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Posted in Interviews by burritowizard on February 21, 2010

The Burrito Wizard chatted with the ubiquitous John Roman of Pittsburgh through a series of emails (2/10/10 -2/17/10)

BW: As a native of Pittsburgh, what is your take on burritos?

JR: Growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh during the seventies, burritos were almost like some strange exotic foreign dish.  Everyone takes burrito access for granted now, but I never even had anything passing for a burrito until Taco Bell started to open franchises in our area sometime in the early to mid eighties.  I knew this wasn’t the genuine article, but I kept my eyes open for anything resembling such fare. It wasn’t until around 1990 or so that I was able to find a place that sold burritos and it wasn’t even in the city limits.  Places boasting Mexican food in this area are still somewhat scarce in these parts compared to say San Diego or Chicago.  They’re a bit more abundant, but you still might have to chomp on some turds before you find a place that you can rely on.

BW: I don’t have many nice things to say about Taco Bell these days, but there is no denying what a pioneering effort they made in spreading burritos, and Mexican Food throughout the U.S.  You mentioned Chicago and San Diego, do you have a favorite place, or several worth mentioning??

JR: There’s a place in San Diego that I’ve been to a couple of times.  I think it’s called Pokey’s (Pokez) or some shit like that.  It’s been awhile, but I remember getting hooked up pretty nice for around seven dollars. The place has atmosphere too.  The places in Chicago are a dime a dozen and all look pretty much like anything you’d expect out of that town.  File under “functional”.

BW: I feel like Chicago is to burritos what Chicago is to pizza.  You don’t meet a lot of people outside of Chicago calling it the best.  Speaking of pizza, Pittsburgh: Squirrel Hill: Murray Avenue: who has the best slice?  Are there any good burrito spots in Pittsburgh?

JR: Out of all the places on the Murray Ave strip in Squirrel Hill, Napoli’s is by far my favorite.  Somehow, they get the crust right in that crispy, but not too hard or soft kind of way. Their toppings aren’t bad either.  Pepperoni and roasted red peppers are a recurring combination of mine.  A lot of people tend to lean towards Mineo’s or Aiello’s which are a block down from Nap’s and those places are O.K. I guess, but seem to lack something in the way of craftsmanship.  Napoli’s staff is also a little more personable and it seems like it’s mainly been the same 5 or 6 people forever. Outside of the city there’s Vincent’s which is a whole different ballgame when it comes to pizza.  I don’t think they serve by the slice.  It’s a place that you go to when you have an hour or so to sit down.  Their pizza looks like the surface of the moon and the toppings are piled to somewhat of an obscene degree.  Imagine pepperoni that was chopped up in a tree shredder and whole hot sausage links chopped into about six huge chunks and you start to get the idea.  I guess this sort of tells you what kind of burrito spots there are in Pittsburgh.

Check out John Roman’s current musical projects: microwaves; Brown Angel

Wizard recommends the uniquely Pittsburgh Black and Gold Burrito @:

Mexico City

111 Smithfield St
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

(412) 391-2591