The food scene in Pittsburgh is booming right now, and DiAnoia's Eatery, an Italian restaurant in the Strip District, is contributing greatly to that. Established in 2016, DiAnoia's Eatery has grown into a place that offers delicious, homemade, and authentic Italian cuisine at any time of the day. Craving something sweet and delicate on a Tuesday morning? Stop in midday to their café for a zeppole. Need ingredients for your own Antipasto spread for your party? They’ve got you covered with their deli open Tuesday through Saturday. Hungry for something reminiscent of what you ate for dinner in Italy but don’t wanna break the bank? I think you know where to go.

DiAnoia’s specializes in homemade pasta and let me tell you, once you try it, you won’t be going anywhere else for your pasta fix. Chef Dave learned from the best in Italy and uses his creative talent and skill to make amazing pasta from scratch and perfectly pair different types of pasta with out-of-this-world sauces. They use quality ingredients—you can tell from the very first bite—that contribute to a flavorful experience like no other. Not only is the food amazing, but the service and atmosphere are as well. Upon first walking in, you feel the love present in an Italian grandmother’s kitchen, the liveliness of a hip and trendy restaurant, and the enthusiasm and excitement of people who love to do what they do all in a cozy, relaxed environment. All you have to do is walk in and see the huge lit-up "Spaghetti" sign, and you're hooked. DiAnoia’s truly offers everything you could possibly want and more from a restaurant.

Recently, my sister and I had the pleasure of sitting down with the two owners of DiAnoia's Eatery, Chef Dave Anoia and his wife and partner-in-crime Aimee DiAndrea, to learn about the history behind this Pittsburgh gem. While we were there, we tried some of their most popular dishes: the insta-famous Gnocchi served Sorrentina-Style (cheesy gnocchi served! in! a! bread! bowl!), classic and delicious Cacio e Pepe, Chiatarra Pesto (aka the best pesto I’ve ever had), Seared Provolone on thick-cut Italian bread that had us begging for more, the cheesiest and zestiest Fresh Bread with Oil and Parmigiano Reggiano, and glorious House-Marinated Olives seasoned to perfection. The communication between my sister and me while our mouths were full was limited to the mere exchange of facial expressions that basically said, “This is soooooooo amazing.” And, when we thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, we topped things off with the heavenly tiramisu. Our stomachs were full and happy by the time we left, and we had enough food left over to last us another meal (or the bus ride back to our apartment at least).

Chiatarra Pesto, Gnocchi Sorrentina Style, Cacio e Pepe

Erin Gresh

Seared Provolone

Erin Gresh

House-Marinated Olives

Erin Gresh
Erin Gresh

In short, DiAnoia's Eatery is truly the best Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh and is run by people who are passionate about what they do and providing their customers with not only the best Italian dishes, but also the best service possible. Learn more about the fabulous people who own DiAnoia's, Dave Anoia and Aimee DiAndrea, by reading our interview below: 

E: Have you always had a passion for food and cooking? And if so, how did you discover this passion? 

D: Yes, I have. My Dad is 100% Italian and my mom is 100% Irish. My Dad was the one who worked, but on Sundays he would always be cooking. That was his passion and hobby. It would be a full day of cooking, and I would always be in the kitchen with him. In high school, I decided I wanted to pursue cooking and went to culinary school. Then, I moved out to San Diego and began working at a really great restaurant in a hotel. It all happened by luck—I was driving past and saw it and applied for a job and was hired. It helped me to transform my career into what it is today. I also opened Spoon (another restaurant in Pittsburgh) as a Sous Chef and was there for six years. I ran the kitchen at Spoon and BRGR in East Liberty for six years.

E: How and why did you open DiAnoia’s Eatery?

D: Aimee and I have always had a passion for Italian food—we’re both Italian and have taken a couple trips to Italy. We got married and realized that this was something we wanted to do. Aimee does marketing for the Pittsburgh Ballet and uses those same skills here—it makes for a great team. [Check out the awesome and vibrant Instagram @dianoiaseatery and website]! We realized there was a little niche of places open all day that offer different things throughout the day—a place where you can go get a cup of coffee in the morning and a sandwich at lunch, then have a sit-down dinner at night. There are a lot of good Italian places in Pittsburgh, but there is something special about that niche of restaurants open all day. We open at 8 AM and close at 9 PM, you can come in at any time and get something to eat or drink.

E: What did you learn while you were in Italy?

