Ki Pollo Restaurant Creates Cultural Melting Pot by Alex Young

Dominic Branduzzi, Claudia Moyano, Roger Li | Photos by Alex Young & Sophia Dyke

People looking for a bite to eat can find an array of food in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood. The authentic Italian restaurant Piccolo Forno that specializes in handmade pasta and wood-fired pizza, as well as a Japanese pub called Umami, and Ki Ramen, an establishment that has their own in-house Japanese noodle, offer tasty options. Dominic Branduzzi and Roger Li, both 35-years-old, own the respective restaurants and have a partnership along with 40-year-old head chef Claudia Moyano who cooked at Umami and Ki Ramen.

Now, the trio continue to mix ethnic influences into their food and into their newest eatery called Ki Pollo. Cultural backgrounds like Lucca, Italy origins for Branduzzi, Korean-American heritage for Li, and Mendoza, Argentina origins for Moyano, form an intriguing experience and tasty menu at their four-month-old street food restaurant that Branduzzi, Li, and Moyano own and operate together.

Like its sister restaurant Ki Ramen, Ki Pollo sits in Lawrenceville bringing "new things to the table," according to Branduzzi.

Mouths are drawn to the niche dishes Ki Pollo serves. Korean style fried chicken and empanadas create "different options" for customers to try Moyano said. The cuisines mesh well in Lawrenceville because it’s "a food destination," Branduzzi said, and comfort food "fried chicken brings everyone together."

Branduzzi moved to the United States when he was four, and he's owned Piccolo Forno and the Grapperia bar at the restaurant's rear for 13 years now. Li has 14 years in the 'Burgh's restaurant business. His first New Moon restaurant was on the North Side next to PNC Park. Additionally, chef Moyano is a 10-year veteran in Pittsburgh kitchens.

With experience in the restaurant scene, the Pittsburgh transplants and business partners were curious to find "what else could Lawrenceville use," and "what would people gravitate towards," Branduzzi explained.

"In our travels, we had eaten some really good fried chicken, Korean style fried chicken in Philly especially," Branduzzi said. Li remembers “growing up in restaurants” in his native Philadelphia, working for his family. “The only job I had was in the kitchen,” Li said.

The Korean style fried chicken from their travel matches Moyano’s empanadas, a staple dish in Latin countries. “Every country has a different variety of empanadas,” Moyano said. She likes her empanadas with beef, although other choices like chicken and shiitake mushroom are on her menu.

Love and I ate Ki Pollo on a Friday night just before close. Rhythmic Latin music like the song “Amor Silvestre” played through stereo system. The four-piece fried chicken with sweet but savory bao buns came quickly accompanied by the Pollo empanada with a side of rice and beans. Fresh pieces of chicken breast, drumstick, thigh, and a whole wing got washed down with our own Blue Moon booze. Enjoy the perks of BYOB at no additional cost.

Branduzzi notes that the cultural "duality here" welcomes “families,” Moyano finished. Young people in the ‘Burgh’s creative scene frequent Ki Pollo too. Chanice Lazarre, the head of marketing and management for rapper NVSV and the Library Collaborative record label, spoke to her colleague musician Smitty (SMTATOE) at the Library in the South Hills. “You should try Ki Pollo,” she said. He looked curious as Lazarre put Smitty onto something new. “Ki Pollo, the fried chicken and empanada spot. It’s bomb.”

While the Lawrenceville restaurant attracts different types of people from varied city regions for meals, “more diversification would be the thing I hope to see in the next five to ten years in Pittsburgh,” Branduzzi said. Selections like “good Filipino food, good Cuban food, or good Mexican food” will boost the environment and make the food climate even more of a cultural mainstay.

As an American, it’s all about the melting pot.
— Dominic Branduzzi

The melting pot creates various tastes like those at Ki Pollo, which Li wants people “to feel that they will crave,” he said.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Vibes x Spring Break by Alex Young

Ashley Graham - photograph by  Miss Chelsee

Ashley Graham - photograph by Miss Chelsee

“First off… VIBES!”

Previous Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover model Ashley Graham made it very clear what was most essential at S.I.'s Swimsuit Vibes event that took place in Houston, TX on February 17 and 18 at Post HTX, which was also the venue for art and music festival Day For Night.

And indeed, Vibes were at an all time high.

With nearly 1 in 4 Houstonians born abroad, Clutch City is known for not only Bé and DJ Screw, but also for great international heritage.

Houston's international qualities made it an obvious choice to host this year’s S.I. Swimsuit Vibes, an event that showcased chefs and a S.I. Swimsuit Rookie Class that showed us how beauty can truly be found all over the world.

