Imagine a five-course rustic Italian dinner prepared from fresh, local ingredients by renowned Pittsburgh chefs, served in a captivating outdoor setting where the beauty of nature and breathtaking cityscape come together to please your eyes as the fine fare pleases your palate.
Now, imagine the sensible price you pay for this experience not only covers your food and drink but also raises funds for a great cause. Sounds like an awesome idea, doesn’t it?
The Friends of Grandview Park (FGP) thought so. And, thanks to the group’s efforts, this dining dream will become a reality on Sunday, Aug. 25, when FGP holds its fourth annual Farm Dinner in Grandview Park.
According to Mary Causey, FGP co-chair and retired Pittsburgh police officer, the group came up with the idea for the dinner four years ago, as a way to raise funds for FGP projects while showcasing locally sourced ingredients, seasonal produce and the talent of Pittsburgh chefs.
Because the first dinner was such a great success, and folks kept asking for more, the group decided to make the dinner an annual event.
In the past, proceeds from the dinner have been put toward many of FGP’s typical expenditures, including park maintenance and beautification, and was used to fund the event board the group placed on the park’s Bailey Avenue entrance in 2009. More recently, proceeds from this one fundraiser have been used to reshape the FGP’s other fundraisers into free events.
As Ms. Causey explained, “Initially, (FGP’s) other annual events, like the Park Bark and Community Day, functioned as fundraisers, too. We sold booth space to vendors at those events, to raise the money necessary to fund our projects and goals. But, with the repeated success of our annual Farm Dinner, all that has changed.
“This year, we were able to take everything we made from last year’s dinner and give it directly back to the community.”
To this end, Ms. Causey said the FGP’s Community Day was entirely different this year than it has been in the past. This year, rather than featuring vendor booths, the event, which was held in June, provided family entertainment and children’s activities. It was open to the public and completely free of charge.
The Park Bark, to be held in October, will also be a little different this year, she said. While there will still be vendor booths at the event, the group will not charge vendors any fees to set up, thereby allowing FGP to promote area business at no cost to those businesses.
Ms. Causey said FGP looks forward to using funds raised from this year’s dinner to continue to offer free events in the future. But, she said, the group has its sights set on another goal as well.
“The fountain on the steps in front of Grandview Park has been shut off for approximately 25 years,” Ms. Causey lamented. “It’s our goal to get it turned back on.”
As the park is city-owned property, Ms. Causey said she contacted the city to see what was needed to get the fountain up and running again—and what’s needed is approximately $20,000.
“That’s a lot of money,” Ms. Causey noted. “We’re trying to see if the city will split the cost with us, or hoping that a generous benefactor will take up the cause; but, whether we get outside money or not, this is something we want to do, and we’ve decided to dedicate a portion of our proceeds (from the Farm Dinner) to achieving this as soon as possible.”
FGP’s goal of bringing the “dolphin fountain,” as many area residents call it, back to life dovetails its general mission to revitalize both Grandview Park’s appearance and its reputation.
Looking to the history of FGP, Ms. Causey said the group developed more than ten years ago to counteract the negative publicity the park had received for decades following an unsolved crime that occurred on its grounds.
“A bunch of us got together to reinvent the way people look at Grandview Park,” Ms. Causey stated. “We wanted to generate a positive outlook, so we committed ourselves to making the park a beautiful, safe place that people could utilize.
“Since we started, we’ve been able to bring events, activities and amenities to the park that have drawn people in and given them interesting ways to enjoy themselves, meet other people and learn about their neighbors and neighborhood.”
The Farm Dinner is one such event, reflecting FGP’s efforts as well as its achievements. The remarkable fine-dining experience wouldn’t have been possible in the Grandview Park of, say, 15 years ago, Ms. Causey acknowledged, but the group has changed the face of the park so much over the years that there is no question of its suitability now.
“Though there’s still a lot we want to accomplish with the park, and our work will never be done, we’re proud to have reestablished it as a place where people can bring their families and pets for everyday fun… and can come out for different community events, like the spectacular Farm Dinner we have planned for this year.”
This year’s Farm Dinner will be presented by host chef Ricci Minella, founder/chef of The Burgh Bites Cart, a mobile lunch cart in Shadyside offering gourmet specialties for foodies on the go.
The tentative menu for the five-course rustic Italian meal includes, among other things, zucchini salad; a beef, mushroom and peach dish; homemade pasta with San Marzano tomato and basil sauce; and, smashed rosemary potatoes topped with braised pork butt, sweet and spicy pepper barbecue sauce, homemade pickles and herbed sour cream.
Vegetarian options will also be available, and fresh baked bread from an on-site wood-fired oven will be served, as will local wines.
Joining Chef Minella in the kitchen are Chef Michael Mercurio, owner of Mercurio’s in Shadyside; Chef Micah Maughan, sous chef at Root 174 in Regent Square; and, Chef Jon Tryc, chef at Il Berloni in the South Hills—each of whom masterminded one of the courses.
As each course is served, the chef behind it will present his dish to diners, describing how it was made and where the ingredients came from, and stressing the importance of local use and sustainability.
Tickets for the dinner can be purchased for $90 per person and must be acquired prior to the event.
Get your ticket(s) by calling FGP at 412-589-9586 or by emailing Ms. Causey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Seating for this event is very limited. Only 100 tickets are available, and, in the past, the event has sold out very quickly.