Mosaic Stairway to Dish Osteria: A T&M Pittsburgh Steps & Dine Hike

By Charleen - February 28, 2024

Pittsburgh is known as the City of Bridges, but it also qualifies as the Steps Capital of North America with more than 800 public staircases. Over the past decade, Pittsburgh has become a foodie destination, with its many restaurants and pop-ups. My husband and dog (T&M) have been exploring and mapping out loop hikes of all different lengths and elevations, often walking past fantastic restaurants such as Dish Osteria. One sunny, winter afternoon, it all came together in a 3.3 mile Pittsburgh steps hike ending with amazing pasta, drinks and conversation.

Melia leading the way up the Mosaic portion of Oakley on our summer explorations of South Side steps
Continuing up Oakley St. Steps on our winter Steps & Dine hike
Dish Osteria - Rigatoni alla Scamorza
Summer View from St. Thomas Steps
St. Josephat Church on Mission

Discovering the joys of urban hikes

After we moved from the suburbs into the city of Pittsburgh, we were happy to ditch the car on a more regular basis due to our new proximity to walking, biking, shopping and kayaking routes. My husband and chow chow spent countless hours exploring new urban hikes to replace their forays through the mountains and woods around Seven Springs, and gradually I started to join them. He became especially fond of seeking out Pittsburgh City Steps, recognizable by their characteristic painted metal railings. 

After we took some friends on our first Troy Hill/Spring Garden Steps & Dine hike, stopping for brunch at Threadbare Cider House along the way, they gifted us with a fascinating out-of-print book entitled: The Steps of Pittsburgh: Portait of a City. We soon discovered a website that shows the locations and conditions of public staircases throughout Pittsburgh. 

While writing this blogpost, I discovered that we are not alone in our fascination with the Pittsburgh City Steps. Other people have also made it their mission to climb every staircase, and the steps have been referred to as "vertical bridges" linking different neighborhoods and reminding Pittsburghers of our immigrant, working class history. Thankfully, these traditions continue today, not so much a melting pot as perhaps a salad bowl, enriching our fabulous restaurant scene.

We began exploring the Troy Hill staircases, starting with Rialto St., which leads to fun places like the hidden Troy Hill Art Houses and Scratch & Co restaurant.  T&M have mapped out flexible routes through Troy Hill sporting up to 7 staircase ups and downs, with convenient bailout points for shorter hikes involving 2, 4 or 6 sets of steps. 

We also hosted a Cooking With Friends event that branched off from my dumpling wrapping club, featuring two kinds of lasagna and homemade noodles courtesy of a work colleague from southern Italy. She mentioned that she enjoyed eating at Dish Osteria and DiAnoia's, because they served dishes like you might get in Italy. We have always loved Girasole in Shadyside, and happily added these new discoveries to our list of favorite Italian restaurants.

After thoroughly exploring Troy Hill, Spring Garden and Spring Hill up to St. John's Lutherin Cemetery, then crossing the interstate into Fineview for Rising Main, my husband turned his attention to the colorful Mosaic Steps of the Southside and a series of staircases linking various churches and monasteries that he called his All Saints Hike (before changing to Mostly Saints Hike to accommodate Yard Way, the only street name without an obvious religious link). These explorations often took us right past Dish Osteria around lunch time. Alas, Dish only serves dinner.
Mosaic Steps at Oakley last summer
So on a crisp, sunny day in February, we enjoined a good friend to join us after making a last minute 5 pm reservation for the last bar table at Dish. We combined elements of several prior hikes for a route he is calling the Mostly All Saints-Mosaic Steps Hike, arriving at Dish with perfect timing 4 minutes before opening to join the line of dining hopefuls. The bar seating filled up quickly (the couple in front of us was turned away), and we were glad we had a reservation.

Read on for more information about the steps climbed and sights seen, a restaurant review, and route map with logistics.

Steps and Sights

Mile 1: Mosaic Steps over to Sterling, into South Side Park

Once you ascend the Oakley Way steps, there are several options utilizing different staircases to make your way to the Sterling St. steps, from which the Sterling Connector trail arises. These different staircases all have their own charm, and often a great view. The discussion below includes two options for the Steps & Dine hike to Dish Osteria.

Mosaic Steps at Oakley Way

From the gravel parking lot, walk east on Josephine to S. 27th St., and cross to ascend the Oakley Street Mosaic Steps

This colorful staircase occupies the first segment of the Oakley Way Steps (A; See map below) that extend from Josephine St. to Sumner St. The mosaic pieces were imported from Italy and the staircase decorations were completed in October 2016. 

Unfortunately, this past winter must have been hard on the steps, as the first riser was damaged and crumbling in. And the steps could use a good washing.
At the base of Mosaic Steps on Josephine St. with crumbling 1st step.
Nevertheless, it is still fun to look at the girl's face and all the cute little animals and flowers sprinkled among the risers as you ascend. After the mosaic portion of the steps, note the fanciful decorations that the neighboring houses often display, and the chickens and bees living in the city.
Chickens and bees live here
After you cross the street, continue up the blue-railed staircase, stopping periodically to glance back at the emerging views.
Cathedral of Learning from the Oakley St. Steps
Note the house between Stella and Mission whose only access seems to be these steps -- it's a relatively long climb from the closest possible parking area. 
The closest parking for this house is that street way down there!
This staircase ends at Sumner St., and you will have gone up more or less 341 steps to reach an elevation of ~1,034. 

