The Best Pizza in Pittsburgh debate is a conversation that I never really know how to take part in. There are SO many legendary options. From Mineo’s to Aiello’s to Fiori’s.. the war wages on. (I do plan on exploring these contenders in future posts.) Well, if you don’t already know about it, I’m here to throw another name into the mix: Mercurio’s in Shadyside.
I think I lived with my boyfriend in this neighborhood for over a year before we even walked inside this quaint little gelato and Neapolitan pizza shop on Walnut Street – simply because we had no idea it was anything more than a gelato shop! I can’t believe how unaware I had been. Trust me, this place is worth checking out for more than just your after-dinner treat. When you enter, the first thing you notice are the larger tables in the front, and the usual line of families and kids at the gelato counter. The interior is very simple, but so comfortable and friendly. If you tell the hostess you are there for dinner, you are welcomed with the choice of sitting outside (which is lovely during the warmer months-great for Walnut Street people watching), or inside.. where you are ushered past the frozen dessert, and find yourself in the presence of a beautiful wood-fired pizza oven, and a much more intimate dining experience. It is the perfect balance of casual dining with a romantic vibe, as the dinner menu is small and simple (salads, antipasti, panani and pizza), with a decently sized wine selection, and a couple of beer options. Because of this, Mercurio’s has become one of our favorite weekend date-night spots.
During our first visit here, we ordered a half carafe of their house red, one salad, and ONE pizza. HA! What were we trying to prove here? We had no idea how much we would enjoy our meal and quickly realized we could easily down like 4 pizzas between the two of us. So, for our next trip, we got ourselves in check. I’ll start with the wine!! (Because seriously where else would I start on a Friday evening?) After we asked for recommendations from our ridiculously pleasant/attentive cute Italian waiter (accent and all.. ladies), we went with a full carafe of the House Chianti ($26). Cause a half carafe just doesn’t cut it. This wine has become one of my absolute favorites: full-bodied and slightly dry, just like I like it. (Don’t worry Mom and Dad – this place is within walking distance of our apartment.) Also to start, we chose to split (perfect size for 2) the light and delicious Panzenella Salad ($7) : Spring mix, Baked Italian Bread, diced Peppers, Tomatoes, Red Onion, Garlic, Cucumber, Asiago Cheese, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and Balsamic Vinegar. Yummmmm. I typically do not like salad dressing (something about the consistency throws me off).. but I just LOVE this pre-dressed Italian delight. Garlicy, crunchy, simple, delicious.
On to the pizza! Like I mentioned, the first time we dined here, we only ordered one. But who is ever satisfied with one pizza? Certainly not me. Especially when the pizza is delectably cheesy and perfectly cooked in a wood-fired oven, with just the right amount of crunch, and a fluffy-in-all-the-right places crust. Tonight we went with the Quattro Formaggi ($16) : Mozzarella di Bufala, Fontina, Parmigiano, Provolone and Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and the Primavera con Carne ($14) Tomatoes, House Made Mozarella, Artichokes, Roasted Red Peppers, Prosciutto di Parma, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. We split both down the middle, and dug in. I’m telling you, these are underrated pizzas to be reckoned with. The Quattro Formaggi is cheesy and decadent, with hints of fresh basil, and the Primavera con Carne is perfectly salty from the fresh Prosciutto, and complimented by the briny flavor of the peppers and artichokes. I would definitely recommend this pizza combo. (Note: These 4-cut pizzas aren’t very large.) While Tim and I always feel like we could eat more than our combined 8 pieces (could just be the Chianti talking) it should be enough to satisfy 2 diners. (You could also take some home if you have the will power to not finish the entire thing in one sitting. But if you can, def get back to me on how you did it.)
I would argue that there are few things better than pizza and wine in a relaxed restaurant. I really really love it here. It’s comfortable, the staff is so helpful and pleasant, and the wood-fired pizza made with quality ingredients should be recognized amongst the Pittsburgh greats. Check out this pizza shop the next time you are looking for a casual, yet intimate, dining experience!
Overall Experience: 5
A few nuggets of advice:
- Mercurio’s doesn’t take reservations. But I’ve never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a dinner table.
- If you are a party of 2, order 2 pizzas. Anything over 2, just order a bunch (plus some salads) and share!
- Sometimes it gets loud when there are family gelato rushes – but it’s never been enough to bother me.
- This place appears to be an in-and-out gelato quick stop – but take my advice and order some wine and relax for a while. The comfortable, casual vibe makes for a great date night, or weeknight hangout with friends.
SO, the next time you are searching for another slice to sample, head to Mercurio’s. It’s not just gelato! (Although, I do plan on writing a gelato post in the near future =).)
5223 Walnut Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15232