Among the items on the to-do list for opening a new restaurant is naming it.
“I was just joking one day, and I came up with Michael’s International Creekside Kitchen, because I think long names are funny, and it just so happened to spell M.I.C.K.,” Michael Marino said, and it also just so happens to spell his father’s first name. “Gotta go with serendipity.”
And so M.I.C.K. is open for business at Pinebridge Commons in Upper St. Clair in the space formerly occupied by Piccolina’s Restaurant, which closed after McLaughlin Run flooded in June 2018.
The name Marino chose reflects his fondness for wordplay.
“If there’s a dish on here that’s not a local pun or a music pun, it’s a family pun,” he said, with several selections named for nieces and nephews. Then there’s Mum’s the Word: “my mom’s favorite pasta.”
That all may be in good fun, but when it comes to what M.I.C.K. serves, Marino and chef Brian Matalik are all business.
“We’re trying to push the boundaries of what we know and what we can serve,” Marino said, “to get stuff that you can’t find in the store and prepare it in a way that you may not be able to at home, and present it in a way that hopefully knocks your socks off.”
The menu features food from mostly regional sources, including Jubilee Hilltop Ranch in Bedford County, Jamison Farm in Latrobe and Laurel Hill Trout Farm in Somerset, “hands-down, some of the freshest stuff I’ve ever seen,” Matalik attested.
Once M.I.C.K. receives its license to sell liquor – it’s bring your own bottle for now – the restaurant will carry beverages that are brewed or distilled nearby, making for some mutually beneficial arrangements.
“That’s important to us, to try to work together with other local producers and partner with them. If we’re going to mention that we use their beer, they’re going to retweet our tweets,” Matalik explained.
At least one connection is not so local, but seafood connoisseurs should enjoy it.
“We also have a fish company out of Honolulu that we’ll be using,” Matalik said. “If I called before noon, I would have what they caught today here tomorrow.”
Dinners are served using a “slow-plate” approach, according to Marino.
“We want to make sure everything is hot and cooked to temperature, so we’re taking our time with it,” he said. “And so far, no one’s minded.”
Laura Buermann, who handles multiple supervisory duties for M.I.C.K., certainly doesn’t.
“I think it makes it more of a dining experience than just a quick bite to eat,” she said.
And there’s good news for diners who have a certain dietary restriction, as the fare is gluten-free.
As far as the new restaurant’s layout, former patrons of Piccolina’s will notice some changes. The interior now is divided into two distinct areas, dining and bar, with an impressively immense fish tank in the middle.
And these days, the lights aren’t quite as bright.
“We have a dark mystique on purpose,” Marino said, “because we let the food shine.”