One night we motored out to Mount Lebanon to dine at an Asian restaurant there, only to find it closed. So, we took the opportunity to drop in on Bado’s, a family-run pizza and ale house on Beverly Road.
Established in 1984, Bado’s hasn’t changed much since then, but it’s not a total time capsule. The extensive menu has surely evolved over the years, and the beer selection most definitely reflects the microbrewing revolution of the past two decades. (We did wonder what one of Bado’s original barflies would make of the chocolate-peanut-butter stout on tap.) But the essentials remain: pizza, hoagies, pasta and beer in an unpretentious setting. Bado’s is pretty much the anti-gastropub.
Bado’s signature pizza had a medium-thick crust and was relatively lightly sauced. To the extent that there is a Pittsburgh style, this is it, with chewy dough predominating over crispy crust. This was an excellent example of the type, because there was sufficient crisp, and because the outer crust wasn’t so big that it amounted to being just bread. The sauce was well balanced, deep red from cooking and suggesting sweetness without being sugary.
Bado’s plays to the pizza aficionado. Aside from this “traditional” crust, other (round) pizzas are available with New York (thin and crispy) or Sicilian (deep-dish) crusts, in four sizes, and with a plethora of toppings. Customers can make their own combinations, or choose from a wide variety of “supreme” and “original gourmet” combinations. Our four-cut, bacon-cheddar pie featured chewy bacon and creamy sharpness, and the traditional pizza flavor wasn’t hidden by these non-traditionally Italian toppings.
Yet another featured pie is baked in a square pan from a Sicilian recipe ascribed to owner Frank Badolato’s father, Leopold. As far as we could tell, the sauce was the same as on the regular pie, but here its hint of sweetness, combined with soft pieces of sweet sautéed onion, made for an unbalanced result. The menu mentions that Leopold himself always used anchovies, and their intense salt and savor might bring that balance. But anchovies being controversial, Bado’s makes them optional. Our feeling is that if the pizza requires this ingredient to work, the concept should be re-thought.
The starters are an array of fried things, including green beans and ravioli. We tried the wings in garlic-parmesan sauce. They were a big letdown. A pile of half wings, mostly undersized, included a couple of inedible wing tips, something we’ve never been served before. The surface of the chicken was pleasingly crisp, but the meat on the diminutive wingettes tended toward dry and tough. Meanwhile, the sauce pooled in a greasy puddle at the bottom of the dish.
The variety of sandwiches — hoagies, deli-style, Pittsburgh-style, burgers — was dizzying. We finally settled on a tuna melt from the hoagie list. Unsurprisingly, it was on a hoagie roll; this could have worked, for the tuna salad was tasty, and the roll was pleasingly, though lightly, toasted. But there was barely enough mild provolone cheese to notice, while each bite contained plenty of juicy, crunchy iceberg lettuce and wan winter tomato. Ultimately, this was a pretty good tuna hoagie, but not a tuna melt.
In addition to the pizza and bar food, Bado’s has a substantial pasta selection. In addition to a number of specialties ranging from lasagna to angel hair with mussels, there was a mix-and-match option with four shapes and half-a-dozen sauces. Since Bado’s prides itself on its meatballs, we went for the meatball casserole, with spaghetti and meatballs under melted provolone. Unfortunately, the whole was less than the sum of its parts. The spaghetti was not fully sauced, resulting in bites that were either dry or in need of borrowed marinara (the floe of cheese on top made stirring impractical). Worse, the pasta was mushy and overcooked, making even balanced bites hard to enjoy. A whole canned plum tomato was an oddity that might have added more in a better dish. The meatballs were finely textured and tentatively flavored.
Bado’s mainstay — pizza — is solid, and it’s great to have a family-friendly restaurant where parents can indulge their connoisseurship of beer. Not every diner seeks trendy ingredients or hip “small plates.” Bado’s brand of Italian-American menu might never really go out of style, but its execution did illuminate some reasons to be glad Italian dining has improved so much over the past 30 years.