Euro Summer in Pittsburgh

“Euro summer” is upon us. People are jetting off to France, Italy, and Spain to see if moving to another country will, in fact, solve all of their problems. But what is “Euro summer”? Is it what you eat? What you wear? Will you just be depressed, but while sipping on an authentic Campari spritz? Maybe. Euro summer is, let’s be real, an American invention of what people think Europe is like, a magical land of relaxation and adventure where nobody gains weight even after eating endless croissants and gelato.

So, if getting out of town is not in the budget this year, perhaps there is another way. We bring you: Yinzer Euro Summer, or what to do in Pittsburgh to trick yourself into feeling like you’re on that vacation of your dreams. What is summer if not the season of FOMO and self-delusion? Andiamo to the exotic locales of a mid-size city in western Pennsylvania.

Enjoy Coffee and Wine Al Fresco at Margaux

Margaux modeled itself after the European café-bar, serving espresso in the morning and wine and cocktails in the evening accompanied by a food menu that transitions from morning to evening service. If you have enough glasses of their delicious Bordeaux Superieur, and don’t look at the Pittsburgh Regional Transit buses coming by, you can pretend that you’re in France. Pittsburgh is the “Paris of Appalachia,” isn’t it?

Plan a Euro Summer Style Night Out

Pittsburgh’s food scene has a variety of European-style experiences. Hyeholde can make you feel like you’re at a chateau in the French countryside, while you watch planes from the nearby airport go to actual France–or, France via a layover in London because there are no direct flights to Paris from Pittsburgh. Apteka has the feel of a Central or Eastern European café restaurant for those craving the romantic intrigue of Prague or Krakow.

The robust wine list, rustic interior, and prix-fixe menu at Bar Marco can give you an Italian tierra madre sort of feeling. A cocktail and brasserie-style meal at the Spirits & Tales restaurant while looking out over the Beaux Arts architecture of Oakland feels “continentalesque.” Any of these options approach the allure of Euro summer, which, honestly, might just be wanting to feel special and classy for a bit.

…Or Try a Euro Picnic with a Local Flair 

Get some local limoncello (Kingfly and Bella Bambini for a classic limoncello) and head to one of Pittsburgh’s romantic spots. We suggest the hilltop of Schenley Oval or the walled garden and fountain in Mellon Park, which both give you a dreamy setting. Sipping limoncello, enjoying a little bread and cheese plate, and the pink and orange hues of the Pittsburgh sunset are great way to impress a fellow staycationer, or to treat yourself to a dose of beauty.

Order a Granita at La Prima

Granita is the model for what we uncultured Yanks call “Italian ice.” Though the Sicilian original is fruit-based, you can get a granita di caffe version mixed with coffee at La Prima Espresso in the Strip District and enjoy a nice cool-down in the summer heat. Not only are granitas delicious, you now have something to hold over all the plebeians ordering “Italian ice” or “water ice” at chain restaurants.   

Try a Grappa Camomilla at Grapperia

I was once hanging out with a friend and a recent Italian expat he was dating at Grapperia (3801 Butler Street), and his date warned us of the dangers of a particular kind of grappa, which she swore an American restaurant would not have: Camomilla. She cautioned that this grappa with chamomile flowers was so good, we could end up drinking three or four and not even notice what had happened. And, it turned out, an American restaurant in none other than Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania did have this particular digestivo. Spoiler alert, she was right about it. Maybe don’t drive there if you plan on sampling this liqueur.

Shop Euro Summer Style at Urbanä Boutique and Madeleine George

If you’re swiping through your friends’ vacation photos, you can at least dress like you’re also on the Amalfi Coast. “Euro summer” is most prevalent as a fashion trend. So, who says you can’t emulate it with some boutique clothing items? Urbanä has some of the beach-Mediterranean chic that the fashion trend requires. Get the sundress, get the floppy hat, get the sunglasses. And then just accessorize with a hand-rolled cigarette, a cup of espresso, and dreams of universal healthcare. For a dressier version of Euro summer, try Madeleine George in Shadyside.

Watch Football at Piper’s Pub or Bulldog Pub

When people say “Euro summer,” they aren’t always picturing all-day pints of Guinness with the lads at the United Kingdom’s pubs. But if you really want to live like a European local, ditch the Steelers and seek out the type of football that’s actually played with your feet — aka soccer. Piper’s Pub and Bulldog Pub both show all the latest in Europe’s favorite pastime.

Take the Inclines

When I moved to Pittsburgh, my Swiss family remarked that they had never seen an American city with what they call a funiculare, the hillside train car that in many Alpine cities is public transportation. Pittsburgh’s Monongahela and Duquesne inclines are about as close as you can get to European infrastructure. A ride up Mount Washington can give you the illusion that you’re taking a funicular through the Swiss, French, or Italian Alps. But, in all seriousness, the view fro the top is picturesque enough to fill you with pride for the city you currently live in, not the vacation you could have. Sometimes, it’s enough to just be proud of where you are.

Story by Emma Riva / Photo courtesy of Margaux

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