Sienna Mercato

942 Penn Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15222(412) 281-2810 siennapgh.com

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This place has got a lot of balls. Sorry. Couldn’t resist. But in all fairness, it is true. Three floors of them. Meat balls. Turkey balls. Veggie balls. Risotto balls. Even pecan balls for dessert. All served up in a create-your-adventure style menu broken down by ball, sauce, Panini, hero or just plain ole saucy balls. They have other stuff too, but balls are easily 90% of the menu.

So, being that I was meated out from hedonistic culinary pursuits in the days prior, I decided to go with the veggie balls on a Panini with smoked mozzarella and arribiata sauce. And like the knight says toward the end of The Last Crusade, “he chose…poorly.” Which I did. Very lack-luster at best. But I’m not about to throw Sienna under the bus, after all, I was master of my own domain (not the Seinfeld version).

On the flip side, I made up for it with the pecan balls which are essentially three very large balls of Turkey Hill vanilla ice cream rolled in chopped pecans and places on a bed of hot fudge. Crazy friggin’ simple and really friggin’ good. Granted I’m not so sure the ice cream itself was so good that it needed a special credit on the menu. I’ve had far better from the supermarket, like Steve’s of Brooklyn for example, which blows the feathers off Turkey Hill.

For cocktails, they do a solid Manhattan, albeit a touch on the sweet side (I know what you’re thinking, ice cream and Manhattans? This is how you cut back on the gluttony?). And speaking of sweet, the servers are all very warm and friendly, taking great pride in the bevy of balls they bestow.

2 teeth

Juvia

1111 Lincoln Rd. Miami Beach, FL 33139 •  (305) 763-8272juviamiami.com

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The setting is an absolute showstopper (pictured). Clean modern lines and glass. Half outdoor, half in. Feels like something Mies Van Der Rohe might design. But here’s the kicker, it’s located on the top floor of a parking garage. To be fair though, it’s the most architecturally stunning parking garage I think I’ve ever laid eyeballs on.

And don’t be fooled by its Lincoln address. I know most of the restaurants on that strip are touristy bile, but Juvia is truly fine dining at its finest, right down to the high-end crowd. Juvia isn’t just a looker though, this beauty has substance, easily living up to the price tag with surprisingly deft, unpretentious service and equally skilled, inventively crafted plates.

Being in a cocktail mood, we both opted for the Juvia lemonade, which was equal parts refreshing and inebriating. Our mood also seemed to be trained on small plates, so we tried quite a few starters, but no entrees.

First up was the only miss for me of the night, the salmon sashimi. Served a touch too cold and thus a touch too chewy. Should’ve been room temp and should’ve been much better than it was.

But wow was the make up sex good. The chocolate unagi was just as unique as it was delicious. And the local buratta was drop dead gorgeous. Quite yummy to boot, albeit a touch lacking in the salt department, but you can always add that yourself.

The short rib gyoza on the other hand, was lacking nothing. Wowza! This Ultimate is so good I almost want to eat the part of my brain that’s thinking about it right now.

For dessert, you’re bound to be swayed by the chocolate candy bars floating to the tables surrounding you, and sure it’s crazy rich, but it’s not as crazy amazing as it looks. In my not-so humble opinion, the tres leche is tres times better. In fact, it’s an Ultimate. Up there with the likes of Animal in LA.

Well done Juvia. You’re the best thing to happen to a parking garage since Seinfeld.

4 teeth

The Ultimate Babka

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Breads Bakery – New York, NY

I know Seinfeld said there were two babkas, but I assure you, there’s only one worth mentioning. In fact, it’s so damn yummy it’s also worth doing a hora. That’s why New York Magazine gave Breads some major mazels, and why you’ll be as giddy as the Fiddler on the Roof after tasting those moist Nutella-laced, chocolaty swirls.