6 Surprising Dumplings in Pittsburgh

Dumplings, those delightful pockets of flavor, spin a global tale of culinary ingenuity. The legend of Jiaozi (dumplings) traces back over 1,800 years to the Han Dynasty. Zhang Zhongjian, a compassionate physician, concocted these crescent-shaped wonders during a harsh winter to alleviate frostbite around the ears. A dose of mutton, chili, and healing herbs wrapped in dough was his prescription for warmth. While the curative powers remain speculative, the villagers’ love for these dumplings endured, transcending the season. Creative problem-solving or culinary genius? You decide!

Dumplings have roots stretching back to ancient times, and the essence of wrapping a piece of dough around a flavorful filling eventually transcended cultural boundaries. These flavor-packed globetrotters aren’t just tasty; they’re cultural chameleons. From Japanese gyoza to Chinese xiao long bao to Polish pierogies to Indian samosas  – what ties the dumplings of the world together? A shared appreciation for the artistry of dough, the joy of bite-sized parcels, and a love for diverse fillings. Find them here in Pittsburgh!

Dumplings in Pittsburgh

Amazing Dumplings

5882 Forbes Ave

Amazing Dumplings offers more than 100 varieties of dumplings, both traditional and fusion. There is a cultural continuity spanning generations. Fengping Geng, the creative mind behind these delectable treats, shares a glimpse into her upbringing, “Our monthly tradition of making dumplings as a family was a joyous occasion—helping my dad knead the dough, flatten the balls, and witnessing my mom skillfully wrap the dumplings. Sure, my early attempts were more abstract, but I eventually mastered the art of crafting plump and delicious dumplings—edible art, you see.”

Geng talks about striking a balance between tradition and innovation, “While traditional Chinese dumplings hold classics like pork and cabbage or leeks, we’ve introduced Kung Pao chicken-filled dumplings, General Tso’s chicken-filled dumplings, and Van Gogh’s Starry Night spicy pork and lotus root slices-filled dumplings. Each creation undergoes meticulous crafting, ensuring a rich flavor experience.”

The Church Brew Works

3525 Liberty Ave

If there’s one culinary tradition that has become synonymous with Pittsburgh’s identity, it is the beloved pierogi. These doughy parcels, filled with potatoes, cheese, or savory meats, carry more than just flavor; they trace back to the waves of Eastern European immigrants who settled in the region during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These dumplings, initially a staple in their homeland, found a new home in the hearts and kitchens of Pittsburgh.

At Church Brew Works, a gorgeous repurposed church turned into a bustling brewery, the air is always thick with the comforting aroma of these Polish delights. Jason Marrone, COO and Executive Chef speaks of the uniqueness of their pierogies, “Our pierogies stand out because of their unique fillings. Pre-pandemic, we did pierogies with unique fillings like rattlesnake, cactus, and buffalo chili. The Buffalo Chicken Pierogie Saute, with its buffalo cream sauce, celery, and beer-braised chicken, is one of our most popular presentations.”

The Parlor Dim Sum

4401 Butler St

While Pittsburgh might be the uncrowned Pierogi paradise, the city has also embraced dumplings from every nook and cranny of the globe. Craving a brunch that’s not the usual eggs and bacon affair? Head over to the Parlor Dim Sum in Lawrenceville for ‘Yum Cha,’ a Cantonese brunch tradition with dim sum galore and Chinese tea (or Lucky Buddha lagers for the adventurous bruncher!). Picture a sunlit morning in the bustling Cantonese restaurant, where the air is infused with the delicate aroma of steaming bamboo baskets. Gleaming carts navigate between tables, adorned with an array of bite-sized treasures.

This dim sum affair—it’s like brunch’s cooler, more exotic cousin. The whole place is alive with the clinks of teacups and the hum of excitement. Moving on to the stars of this show – the dim sums – there’s the Har Gow – see-through, plump, and crammed with succulent shrimp. There’s the open-top Shumai, silky scrolls of Chueng fun, and the Lo Mai Gai, a sticky rice parcel with tender chicken and shiitake mushroom, a masterpiece of Cantonese artistry.

