The big Burrito Restaurant Group Newsletter | August 2019


Introducing Alta Via Brunch

Sundays, 11am-3pm

Alta Via launches into brunch this month with a full menu of exquisite weekend dining. Starters include Smoked Salmon Toast with fennel, pickled shallot and whipped mascarpone. A highlight of the big breakfast plates, Italian Eggs Benedict has English muffin, rosemary ham, prosecco Hollandaise, broccoli pesto and crispy parmesan potatoes.

Two handmade brunch pastas are Mafadine with mushroom Bolognese and fresh ricotta, and Pappardelle with beef short rib sugo. We're also serving our desserts during brunch, including our popular house made gelato. See the current menu at

Also, Alta Via recently began serving the full dinner menu—plus a few exclusives—for lunch Monday-Saturday, 11am-4pm. See that menu here.


Japanese Summer Tasting Menu

Monday-Sunday, August 19-25

Summer fruit and vegetables bring bright flavors to Chef Lily Tran's inspired tasting menu. Pickled chanterelle and radish spice up the hamachi, corn and cabbage add crunch to the okonomiyaki (savory pancake), Japanese eggplant and kolrabi compliment ribeye steak, and a fresh berry salad brings juicy sunshine to the Red Bean Mochi. See the whole tasting here.


Tomato & Corn Festival

August 26–September 1

An annual tradition at Casbah, this tasting menu is created around two dishes that combine two of our favorite local summer crops: Lobster & Corn Ravioli with corn and tomato relish, and Roasted Half Chicken with heirloom corn bread and tomato. Heirloom Tomato Salad and Peach Cobbler complete the seasonal tasting. Reservations are recommended. 412.661.5656

Mad Mex

Raised on the North Side

August 22-September 5, unless we run out

Mad Mex is featuring something old and something new from Southern Tier. Get monstrous 22oz drafts of these beers for just $5.

Lake Shore Fog began its development and testing in Southern Tier's Pittsburgh taproom. After a year of customer feedback and refinements, the hazy brew was released on draft at the end of 2018, and quickly became a fan favorite. Mosaic, Citra and Amarillo hops are used for four dry hoppings, creating juicy beer with stone fruit and pineapple flavors, and a mild, dry finish. ABV: 6.5%

Harvest Ale has been on Southern Tier’s seasonal rotation since 2003. A combination of fresh English hops and cracked barley create a classic English style Extra Special Bitter with spice and snap. ABV: 6.7%


 big Burrito Benefit Dinners

July 2019

We hope you can join us as we give back to our communities with these special benefit dinners. Follow the links for more about these organizations, or request an evening for your cause.

Casbah August 22 Foundation Fighting Blindness
Eleven August 11 Bethel Park Community Foundation
Soba August 13 Lydia's Love Moments
Mad Mex Robinson August 20 Stage 62
Mad Mex Shadyside August 20 East Winds Symphonic Band
  August 27 RYR-1 Foundation

Grow your own!

big Chef Bill Fuller, August 2019

I am having a great year growing tomatoes, basil, and hot peppers in my Morningside garden. This near-tropical climate of ample rain and sun has been perfect to keep everything growing at breakneck speed. We planted eight basil plants, 16 tomato plants (half slicing tomatoes and half cooking tomatoes), two jalapeño plants, two habanero plants, and two cayenne pepper plants. I planted this assortment with an eye both to eating well right now and also with thoughts of homemade pesto, tomato sauce, and hot sauces and salsas to get us through (at least some of) the winter. As far as corn, squash, beans, and all the rest, I know that our great network of farms and farm markets will supply our tables all through the summer. And corn and zucchini take up so much space to grow…

We love pesto at our house; the kids will make a quick snack by cooking some pasta and tossing it with a big spoonful of pesto. I have already harvested two crops of basil and made more than 20 pints of pesto. To harvest basil, you trim it just above the juncture of two leaves. For the first harvest of the summer, I take the central stem at the second or third pair of leaves up from the roots. This causes the plant to send out two stems from this juncture making it more full and bushy. Also, throughout the summer, you should pop off the flowers that form on the tops. This keeps the basil tasty and the plant producing leaves. Here is a little advice:

Getty Stewart: How to Cut Basil for a Full Harvest All Season Long

There is debate about whether to add cheese to pesto that you are freezing or not. I choose to add the parmesan simply because it makes the sauce ready to grab and go. Also, splurge for real Parmigiano Reggiano. It really makes a difference in a simple sauce like pesto.

I make pesto and freeze it in half pint jars which seem to be a great increment. A half pint is equal to a cup and that is about enough for a pesto pasta side dish for four. Two half pints are good for an entrée. I also prefer to freeze them in pint jars rather than plastic containers (but will use both if necessary) because the glass canning jars seem to keep it fresher tasting in the freezer. Suggestions to put the pesto in ice cube trays and freeze it for individual servings seems crazy to me. I can’t see using one ice cube worth of pesto. That’s one bite!

Pesto and Early Tomato Dishes

Here is a video of me making pesto for these recipes on Pittsburgh Today Live, and also one making tomato sauce.

As for tomatoes, I took a different approach this year and, following the advice of an older Italian neighbor, planted fewer tomato plants. It is resulting in better yield per plant and seems to be helping to keep pests and funguses away. We have just started harvesting tomatoes. The slicers are getting eaten as quickly as we can get them ripe. For the first time, the kids are eating fresh, raw tomatoes! Finally, at 15 and 18! For dinner recently I sliced and ate a very large (2-3#) pink tomato with salt, extra virgin olive oil, and a sliced jalapeño from the garden. Awesome!

For tomato sauce, I like to harvest them as they ripen and freeze them in airtight plastic bags. When I accumulate enough to make sauce, I defrost them and can a batch. If you want my easy recipe for sauce, though, check out the September 2009 archive of this newsletter. Once you go through the process once or twice, it really is very easy to make and can home tomato sauce. This is the recipe we adapted for the tomato sauce at our newest restaurant, Alta Via. While it finds its way into a number of preparations, you can taste it showcased on our house-made Rigatoni pasta there. (Making Tomato Sauce on Pittsburgh Today Live.)


Here is a simple and delicious meal to make with a couple of ripe/overripe tomatoes, some young zucchini, and chicken.

Roasted Chicken, Herbs, Fresh Tomato Coulis
Bacon Pesto Tomato and Stracciatella Sandwich
Burrata with Prosciutto and Tomatoes


Which leaves the peppers. The peppers are coming on latest. While we are harvesting them here and there to add to dishes, we have not gotten close yet to having enough to make into salsas and hot sauce. Keep an eye on this space to see where we go with them. There are A LOT of young habanero peppers on the bushes…


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