Girasole may be one of those restaurants that you keep hearing about but have never actually made the trip to its location in the Shadyside neighborhood. So, I’ll give you a friendly reminder: make the trip. This small Italian joint has been a local favorite for years, seemingly topping every “Best Of” list for Italian restaurants in the area over and over again. And it’s no wonder—great service, better food, moderate prices and a great atmosphere is the perfect recipe for success, and Girasole has got it down pat.
For 10 years, this family-owned restaurant has been churning out traditional Italian food with a modern and innovative twist—funky enough to intrigue the palate and delicious enough to satisfy the stomach. Girasole offers a seasonal menu, which brings out the freshest ingredients of each season. While the menu is constantly changing, there are a few constant standouts that you should try at least once.
Ravioli fans: Try the spinach and ricotta ravioli (large pillows of ravioli, garnished with fresh herbs, served in a tomato cream sauce). Or the pumpkin ravioli, served in a light cream sauce, a treat only available in the fall.
The potato gnocchi is another must-have. Served with marinara sauce and melt-in-your-mouth mozzarella, this dish is sinfully good. The gnocchi is fresh and tender, and the marinara sauce gives this dish the extra kick.
And if you’re ever going to try polenta, then this is the place to do it. The polenta is freshly baked and topped with mozzarella cheese, escarole and beans. They’ve got fresh fish dishes, as well as tortelloni (served with a light cream sauce, peas and prosciutto), cocoa fettuccine (served in an Aglio e Olio sauce with cauliflower and leeks) and plenty more.
All meals are served with fresh bread, and most dishes come with a house salad served with fresh mozzarella or gorgonzola cheese, topped with crunchy, toasted sunflowers—a great finishing touch for a place named after the beautiful flower.
But no Italian meal is complete without a glass of wine or, taking a look at the dessert menu. They’ve got an extensive list of Italian wines with their stamp of approval—from red and white wines, to a full bar that serves up martinis, Bellinis and Cosmopolitans.
A daily dessert menu is also available with plenty to choose from—chocolate mousse cake, tiramisu, and gelato among others. All of the desserts are made fresh daily, and the tiramisu is one of the highlights. Served with fresh berries and cocoa powder, the tiramisu is perfectly sweet with a hint of coffee. As with all of the other dishes, they don’t skimp on the portions, leaving big eaters satisfied and small eaters a readymade lunch for work tomorrow.
But while Girasole puts its main emphasis on the meals they serve each night, they haven’t forgotten that the atmosphere of a place is almost as important. It’s a small yet cozy space, with a bustling ambience. Beautiful paintings hang on the walls of sunflowers and scenic backdrops of Italy. The service is great, with waiters and waitresses bustling through the small spaces in between tables to keep eaters happy. There’s not a great deal of seating, so you might be looking at a wait—but not too long. Service is fast and keeps people moving out the door. The restaurant also offers a few tables for outdoor seating.
So, if you’re looking for the taste and atmosphere of Italy without leaving the comfy confines of Pittsburgh, look no further than our own Italian gem, Girasole.
Christine Mouser is currently living in the Pittsburgh area, where she is an editorial intern for Pittsburgh Magazine. She is set to graduate from Penn State University this summer, with a degree in print journalism. She has written for HappyValley.com, Town&Gown magazine and Penn State’s Valley magazine.