Casellula, specializing in cheese, is located on Pittsburgh’s North Side on North Avenue near Federal Street.
Casellula has a broad menu and specializes in cheeses and wines. The cocktail menu offers nine unique options. I tried their Decadent & Depraved with rye, sweet vermouth, orange, and luxardo and their Poe Died of Rabies made with aged Brandy, Applejack, White Port, Lemon, with an absinthe rinse. Both were delicious! There is also an extensive wine menu with options of buying by the glass or the bottle. There are 15 options of wines by the glass and over 60 options of by the bottle. The wine menu gives year and place of origin and boasts some impressive names.. Casellula offers an extensive variety of cheeses. Patrons can choose from over 20 options of fresh, bloomy, washed, pressed and cooked, and/or blue. Each cheese is served with a pairing whether sweet or savory that compliments the flavor such as butters, pesto, fruit spread and more. After the cheese course, I had Casellula’s Greens which was a mix of spring vegetables, Grana Padano cheese, breadcrumbs with an anchovy vinaigrette. It had a refreshing flavor, but was served with both too much breadcrumb and dressing. I couldn’t finish it. I was at Casellula with a party of three. We each chose an item from the plate menu and all sampled each others entree. I had the Pig’s Ass Sandwich, which essentially Casellula’s twist on a Cuban Sandwich. It was so greasy that the flavor of the ham, pork, cheese, and even the pickles was lost. If it did not have chipotle aioli on the side to spread on it, there would have been no flavor at all. I could not finish it. My one friend tried the Mac and Cheese baked with caramelized onion and a variety of cheeses. We all tried it and agreed it was bland and too greasy, as there was about half a centimeter of oil at the bottom of the craft that it was served in. My friend who ordered it could not finish. Lastly, my third dinner mate ordered the salmon with Tahini, over bulgur, with snap peas. I tried it and wished that I had ordered that. It was delicious. For dessert, I had the cheesecake made with Italian Mascarpone cheese, with sour cherry, on a graham crust. It was delicious as well.
Our server at Casellula was very knowledgeable of the vast cheese and wine menus. She patiently guided our party through both lists answering our questions and making suggestions that articulated a wide depth of understanding. The cheese course with its pairings took a little longer amount of time, but that was to be expected. The drinks took a little longer amount of time as well, but again, they were specialized drinks. Unfortunately, as the dinner progressed, my friend ordered a second drink and it took 20 minutes for it to be served. The restaurant was not that crowded so it was a little perplexing. Water was refilled and plates were cleared with efficiency by our server or one of the runners. Here is the clincher of the evening. I ordered a second drink from our server. About 15 minutes later, it was brought by a runner who said to us, “I don’t know who ordered this” and placed the drink in the middle of the table, shrugged her shoulders, and walked away. She actually shrugged her shoulders!
Casellula is a gorgeous spacious venue that shares a space with Alphabet City and City of Asylum Books. There is a great blend of natural and artificial light, with tasteful artwork. Acoustically, it is easy to hear conversation of your fellow table mates. The venue has a very Parisian feel to it and it is most welcoming. There is open space between the restaurant portion of the venue and the bookstore with a small stage. This is the perfect place to listen to a reading, or a small music ensemble, accompanied by great cheese and wine while being entertained.
What Casellula is great at, they are great at. What they are bad at, they are bad at. The cheese, wines, specialty cocktails (although served very slowly), and desserts are all terrific and worth the visit. The other dinner items we all had were at best pretty good and at worst, unable to be finished. Normally, I make multiple visits to restaurants or other venues before I review them just in case there was an “off” night or some other circumstance that might have made a dining experience undesirable. However, the Saturday night I visited, the venue was not crowded as there were tables available, but the drink service was consistently slow. Casellula boasts on its menu and web page that they do not allow tipping because the restaurant staff is compensated well and provided with health benefits and retirement plans. I am in complete support of any restaurant that treats its employees as the professionals that they are. Normally a meal experience like this would garner a rating of “It’s worth a shot, but it could be a miss,” but so jarring was the cavalier, millennial-ish act of not asking who the second drink belonged to, but rather shrugging their shoulders and walking away that even though the cheese course was fantastic, I will not be going back again. This is the first restaurant that I have reviewed to get the rating of:
“Avoid At All Costs!”
40 W. North Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15212