats and a separate cigar bar with a built-in humidor."
A private dining area accommodates 20. Bar patrons can order from a small-plates menu -- for example, little lamb sliders or white bean puree as a dip -- or the main dining room selections. The small plates also are available to guests in the main dining room.
Cioppino will have a chophouse-style menu featuring "the best ingredients possible, totally seasonal," Alauzen says.
"It won't be a really big menu, maybe six meat items -- including big steaks -- and six seafood items. Cioppino is our signature dish."
Entree prices will range from $14 to $42.
Alauzen, who lives in Eighty-Four, will continue to focus on fresh, local foods and sustainable agriculture, from meats to fruits to vegetables.
"There's a farmer down the street where I can pick up tomatoes on my way to work," he says.
Il Mercato will offer deli meats, sandwiches, salads and other prepared foods for lunch. At breakfast, fancy pastries such as pain du chocolat will be available, as well as gourmet coffees.
"We'll offer homestyle dishes to appeal to the residents at the Cork Factory," Alauzen says. "They can pick up a piece of chicken or lasagna and a salad and take them right home for dinner."
Artisanal cheeses from small American producers also will be stocked, along with dried pastas, olives and other specialty products.
Meanwhile, Alauzen is working at Caffe Amante with executive chef Rosendo Paez on a changing menu that offers "a little bit of everything," according to manager Deborah Doucette. Many of the dishes are Italian-influenced, she adds, but the kitchen can be flexible with its Continental cuisine.
Among the appetizers at Caffe Amante are batter-dipped fried zucchini with lemon and cheese; jumbo Gulf shrimp cocktail; jumbo lump crabmeat dressed in tarragon vinaigrette over roasted red peppers; and escarole, sausage and cannellini beans sauteed in oil and garlic with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Entrees include English-style spots broiled in seasoned bread crumbs with jumbo lump crabmeat, lemon beurre blanc and Tuscan green beans; an oven-roasted New Zealand baby lamb rack; char-grilled Atlantic salmon; New York strip steak; crab cakes; roasted pork loin with black raspberry sauce and herbed mashed potatoes; and Portobello and Eggplant Parmigiana. …