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Italian eatery opens in Market Square

New Il Pizzaiolo to provide pizza, pasta to Downtown diners

Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:09


photo by Kelly Cline

Il Pizzaiolo will begin serving Italian food this week as it opens its new Downtown location at 8 Market Square. There is another location in Mt. Lebanon that has been in business since 1996.

Workers hurry in and out of ceiling-length wooden doors. They run up and down the staircase leading to the wine bar on the second floor and straight into the open kitchen. Everyone is making last-minute preparations for the opening of Il Pizzaiolo in Market Square.


At the age of 25, Ronald Molinaro opened the original Il Pizzaiolo in 1996 in Mt. Lebanon. Now at 8 Market Square, the second location of this Italian-based restaurant opened this week.


“I really traveled and researched and developed a taste for those [Italian] styles of pizza, and in those travels I really got to experience real Italian food,” said Molinaro in his Thursday interview at Il Pizzaiolo.


Molinaro has always had a love for pizza. He started working in pizza shops around town, and he went to the best-rated pizzerias in town in the ‘90s and tried their pizza.


He continued this process when he moved to New York. The pizza in New York and the research he started doing inspired him to create pizzas of his own.


“That’s when I really developed a taste for the product that inspired me as something I wanted to recreate or I want to be a part of,”Molinaro said.


There has been talk about opening a new Il Pizzaiolo since 1998. Molinaro said the different opportunities to expand before now did not work out. He believes it was for the best in the end, and he appreciates the 16 years he has had to become better prepared to open a pizzeria in downtown Pittsburgh.


“I needed that [16 years] as a practice run and to refine what we do and perfect it,” Molinaro said.


Now Molinaro believes he not only has the product, but the team of people needed to help make this second location of Il Pizzaiolo special and help maintain it.


When he was originally looking for a location to set up the first Il Pizzaiolo, Molinaro wanted to be in an urban area. He initially looked at two areas -- The Strip District and the South Side – but he could not find the perfect location, and he settled for Mt. Lebanon.


“[Mt. Lebanon] was the suburbs, but [it] has a little bit of an urban feel too,” said Molinaro. “But my heart was always down here [in Downtown Pittsburgh].”


What customers can expect from Il Pizzaiolo is traditional neapolitan pizza. All ingredients used are either imported from Italy or made in-house.  The wood-burning oven was even built brick-by-brick by people from Naples, Italy.


“Every little detail that we can control, we do – all these little details help create a very unique and special product,” Molinaro said.


The interior décor is also inspired by Italy as it was designed to resemble what the inside of a Neapolitan pizzeria would look like. Chef Kevin Konn said that’s the idea Molinaro was going for with this second Il Pizzaiolo. The wine bar on the second floor is designed to give the feel of a Tuscan wine bar in Florence.


Konn began working with Molinaro through his externship – similar to an internship – and has been working with him on and off for six years. Konn has worked in different styles of restaurant, but making pizza is something he loves to do the most.


“My job as soon as we open is to make sure we can make 200 pizzas a day,” said Konn in his phone interview Saturday.


Il Pizzaiolo in Mt. Lebanon started off just serving pizza, but after taking a trip to Naples and tasting the pasta there, Molinaro decided to add it to the menu as well. Just like the pizza, the pasta is made the way it is done in Italy.


For Molinaro, simplicity is best with Italian food. One of his favorite dishes from the menu is a pizza margherita, including tomato sauce, mozzarella and herbs such as oregano, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. 


Richard Sphatt, executive chef also agrees with simple being better stating that simplicity is what it is all about with Italian cooking. Sphatt recommends a simple dish, the spaghetti pomodoro including cherry tomatoes, fresh garlic, fresh basil, Sicilian sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.

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