For owner/chef Roger Li, the mastermind behind some of the city’s best Asian-inspired restaurants (The Parlor Dimsum, Nanban, Umami, and Yume Omakase), making dumplings as a kid is the stuff of core memories, “Our gang of cousins would make dumplings together at Grandma’s house during the Chinese New Year. It was fun, like Play-Doh, but more rewarding, as you got to eat delicious dumplings at the end of each session.”

What’s the anatomy of a great dumpling? According to Li, it boils down to balance. He explains, “It’s all about balance—the filling and the wrapper, the dough-to-meat ratio, the crispy chili oil adding textural contrast and balancing the smoothness of the dumpling.”

DiAnoia’s Eatery

2549 Penn Ave

In DiAnoia’s rustic Italian kitchen, the dumplings – ravioli, gnocchi, agnolotti – serve as a canvas for slow-simmered sauces. Standout offerings include hearty pumpkin ravioli with brown butter and sage, and housemade potato gnocchi doused in a marinara sauce with meatballs. There’s also a gnocchi bread bowl, a different, more decadent presentation of the classic gnocchi dish.

Dave Anoia, the owner and culinary maestro at DiAnoia’s, says, “Our ravioli, distinct from Pittsburgh’s favorite pierogies, showcase Italian tradition with a lighter dough. It’s like distant cousins—similar yet uniquely different. We take pride in our labor-intensive, hand-made menu items; the difference is evident in every bite. In Italian cuisine, tradition and simplicity make dishes delicious.”

Piccolo Forno

3801 Butler St

At this charming Tuscan Italian ristorante in Lawrenceville, beyond the classic Beef and Pork Tortellini and Spinach Ravioli, Fridays and Saturdays bring a luxurious treat – Salmon Triangoli. Fresh and smoked salmon filled into ricotta-filled pasta triangles, tossed in a tarragon-orange zest and shallot compound butter, and topped with chives. It’s a burst of flavors in every bite.

Family traditions are the secret sauce behind so many culinary successes. For Domenic Branduzzi, owner of Piccolo Forno, his love for food stems from his grandmothers’ culinary prowess. “My love for food, especially ravioli, traces back to both my grandmothers—one in the US, and one in Italy. Vanda, in America, served Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with Sage Butter during holidays. In Italy, Anna Maria introduced me to Tortelli, a pork and beef-filled ravioli. These family traditions fueled my culinary passion.”

Seasonality and simplicity are recurring themes, especially among Italian restaurateurs. Branduzzi echoes the thought, “Seasonality is paramount, and if local, even better. Fall might bring a butternut squash filling, while spring sees a fresh English pea filling. The filling takes precedence, with the sauce or dressing playing a complementary role.”

Bae Bae’s Kitchen

951 Liberty Ave

At BaeBees Kitchen, owner/chef Edward Lai crafts a Korean-inspired menu with a commitment to local, organic goodness. The star? Handmade Dumplings, an ode to tradition. Lai shares, “Our Handmade Dumplings are a trip down memory lane for me; they’re a legacy from my parents’ Taiwanese upbringing.” The offerings are simple but packed with flavor. Pork or Chicken Dumplings, bursting with cabbage and spring onions, steamed or pan-fried to golden perfection. They also have Garlic Cheese Wontons, a crispy revelation, filled with garlic cream cheese, and served with a side of spicy mayo. Lai reveals, “Our recipes are rooted in tradition but peppered with modern twists from my worldwide adventures. We keep it real but embrace new tastes; it’s our way of adapting to the city’s evolving food scene.”

If you’d rather make dumplings at home, check out TABLE’s Pork Dumplings with Edible Flowers recipe! 

Story by Aakansha Agawral / Photography Courtesy of Laura Petrilla

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