New Chef Unveils Menu of Creative and Eclectic Dishes
    Chef Patrick Kaderka

    Chef Patrick Kaderka

    Cioppino, located in the historic Strip District (2350 Railroad Street, 412-281-6593), is as warm and inviting as its namesake fish stew. The venue has been a favored destination of Pittsburgh diners for over 11 years.

    It’s hard to make the best better. Yet in November 2019, newly hired Chef Patrick Kaderka and his team did exactly that. Kaderka, executive chef for the locally owned Cioppino Restaurant Group—inclusive of Cioppino, Osteria 2350, and The Cigar Bar at Cioppino—is a graduate of Pittsburgh’s own Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts. After graduation he went to Asheville, NC, to intern at the world-famous Biltmore Estate.

    “I was exposed to lots of techniques and menus and got excellent training from chefs,” Kaderka recalls. “It really got my mind thinking in new directions.” He was hired into the Biltmore Estate after only six weeks as an intern; that’s a singular honor.

    Kaderka returned to Pittsburgh in 2014, working in several kitchens until he was brought into the Cioppino Group. “Changes to a menu come with any new executive chef. We definitely wanted to move with the times while still embracing customers who have been so loyal to us over the years,” he says. “Eleven years ago heavy menus and thick cuts of meat were staples in upscale restaurants. I tend to go more on the delicate side, not as much filler. There’s an emphasis on enjoying all the flavors.”

    Kaderka was more than up to the challenge of making changes. He came into The Cigar Bar loaded with books and magazines, turning that part of Cioppino into his research center. He spent hours on the internet. He even put days off into the effort. “People don’t realize how much time chefs put into research,” he notes.

    Was there one major source of stimulation? “I would have to say the biggest factor was a map of the Mediterranean itself,” Kaderka recalls. “That triggered the memory of working in a Spanish restaurant and using Moroccan spices, which made me think of the flavor profiles of countries around the sea itself and how they should complement each other—which triggered even deeper research. We now have a nice little mosaic of flavors from around the sea, from Spain to Greece and down to Israel and Tunisia.  The flavors marry well.”

    The new menu was not so much a “reinvention” as a “rethinking” by the entire team. Truth to tell, though, all recipes are the creation of Kaderka except the signature cioppino seafood dish perfected by Sous Chef Aaron Baker.

    The Lamb Pastilla with mint yogurt drizzle, almond dust, and cilantro is a good example of Kaderka’s efforts. “I researched spice blends, what we have available; nothing exotic—cumin pods and coriander, for example.  Then I play with combinations of these familiar flavors and make them unusual.” He does similar things with the other flavor profiles and combinations. Kaderka continues: “The almond dust is a toasted nut with brown sugar and cinnamon, something that I’ve seen throughout my career. From my research I found that almond and cinnamon have been traditional with lamb. I put all that together, pulled the almond to the outside of the meat, and we had the dish.”

    Acquacotta is an adaptation of a traditional peasant bread soup. Kaderka took it to the “heartier side” with tomato broth, vegetables, and tenderloin. The coup de grâce is a 63-degree egg. “I looked at a lot of recipes. Some had eggs, so I did one sous vide. It is perfectly done with a yolk that is so creamy when it leaks out after being cut open. It is an elegant presentation.”

    Beef cheeks in a complex dish with built-in notes of mascarpone and fois gras is yet another example of Chef Kaderka’s inventive, out-of-the-box thinking.

    You can put the finishing touch on your collation with an elegant dessert by Pastry Chef Meghann Walsh. Perhaps you will choose a Chocolate Sticky Cake, or a “deconstructed” Black Forest Torte that includes an Amarena Cherry Popsicle with ruby chocolate.

    Cioppino received several Award of Excellence honors from Wine Spectator magazine, so there are many vintages to pair with every course. And don’t forget the coffee, a special blend created for Cioppino by Pittsburgh’s La Prima Espresso Company.

    Superb desserts, wonderful wines, perfect coffee are important enhancers, but the dinner selections remain the essence of a delightful dining experience. Today’s options at Cioppino are just that. Congratulations, Chef Kaderka, on your deliciously eclectic and creative new menu.

    Cynthia F. Weisfield is a freelance writer whose articles about art and food appear regularly in multiple publications. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago and has recently completed a biography about noted abstract expressionist artist Sonia Gechtoff. She lives in Mt. Lebanon.
    Photos courtesy Pittsburgh Candle Works