Pittsburgh post gazette lights, camera, action, eat.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette http://www.post-gazette.com/printer.asp Lights, camera, action, eat: Food Network films Pittsburgh Thursday, July 26, 2001 By Marlene Parrish, Post-Gazette Staff Writer Did you ever wonder what goes into a television production? Like a ﬂy on the wall (maybe thats the wrong metaphor in this case), I shadowed a national production company when it came to town to tape the action in ﬁve local restaurants. A ﬁlm crew from the Food Network was in Pittsburgh last week taping for a show called "The Best of ..." Host of the show Marc Silverstein covers the nation in search of the best cuisine, restaurants and food trends in America. In each half-hour episode, the magazine-style program proﬁles places and people, taking viewers to ﬁve different states in 30 minutes. The show began ﬁlming in February 1999 and went on the air in July. Originally slated for once a week, it Cortney McFarland puts a burger on became so popular its now on every day. the grill at Tessaros in Bloomfield. (John Heller, Post-Gazette) "Our show is more than just good food on a plate," says Silverstein. "Were looking for a story, for atmosphere, for local color. If viewers are hungry after the show, I know Ive done my job and we have a successful show." They ﬁlmed theme shows at ﬁve Pittsburgh area locations: Hyeholde, "Off the Beaten Path"; Old Europe, "Meat"; Cafe at the Frick at the Frick art & Historical Center, "Museum Restaurants"; Gandy Dancer Saloon, "Late Night Bites"; and Betsy Ann Chocolates , "Candy." Because of post-production and scheduling, dont expect to see the shows for four or ﬁve months. For the "Neighborhood Eats" theme, the crew headed to Bloomﬁeld and Tessaros Restaurant, the winner of many awards for the best hamburger in the Burgh. For the six hours that the crew spent there, only four to ﬁve minutes of highly edited ﬁlm will make it to the show. What will make the cut? We watched the taping of background shots for atmosphere and listened to interviews of the customers eating and talking with their mouths full. The crew was small -- host Silverstein, a production gal, a sound man and a cameraman with an industrial-sized camcorder on his shoulder. Things got off to a quiet start around 3:30 p.m. when they interviewed the staff. By 6:30, it was mayhem, with a typical Tessaros crowd in residence. All booths were ﬁlled, the bar was packed, bartenders were splashing drinks as fast as they could pour and slide glasses down the bar, the service bell clanged and folks were already crowding the front door. Dominic Piccola, Tessaros butcher, left, is interviewed by Food Network "And this is just Monday?" asked Silverstein. This is host Marc Silverstein. (John Heller, nothing, we told him. You should be here for rib night Post-Gazette) on Thursday. We followed the camcorder around the room to get an idea of what might be on the show when it appears on the Food Network. Youll get the full background behind the story, because in the end all but ﬁve minutes or so will end up on the cutting room ﬂoor.1 of 3 6/19/11 11:22 PM
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette http://www.post-gazette.com/printer.asp Of the six hours the four-person crew was at the Bloomﬁeld eatery, the actual ﬁlming was about an hour and a half. Thats a lot of leftovers. So heres the story behind the story: Whos who -- Tessaros is a family affair, the Harrington family. Kelly is the big guy with the beard and the main meeter and greeter. When its three-deep at the door, make that ﬁvedeep, hell put an arm around your shoulders and steer you to a place at the bar while you wait for a table. Before you can say "Sam Adams," youll be gabbing with the person next to you. Kellys sister Ena is the day manager, usually seen being efﬁcient, answering the phone, talking to servers, running between the front and back of the house and having a cig at the end of the bar. The woman with the white streak in her hair is Mom, named Tee, (also known as the Force) chatting up customers and keeping the tables moving. That good-looking white-haired gent at the end of the bar is Dad, Dennis, a smart fella who has a law practice Downtown but knows where to get his supper. Siblings who are not associated with the restaurant are Michelle, Lisa, Shawn, Moira, Erin, Pegin and Myles. They all stop in to eat when theyre in the area. Look at the murals in the upper dining room and see how many family faces you can spot. "Hi, how are ya?" -- Tessaros is a neighborhood kind of place if your neighborhood is Pittsburgh. Theres always somebody you know or have seen there before. Sometimes, Tee Tessaro will grab you by the arm and introduce you to somebody, saying, "You two should know each other." Agreeing with this epicenter theory was Phyllis Letwin of Fox Chapel. "Its friendly here," she says. "You always see people you know." With her is Judy Witlin, who moved from Pittsburgh but was in town for a golf tournament. "As soon as I got off the plane, I rented a car and came here," she says. "For some reason, Monday is my favorite day. I had no idea they were ﬁlming." Wheres the beef? -- Dominic Piccola is the ofﬁcial butcher for Tessaros. He comes in once, sometimes twice a day to grind the meat for the burgers, about 100 pounds of top round every day, more on the weekends. He also cuts steaks and trims tenderloins. The trimmings go into the burger mix. He comes in between shifts. Shifts? Piccola, who lives in Bloomﬁeld, is in his 22nd year as a career ﬁreﬁghter, working out of Engine and Truck Company No. 6 at 40th and Penn Avenue. When the TV crew ﬁnished its plans, Piccola was on vacation in Myrtle Beach. No way could he be left out, so the Harringtons ﬂew him in for the day. Therell be no mistaking him on-screen. Hes the sturdy-looking guy with a bushy moustache, a face made for TV and wearing a ﬁremans hat. Gary Luteran of Butler and his siste,r Natalie Alvise of Zelienople, are regulars. She says, "Im willing to come a long way for a good burger. I come at least once a month with my brother." He says, "When I lived in Bloomﬁeld, I ate here every day. And I like the old bar and ceiling, and well, everything about it. Foods great. I love it." Whos cooking -- Back in the glass-walled grill cubicle, Courtney McFarlane is the burgermeister. The 14-year veteran of the wood-ﬁred grill burns red oak and hickory. Its his job to stoke the ﬁre and cook not only burgers and steaks, but ﬁsh and seafood entrees, hot dogs and chops. He works by touch and experience, sending out perfect rare, medium or well-done entrees the way the customer orders. And until it gets crazy in the dining rooms, hell cook the home fries, too. At the busiest times, two other cooks are crowded in the booth giving him a hand. Mr. Do Everything, as Ena calls McFarlane, also subs as butcher when needed. All burgers weigh out around 10 ounces before cooking -- after grilling you get a full 8-ounce burger.2 of 3 6/19/11 11:22 PM