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Local Restaurants Expand Their Reach

Mineo’s Pizza. Photos by  Jess Daninhirsch
Mineo’s Pizza. Photos by Jess Daninhirsch

It’s always exciting when a new restaurant comes to town, and when a restaurant expands into the northern suburbs, that’s even more of a reason to celebrate.

Devotees of the gyro are anxiously awaiting the grand opening of Mike & Tony’s Gyros, which will take over the space vacated by Kretzlers Tavern on Babcock Boulevard in Ross Township.

The first Mike & Tony’s opened in the South Side 50 years ago, with other branches eventually opening Downtown, in Bridgeville, Moon and Dormont. But the Ross Township location will be the first one in the North Hills, which suits Helen Devlin just fine.

Devlin is part of the Makripodis family that owns all the other Mike & Tony’s Gyro’s restaurants. Like her siblings and parents, she’s been working in the family business all her life.

“My husband and I moved to the North Hills ten years ago, so we’ve been looking in the North Hills for a couple of years now,” said Devlin. A mutual friend introduced them to the owners of Kretzlers, who was looking to close the business after 70 years. “We got really lucky; it is very close to our house and is in the heart of where we live,” she added.

Like the Bridgeville, Moon and Dormont locations, the new Ross Park location will be a full-service restaurant with a bar and full menu; the original Mike & Tony’s and the Downtown location are smaller, mom-and-pop shops with a limited menu. In addition to the star of the show, gyros, the Greek-style menu will also offer other sandwiches, including burgers, hoagies, and beer battered fish; a variety of wraps; Greek and other salads like tuna steak or Pittsburgh style (fries on the salad, of course); full dinners such as souvlaki; and as starters, pierogis and spinach feta dip with warm pita chips.

Devlin and her husband have four children, and they have always supported the school district where her kids attend by sponsoring teams for example. “I’m excited for the opportunity to give back to the community while providing jobs and a new place for North Hills residents to dine. I love living out here. I think this will be a good location with good clientele; I’m excited for it,” she said.

As of this writing the restaurant is a work in progress, so Devlin was reluctant to share a ‘set in stone’ opening date, but she did say it would be 2023. “We want it to be right and want staff trained, so it still will be months away from actually opening but we are taking the steps now and working hard to get it done,” she said.

Another Pittsburgh restaurant with a recent expansion is Mediterra Café. The Pittsburgh-based, family-owned restaurant started its life as a wholesale bakery in Robinson Township, opening in 2001. Eventually, though, explained General Manager Nicole Ambeliotis McLean, they wanted to branch out and brand themselves as a retail market and European-style café/restaurant. Fortunately, they connected with a Portuguese chef to help achieve the family’s vision.

“He brings amazing food to the table, and now he is a partner as well,” said Ambeliotis McLean.

The first Mediterra Café was opened in Sewickley in 2018, followed by Mt. Lebanon in 2020 and just this past March, a third location was opened in Lawrenceville. “We started with Sewickley because it’s a cute niche town and we thought we’d have a lot of regulars. People who live there travel a lot, so we thought they’d appreciate the food and market items we bring to the table,” said Ambeliotis McLean.

For the Lawrenceville location, they wanted to have a footprint in the city. They looked all over but decided that they liked the feel and vibe of Upper Lawrenceville, which is rapidly expanding.

“It’s tough to find the right space. We have learned that moving into a place that is already set up as restaurant is the quickest turnaround and more affordable than starting with a blank slate. We like to find areas that are walkable, so you have people that live nearby and are walking for a coffee and breakfast in the morning or who need to pick up something from the market to take home,” said Ambeliotis McLean.

She added that the menu has a Mediterranean vibe but there are still ‘all-American’ offerings on the menu, like turkey or roast beef sandwiches. The breakfast menu includes shakshuka (a spicy tomato-based egg dish); a daily quiche; Turkish eggs; four-grain porridge; and milk bread French toast. Patrons can sample a variety of other toasts, such as almond butter, avocado or smoked salmon, along with salad bowls featuring chick peas or root veggies and quinoa; pizzas; and deli-style sandwiches. There is also a wide selection of artisan breads to satisfy every taste bud, from sourdough to sesame semolina to jalapeno cheddar to pecan cranberry, as well as a fromagerie featuring artisan and American cheeses.

Other than different specials, the menu will be consistent throughout each of the locations.

Each café is equipped with a market where patrons can order any food to go, including a mouthwatering assortment of bakery items, or pick up seasonal goodies, gourmet chocolate bars, jarred jellies, honey, and even wine.

The company has not ruled out the possibility of additional expansion. In fact, when her father started the business, he envisioned having five cafés. “If the time is right, and if we can handle it, we may just decide and go from there,” said Ambeliotis McLean.

Everyone knows the name Mineo’s Pizza, perhaps Pittsburgh’s most iconic pizza restaurant. Owner Dominic Mineo said that his father opened the original shop in Squirrel Hill in the 1950s. There have been a few other Mineo’s locations over the years, including one in West View and several in the South Hills. Today, however, there is one Mineo’s in Mt. Lebanon and, as of last May, the North Hills is the restaurant’s newest home, having taken over the former Tuscan Inn on Wildwood Road in Allison Park.

Mineo said that he had been canvassing locations in the North Hills for 30 years. “Before we opened the Mt. Lebanon location, for a six month period I asked every customer for their zip code and did a spreadsheet: the North Hills was one of the most popular areas people traveled from to get our pizza,” he said.

Mineo’s Pizza. Photos by  Jess Daninhirsch
Mineo’s Pizza. Photos by Jess Daninhirsch

In addition to pizza, Mineo’s also serves hoagies, Italian-style dinners, a variety of pasta dishes, and appetizers, soups and salads. Their pizzas have become so popular that they now ship them across the country, perfect for those Pittsburgh natives who want a piece of home in a pizza pie.

Mineo said that up until the Wildwood Road bridge construction, business was great, but due to some misleading signs indicating that the road was closed altogether, business has taken a hit. The good news for North Hills residents is that Mineo’s on Wildwood Road is indeed open, and the detours now posted will lead you to pizza paradise.

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