New Argentinian Restaurant, Balvanera, Opens in Pittsburgh

Housemade juicy Chorizo Criollo, savory Arancini de Coliflor, and tender Angosto striploin are just a few of the exceptional dishes served up by Balvanera, the newest addition to The Terminal Strip District. The menu centers on the fresh, sharable, small-plate meals that are integral to Argentinian cuisine. 

Dreaming of a Community Restaurant

A well set table sits underneath a circular light with windows that face out to The Terminal

Owner and Head Chef Fernando Navas dreamed of bringing home cooking from Argentina to Pittsburgh and New York City. His zest for cooking started at the young age of 15. “I have a big family so we would be cooking together every weekend and that really started my interest,” Chef Fernando said. “Then I went to culinary school in Argentina in 1998 and after two years I moved to the States and I’ve been cooking ever since.”

After working in the United States for several years, Chef Fernando sought more than work as a corporate chef. He wanted his own operation. He knew his heart belonged squarely in the kitchen and that he wanted to create a restaurant that brought people together. 

“With my job at Sushi Samba, I was tending to the big picture of restaurants or watching numbers and training organizations on top of cooking. So eventually I left in 2012 and worked on opening my own restaurant.”

Following his marriage to native Pittsburgher Meredith Boyle, the two opened Balvanera in New York City in 2014. After many trips to Pittsburgh to visit Meredith’s family, he knew the Steel City would be the second home of Balvanera. 

Olives in oil on a plate with crusty bread and a candle beside the plate.
Aceitunas featured on the menu

“The first time I visited Pittsburgh it was springtime,” Chef Fernando said. “I fell in love with the city. It’s gorgeous in the spring. Crossing the bridges and seeing the high mountains and hills covered in bright green, I felt like I was in a great city.” 

A Menu True to Argentina

In 2022, Fernando and Meredith packed up and moved to Pittsburgh where they were lucky enough to find a space in The Terminal. Now they bring Argentinian roots to ‘burghers and visitors alike in the form of dishes that are meant to be shared. 

“The menu is based on Argentinian cuisine and I thought about it more as a concept that highlights not only the food but also the Argentinian wines. We’re also really big on steaks and sausages.” 

A cheese skillet, sausage, and bread sit on a dining table with chimichurri in reach.
Provoleta and Chorizo Criollo

There’s no waste of the cow at this restaurant. Steaks and sausages are just the very beginning of the meats they offer. 

“We eat all the parts of the cow here. We use sweetbreads, kidneys, and even beef tongue. It’s been a real journey of who I am as a chef, what I like to eat, where I like to go, and what I like to share with everyone.”

With so many small plates to choose from, it can be difficult to decide on what to order. They recommend that you order two to three small plates as well as an entrée with a side for the whole table to dig into. 

“The idea is that you come to the table and order a bunch of small snacks to share — like the empanadas, which is the flagship dish for Argentinians,” Chef Fernando said. “Or you could order the octopus which is one of our best dishes. But if you want something different, I’d get the beef tongue or sweetbreads.”

A group of dishes with arancini and empanadas with a candle and wine glasses.
Arancini de Coliflor and Empanadas de Humita

It’s Not Just Food, It’s An Experience

For Chef Fernando, the restaurant isn’t just a dining place, it’s a place to experience the spice of Argentina. 

“I just want people to feel like they are spending their money well. They remember us not just because of the food but because of the space, the music, and the service. Then, I hope they leave with a good experience and want to come back again.”

The restaurant is officially open and available for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Head on in to try the finest bite you’ll never forget. 

Story and photography by Kylie Thomas

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