The S.I. Swimsuit 2017 Rookie Class, which consists of 7 models, represents 6 countries:

Bianca Balti (Italy)

Kelly Gale (Sweden/Australia)

Lais Ribeiro (Brasil)

Mia Kang (Hong Kong)

Vita Sidorkina (Russia)

For many of the models it was their first trip to Space City, so they certainly enjoyed the sensational hospitality.

Time Inc. teamed up with DIRECTV™ NOW, Edge, Lexus and Smirnoff and VisitHouston, to bring attendees an array of free and ticketed events. Free autograph sessions featuring the S.I. Swimsuit models, and live culinary art demonstrations hosted by Cruising Kitchens and some of Clutch City’s finest restaurants were accompanied with two Red Carpet events with shows from performers, like Miguel and Diplo. Also, Houston has over 8,000 restaurants and 24,000 chefs. #UltraHighResolution chef, Johnny Bling was in attendance chewing on the other carats you floss.

Miguel at S.I. Swimsuit Vibes - photograph by Miss Chelsee

Miguel at S.I. Swimsuit Vibes - photograph by Miss Chelsee

Since Spring Break is here, we urge you to eat swell while indulging in #openbarhenny on those white and blue ocean sands. Buttery avocados and lime squeeze on your ceviche is only what’s best for your ‘Sol’…I prefer caipirinha’s myself. If you prefer Mallorca or Mykonos as your destination of choice, try this Vegan recipe for your aguacate. Remember to show how you truly #LoveYourSwimsuit that you spent countless hours shopping for online. It looks amazing by the way.

Special thanks to the staff at Rogers and Cowan for their help and engagement as a liaison to the ITR staff!

With Friends at Culture by Alex Young

With Friends photographed by  Keep Pittsburgh Dope

With Friends photographed by Keep Pittsburgh Dope

The meeting place was Culture, there, people With Friends enjoyed a new bar and restaurant in Downtown, Pittsburgh while they detailed their efforts that advocate for arts, creativity, and culture in Pittsburgh.

Their mission was and continues to be offering minorities the opportunity to showcase and enjoy the arts.

Amidst the fanfare and the heavy foot traffic from the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival, Sean Beauford assembled Thomas Agnew, Alysia Beauford, Amani Davis, Tara Fay, Lauren Goshinski, Steve Gurysh, Hannibal Hopson, Lexi Jones, Darrell Kinsel, Ivan Rodriguez, Anqwenique Wingfield, and Alex Young at the restaurant with tasty American comfort food.

African Americans in working attire and casual wear frequented the restaurant with a retro, white and black tiled floor. Drinks stacked the wall behind the wooden bar.

Chef Claude Pierre, the owner of Culture, personally showed our group hospitality. He talked about the establishment's one-year history and gave us a tour of the Seventh Street building.

Briefly, Chancelor Humphrey of lifestyle platform Keep Pittsburgh Dope popped in to mingle With Friends seated at the reserved table. He broke from his photographic coverage of the Jazz Festival to document our group at Katz Plaza next to Culture and on the bar's rooftop, which has close views of the EQT, K&L Gates, and PPG Place skyscrapers.

Together, curators, gallery owners, artists, business owners, managers, students, journalists, and singers' work speak to hardships, icons, and triumphs of black life.

Sean explained the purpose of our gathering, "start a culture club to experience new things in the city."

The motivation is to get people of different cultures to explore new arts and have new experiences with their friends. People are less partial to do or attend something if their friends do not go or the atmosphere is unfamiliar. "Think of it like this, you are not going to the ballet by yourself," Sean told me. "But, if there is a whole group of us that go, you can find some appreciation in that."

Essentially, our meeting at Culture demoed the idea for Sean's club, With Friends, a warm group of art-interested people who want to share, advance, and understand various creativity in Pittsburgh.


Spilling The Beans at Gaucho by Alex Young

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina by InTheRough

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina by InTheRough

Inside Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, a restaurant in Pittsburgh's Strip Distrcit that is craved by many, a Boston food blog prepared to review the food and the experience. Known as Spilling The Beans, the blog's founder, Tara, ordered Carne Con Pan, meat with bread, and specifically a steak sandwich on a thick piece of ciabatta.

Motivated by Gaucho's popularity, pursuits in online journalism, and high school friendship, I accompanied Tara for lunch.

The restaurant gets attention not only for its food, but also for the line wrapped around Gaucho's building that people see walking or driving by. Tara, tasting her wood-fired, grilled steak sandwich, and I, eating a chicken salad with field greens and mixed vegetables, determine Gaucho is good. The tasty food brings people back for more and the buzz around the establishment attracts people for a meal.

