Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Munch Goes to Yoli's Pizza

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Munch Goes to Yoli's Pizza

Article excerpt

Coming in just ahead of "Good God, how much weight have you gained?" and well behind "Can I get a free meal some time?" the second-most frequently asked question of a casual dining writer is, "How do you pick where to go and eat?"

Certainly there is a bias toward new and/or quirky places, non-chains and spots with big-honking portions, like pillow-sized pierogi, pizzas with the radius of an old satellite dish or jumbo wings that burn hotter than the great Liberty Bridge Fire of 2016.

But sometimes it's simply a matter of a place having good food and a nice little back story.

That's the case at Yoli's Pizza in Jefferson Hills, which is a modest little shop in as odd a location as one could conjure: on a windy road deep in a wooded suburban hollow, between a creek and railroad tracks, downwind of a sewage treatment plant, tucked onto the side of a storage unit facility, with zero foot traffic and an address that Google Maps can't properly locate because there is a similar street name that's one letter off a few miles away (learned from experience).

It's an unlikely spot, but it's where Ben Bartilson made a bet on himself to follow a dream. With a background in restaurants but a career in industrial sales that by his admission he "hated," Mr. Bartilson bought an old pizza shop, which despite a seemingly terrible location, is near to a few large employers and some new subdivisions that are otherwise lacking for decent takeout options.

So Yoli's Pizza, named for his grandmother ("Yoli" is short for Yolanda) opened in January, and though the family matriarch passed eight years ago, her spirit lives on in the place, along with some of her recipes.

Their motto is "We feed you like family," and after a glance at the wall in the small dining room, it's hard not to hope that's true. A photo collage of Mr. Bartilson's extended family, and Yoli, that despite being in black and white, exudes such warmth it makes one wish for an invite to one of their family reunions. Mr. Bartilson is a natural host with an elephant's memory (I'd made one brief visit, over six months ago to scout the place and he instantly recalled my otherwise unremarkable mug and exactly what I ordered). …

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