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  Field Notes From
ZipUSA: 15222

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ZipUSA: 1522 On AssignmentArrows

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From Author

Raphael Kadushin

ZipUSA: 1522 On Assignment

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David McLain

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Raphael Kadushin (top) and Remy Drabkin


ZipUSA: 15222

Field Notes From Author
Raphael Kadushin
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    It was great to find an authentic ethnic neighborhood because that's sort of a gimmick for every city now. They all boast that they have a real Italian or Chinese neighborhood, for example, but these areas usually end up being very touristy. What's amazing about Pittsburgh's Strip is that most of the original families who started up its businesses are still running them.
    One of my favorite families were the Spinabellis, who run Parma Sausage. They were delightful. The minute I went in to interview them, the father, Luigi, took out two bottles of Italian wine, and his daughter, Rina, brought a tray of prosciutto, sausages, and Italian bread. We had a picnic in their little office. It was like being in Tuscany.

    Everyone on the Strip insists you eat what they make. Then they literally watch you swallow it. I went to a wholesale fish market to visit this guy who makes fish sandwiches, so he ran and got me one. It was blistering hot and when I bit into it, I spewed it all out. I had this horrific vision of frying my taste buds to a crisp and ending my career as a food critic.
    The man was aghast by my actions, but he didn't say a word. He just got me another sandwich. I was a little uncomfortable and embarrassed, to say the least.

    A Catholic priest on the Strip sold two church properties to bar and club owners, causing an uproar in the Pittsburgh papers. One of the altars was actually turned into a bar, and some people felt that was too sacrilegious. To me, this controversy highlights the split personality of the Strip. While it still maintains some of its traditional roots, such as Primanti's cheesesteak sandwich and family-run businesses, it's no longer the exclusive territory of warehouses and truckers. Trendy restaurants, expensive boutiques, and late-night clubbers have also found a home on the Strip. So there's this kind of balancing act between the old and the new, but in the end everything seems to give way to a sense of joie de vivre.

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