From the pink hair and dreadlocks worn by two of the servers, to the bull horns mounted on the wall, a hip, western (Gaucho translates to cowboy in Spanish) ambience greeted Spilling The Beans and InTheRough's conversation.

Photo by Spilling The Beans

Photo by Spilling The Beans

Back in February, Tara learned the adage, "there's no such thing as bad publicity." She wrote an honest article about Loyal Nine, a Cambridge, Mass. American style café, saying, "their actual food recipes could have used some help." Tara made the comments to alert future customers that the $20 meal ticket did not match the food's quality.

A student at M.I.T., where Tara attends, caught wind of Spilling The Beans and Tara's review. Taking to 'M.I.T. Confessions,' a thread of tell alls about university life, the student whined because Tara spent a substantial amount of money on food only to criticize the restaurant. The disgruntled student provided a link to the post, and STB's views skyrocketed. Tara's friends reached out in support, praising her hobby as informative and helpful.

"Unbiased journalism is incredibly important to earn readers' trust. Calling a place out for having subpar food isn't terribly enjoyable, but neither is lying to your readers," Tara said.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Tara waited until she arrived on campus in Cambridge to begin blogging about all kinds of food Boston offers. Her website,, houses a database of restaurant critiques and enticing food visuals.

Photo by Spilling The Beans

Photo by Spilling The Beans

Asian food is Tara's favorite, although categories on her site extensively list African, Indian, Mediterranean, and other food types in locations extending beyond Boston, like D.C., Los Angeles, and Taiwan.

Interestingly, Tara's personal life creeps into her blog posts. "I think that blogging is able to connect me to both the people I'm close to and to people I don't know at all," she said. "It's a nice way to update friends and family I don't see as often. For those who don't know me at all, they get to learn a little about my life, and also learn about a restaurant that I'm reviewing."

The personal attention Tara feeds Spilling The Beans turns the blog into a food diary. Her travels allow her to experience new cultures, tastes, and thoughts.

Now, she debates expanding Spilling The Beans to invite more writers to cover more restaurants. Although, her main priority is maintaining authenticity and thorough qualities that boost the site. Tara is achieving that goal herself at the moment and has done well proving her legitimacy to the restaurants she reviews. Some gift her free meals and thank you notes.

In Boston or "not Boston," Tara is always eating and uses food as a guide to gain different perspectives on life.


1601 Penn Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Ghetto Sauce - "Taste So Good Make You Wanna Smack Your Mama" by Alex Young

Photo by Amani Davis 7/5/15

Photo by Amani Davis 7/5/15

Ghetto Sauce was created by Freddie Lee, it took him 20 years to finesse this bomb ass sh*t. The sauce’s website claims you can put it on: ribs, meatloaf, steak, hamburgers, grilled salmon, chicken, fish, spaghetti, Bloody Mary mix, chili, baked beans, even soups and pizza. I have discovered myself to be very partial to the chicken and baked beans recipes. Ghetto Sauce is available at the Historic Soulard Farmers' Market in St. Louis, in grocery stores, and online. In many ways does this sauce make basic foods delectably ghetto.

Unfortunately, all who enjoy the sauce do not share in romanticizing the ghetto experience. The St. Louis grocery store, Shnucks, thought their customers would be offended by the name “Ghetto Sauce” and changed the name to “American Gourmet Sauce”. To me this is as consistent with St. Louis’ treatment of its marginalized populations as ever: ignore their existence as much as you can, and appropriate their contributions as quickly as possible. Fortunately, an article came from a STL paper about the name change and it popularized the sauce like never before. The flavor of Ghetto Sauce is one of a kind, and the name is icing on top of the cake. Comical and true to the legacy of the people who birthed it, “Ghetto Sauce” should be a household name. It represents the American dream; but also the worst nightmare of some of the very same people who coined the phrase.

Photo by Amani Davis 7/5/15

Photo by Amani Davis 7/5/15

What is incredible about Ghetto Sauce is it tells the same tale of the African American narrative: making pleasure from pain. It seems that nothing good should ever come from the ghetto, but the marginalized populations in America prove time and time again that they can make something from nothing. Ghetto Sauce is yet another example of this undying reality. I will say personally this sh*t is the most fire sauce ever. EVER.  Over the summer I threw down on some incredible veggies, beans, steak, burgers—and obviously—bomb ass wings.

Ghetto Sauce means, “We come from the ghetto and still do positive things”. It is a reminder of the value the most oppressed people in this nation have, and the hope that lies in staying true to oneself. It is remarkable when people use the tools around them to produce positive things for not only themselves, but for the mainstream population.