D: I learned a lot about not only the food but also atmosphere and customer service. We were inspired by how they live—their day-to-day lives are very laid-back. You can sit down and have a casual three-hour dinner because you’re with family and have a great time and do it all over again the next day. You can have a glass of wine on your work break, then go back to work—no one is looking to get trashed. It’s a very different lifestyle over there, and we’re trying to bring that here.

E: What is your philosophy on food and creating gourmet meals for people?

D: My philosophy on food is to keep it simple—let it be what it is. Spice things up a bit but not to the point where you don’t know what you’re eating anymore. All that we serve is simplistic to keep the integrity of the product that we’re using. Let the food speak for what it is. If you use a little salt, pepper, and olive oil, it’s going to taste like it should.

E: What's your secret to keeping customers coming in? What have been some of your most successful promotions, and where did they originate?

A: It’s a good balance between keeping things simple, but interesting. Dave changes the menu fairly often, so it’s really important to let people know when new dishes come out and what to highlight in each dish. We think about what’s in season and what people would be excited to eat at that time. The gnocchi bread bowl is a totally different dish from the Cacio e Pepe but they’re both quite simple and let their ingredients shine. Getting the word out that we have something for everybody draws people in. Someone can come in and get an elaborate bread bowl or a beautiful, whole roasted fish or something more simple and classic. We like to offer something for everyone and keep the atmosphere very bright and friendly—we want everyone to feel welcome. We also try to keep prices attainable for everyone and try to bring in really great, top ingredients whether they’re local from the farm here or are imported from Italy. We try to get the best ingredients but still try to offer it at an affordable price point, and the same goes for our bar program. We try to have some really great wines on there that are affordable for everybody.

D: We also keep the rooms well-lit and play music—it’s loud, it’s noisy just like an Italian home. We also make our own wine and have it on tap here.

E: What do you enjoy most about working as a chef?

D: The day-to-day schedule—every day is a five o’clock deadline. Every day we have people coming in the door at five o’clock, so that’s when everything has to be ready. It’s stressful, but I’m the type of person that has to be up and walking around while I’m working. Everybody’s different. I need to be up and walking around the kitchen, making food, making people happy—that’s the number one thing. I like to get up and talk to people and hear what they think of the food—that makes your day more than anything else. It’s more than just the food that makes a restaurant great—it’s about the atmosphere and the whole experience.

E: What is the most challenging thing about working in the restaurant business?

D: Employment in general. We [Pittsburgh] lost both of our culinary schools in the last 6-7 years, so the pool of young kids coming out and being eager to get jobs is not there as much anymore. It’s hard to find good help and we try to do a good job keeping our employees. It’s understandable; they want different experiences.

A: There are so many restaurants opening in the city, so there are a lot of jobs out there for not a huge pool of restaurant workers.

E: What sets DiAnoia’s apart from all other Italian restaurants in Pittsburgh?

D: The all-day hospitality. There are a lot of good Italian restaurants in Pittsburgh. I think what makes ours different is the fact that we’re open from eight o’clock in the morning until nine o’clock at night, and we’re a café, a deli, a sit-down restaurant at night, a bar, we have a little market area in the corner, we do all of our pastries in-house—multiple different concepts under one roof. We’re renovating out back right now to do a little pizzeria. It’s having different outlets in the same location that sets us apart.

E: What is a menu item on DiAnoia’s menu that you could not live without?

D: We change the menu so frequently but have about seven items that stay on all the time. I would choose either the Cacio e Pepe or the Gnocchi with Meatballs.

A: I would say either the Cacio e Pepe or the whole-roasted Bronzino—both very special dishes.

E: Do you have a food idol such as a particular chef or a past mentor?

D: Brian, who I worked with at Spoon for years, is one of my best friends and taught me almost everything I know in this profession.

E: Where do you draw inspiration for new recipes?

D: A lot of inspiration comes from Instagram. I don’t look at a cookbook and pick out a recipe, I usually just see a picture and come up with different things to put with it if I like the way something looks.

A: What’s cool about Instagram is that we’re able to see what they’re doing in Italy without actually having to be there. We get inspiration from restaurants in Italy. We drew inspiration from Instagram to come up with the gnocchi bread bowl. There was a place outside of Naples that was doing something similar, and Gnocchi a la Sorrentino is really popular in that area, so we tried putting it in a bread bowl.

E: Are you thinking of expanding DiAnoia’s in the future? What ideas do you have for the future?

D: We are in the process of renovating upstairs and in the back for a pizza kitchen and event space upstairs. In the future, we hope to expand—maybe take one of the concepts we have here and put a location in another area. We could stamp out each individual concept in its own concept. 

Erin Gresh