After finishing a bowl of pasta bolognese at The porch of Schenley this week you might find that your total amount is an unusually specific amount – $ 20.22.
The price of 20.22 USD represents the new year, 2022. As part of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, it’s an annual tradition for restaurants to reflect the new year in their prices, according to Pittsburgh Restaurant Week founder and CEO Brian McCollum.
“The price for menus this season ranges from $ 20.22 to $ 40.22,” McCollum said. “The 22 cents come from the year of the event, so it rises a penny every year – not bad considering inflation.”
Pittsburgh Restaurant Week is a biannual event that takes place in both January and August. This winter week takes place from the 10th to the 16th of January, with some restaurants extending it to the 23rd of January.
Restaurant Week is not limited to restaurants inside Pittsburgh itself, so restaurants located both inside the city and in the surrounding area are all welcome to attend. Participating restaurants include The porch of Schenley, Almuen, Fujiya Ramen and Tacos County.
Enjoying Restaurant Week at these locations is as simple as going to the restaurant and trying something on their selected menu, according to McCollum.
“Restaurant Week is not a ticket event,” McCollum said. “There’s nothing you need to subscribe to or buy other than make a reservation and attend.”
According to McCollum, instead of designing Restaurant Week as a reduced event, it is a week for restaurants to create special menus that would not otherwise be displayed during the year. These winter menus follow the theme of “new dishes for the new year.”
“Restaurant Week is not a discount program, it is simply an option for restaurants to make time-limited menus,” McCollum said. “It’s a great opportunity to try new dishes out in public or present something that you can not reliably produce all year round.”
Some restaurants, such as Garbarinos, offers a special with several courses at a fixed price. Others highlight a specific meal. According to Courtney Caprara – Head of Direct Channel Marketing at The Porch’s parent company, Eat’n Park Hospitality Group – The Porch will only offer one special.
“For our menu, we are again offering our pasta bolognese for this restaurant week to come,” Caprara said. “This recipe is actually adapted from the recipe we served for last summer’s Restaurant Week.”
Although pasta bolognese is the same dish from the summer, Caprara said they adapted the recipe for a winter variation.
“We’ve changed it a bit for the winter, where we’ve replaced the feta with ricotta cheese, making it fresher,” Caprara said. “And it’s just the perfect winter comfort food.”
Other participating restaurants, such as Carmella’s plates and pints, have not selected their official menu yet. But according to Carmella Salem, co-owner of the restaurant, the menu is likely to include vegetarian options to accommodate the restaurant’s large amount of vegetarian guests.
Although Salem has not yet chosen the restaurant menu, she said the menu is always experimenting with new dishes to gauge customers’ opinions.
“We always try to lean against plates that we want to put on the menu,” Salem said. “So we want to try it out at Restaurant Week because it gives us a good indication of how guests like it or not.”
This year’s winter restaurant week marks the 10th anniversary of the event. Former food blogger McCollum founded Pittsburgh Restaurant Week in 2012 using his connections in the food industry.
“I have a passion for food, Pittsburgh did not have a Restaurant Week, and I had a background in project management, so I decided I would undertake to create Pittsburgh’s first Restaurant Week,” McCollum said. The restaurants were very satisfied, it was very well attended.
After the initial success, McCollum said he listened to restaurant requests and expanded the event to take place twice a year. According to McCollum, Restaurant Week brings restaurant business in their slowest times of the year along with other benefits.
“Restaurants are really seeing an increase in business because it helps avoid the traditional drop in revenue in the month that they would otherwise struggle with,” McCollum said. “It also exposes them to new diners who may or may not think about them regularly.”
McCollum said the toughest months for restaurants are January, July and August. Salem agreed with this feeling regarding his own business.
“New Year’s you slow down a bit, but then you have this amazing pop in mid-January for a whole week, and the same with August,” Salem said. “It’s a lot of travel and vacation time that people take, so it increases a slow time of year, and it definitely brings in a lot of new customers.”
According to Caprara, Restaurant Week also gives The Porch the opportunity to highlight its finest meals while welcoming new guests.
“It really gives us a chance to showcase the best of our menu along with so many other great restaurants in Pittsburgh,” Caprara said. “It really is just a great way to put our name out there and welcome the people who have or have not heard of us and we are always happy to have them.”