Cheap eats, Neighborhoods, Strip District, Traditional


This is probably sacrilege for my second post: Not a huge fan of pepperoni rolls.


Yeah. That.

I’d heard of Mancini’s but had never been until a trip to Pittsburgh in April. One of my usual stops is the Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. in the Strip District — they pull their own mozzarella, get a Parmesan cheese I really like, things like that. I’m also a sucker for 21st Street Coffee a couple blocks away. They both deserve their own posts at some point, to be sure. But right now they’re just context.

Coffee in hand and hands full of grocery bags, I went in to Mancini’s to get bread to go with dinner that night. Just bread. Nothing fancy. And I’d heard good things.

But pepperoni rolls were coming fresh out of the oven. One after another. With that smell. That cheese-meat-oregano-bread smell.

At that point, who cares if it was like 10 a.m. Want.

I went across the street and just sat on a guardrail. Coffee, pepperoni roll and me. Light breeze, trying to keep my very necessary napkins from blowing away, watching people.

I was prepared for a disappointment. I thought this was going to turn out to be a bad idea driven by a misfire of an impulse brought on by a second strong cup of coffee. One of those.

Here’s the thing. The cheese and pepperoni fat inside never turned the bread to mush. The bread was good on its own. The cheese was quality cheese, melted thoroughly but not yet inedible magma.

Messed with my head. Those $5 T-shirts with Ben Roethlisberger and Tiger Woods arm in arm over the caption, “Dumb & Dumber” — almost bought one. I was not in my right mind. Clearly.

It was that good. Right when I least expected it. (I did buy a Mancini’s T-shirt. And I’m not usually that guy.)

Let’s face it — not every pepperoni roll can do all that. So no mea culpas from me.


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