Turn right on Sumner St, and look for an overgrown path to the right of the street that leads to a staircase (B) that descends 84 steps to Barry St. Stay left, as the right side is quite overgrown and does not connect.
Summertime view of the top of Sumner St. Steps beyond the white picket fence

This takes you to a curve in the road, where you could either go straight on Holt St, looking for the Eleanor St. steps on the right, which will lead down to Mission St (180 steps with nice views), or descend a less impressive set of sidewalk steps along Barry St. 
Looking back up Sumner St Steps from the corner of Barry & Holt
On this winter hike, we went right, down the initial section of Barry St. steps (C) until we got to Mission St. (The Barry steps will take you all the way back down to Josephine for a short loop hike focused on the Mosaic staircase). Eleanor St. has more steps (180) and is more scenic.
Eleanor St. Steps in the summer
From either Barry or Eleanor, turn left onto Mission and walk past the St. Josephat Catholic Church to the intersection with Sterling St.
St. Josephat Church entry

Sterling Steps into South Side Park

Sterling St boasts a long flight of steps (D) to the right of the road, totaling 296 steps to the top at Patterson St.  However, we are only going up about 6 of the 7 blocks, to the Sterling Connector Trailhead of South Side Park. 
Sterling St. Steps heading up from Mission
Continuing up on the Sterling St. Steps
Turn around for views down to the Birmingham Bridge.
Summertime view down the Sterling St. Steps
After crossing Wellington St., start looking for the park trail entrance on the right. Take a photo of the map at the trailhead, as you will join the South Side Trail and aim for the Marengo Connector Trail. 
Entering South Side Park from Sterling Steps.
This past summer, they were just clearing out the underbrush from much of this park. Although it is winter, it is clear they have done a nice job planting numerous new trees. 

As you hike, look down the deep ravine and think about ziplining all the way to the Birmingham Bridge! Near the first trail junction, you will have hiked 1 mile.

Mile 2: Down St. Patrick St. to Yard Way

South Side Park has great views of Oakland and the Cathedral of Learning to the northeast.
View of Oakland from South Side Park
As you walk to the west,  several nice views of downtown Pittsburgh peak through gaps in the trees. 
View of downtown from the South Side Park
View of the PPG building from South Side Park
There are a couple of abandoned steps visible to the left of the main trail, but they do not go anywhere.  They do, however, make a relatively nice spot to sit and enjoy a bag lunch.

The Marengo St. steps (E) are discontinuous, but ascend just to the right of the first set of houses you see exiting the park, before descending. At the end, turn right on Arlington and head to St. Patrick St.
Passing the Yahshua Congregation by the Marengo St. Steps
If you miss the Marengo Connector, no worries. Just take Julia to the parking area and navigate to St. Patrick St. 

St Patrick St. to Yard Way Steps

This next section of the hike consists of an unavoidable walk on a road without sidewalks that winds down between South Side Park and St. Michael Cemetery to S. 18th St. Be sure to walk down on the left side, facing traffic as the intersection with Saber Way near the bottom can be inexplicably busy.
The beginning of a long step-less descent along Saint Patrick St.
You will pass some interesting buildings, such as this extremely narrow house.  
Summertime photo descending Saint Patrick St.
As you approach the hairpin bend, look across S. 18th St. to the steep hillside beyond. You will see a set of 82 steps (F) going straight up the hill to Saint Paul St.  
View of stairs opposite to St. Patrick St, which connects S. 18th St up to Saint Paul St.
Turn right on Saint Paul St, and follow the curve of a ball park to Yard Way. 
Walking to the top of Yard Way Steps
The Yard Way steps (G) descends an impressive 315 steps, past a little playground and some side streets to arrive on Pius St.  
Yard Way Steps near playground

Mile 3+: The Saints Loop

The 2 mile mark occurs as you begin heading down the Yard Way steps. After doing the Mostly Saints loop, you will be descending these steps a second time. 

At the bottom of the steps, walk to the left on Pius St.
St. Michael's Church
After you pass St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church & Rectory Historic Landmark, you will see a round blue sign labeled "Church Route," which points across the street to another blue sign marking the base of the St. Michael St. steps (H).
St. Michael St. Steps
Note that the city website refers to these steps as being on St. Thomas St., but the signage clearly states St. Michael St. Look back periodically as you go up for some nice views.
Looking back down St. Michael's Steps to St. Michael's Church
View downtown
After crossing Hackstown St., jog right to take the steps along Saint Thomas St. across Saint Joseph Way and continue towards Monastery St./Ave. In addition to looking at the steps and scenic views stretching downhill, it pays to look up occasionally. You never know what you might see!
This summer we noticed a dangling segment of telephone pole and were careful not to walk under it.
Although the St. Thomas St. steps continue attractively uphill just past the intersection with Monastery, you will want to turn left onto Monastery St. There are some gradual sidewalk steps on this initial portion (I).
Approaching the intersection of St. Thomas and Monastery, follow the Church Route left.
Head towards the red doors of St. Paul of the Cross Monastery and Retreat Center. Get a glimpse of a mosaic mural by peeking back through the fence as you walk past the graveyard. 
St. Paul of the Cross
Turn left on St. Paul St., and follow the ball field around to descend the Yard Way Steps a second time. 

S. 18th St. Steps to Dish Osteria

On the right of Pius St., a bronze metal street sign with cutout steps marks the difficult-to-see entry to the 18th St. steps, marking the end of the third mile of the hike.
Sign marking entrance to S. 18th St steps
These 140 steps descend a lushly wooded hillside, making a left turn before ending at S. 18th St where it bends north.  
View back up S. 18th St. Steps
Looking back at the base of S. 18th Steps, after arriving in the flat area of South Side
Walk under the railway bridge, and turn left on any of the streets (Edward's Way, Mary St., Harcum Way, Jane St., or Larkin's Way), then turn right on S. 17th St.

Dish Osteria is located at the corner of S. 17th St. and Sarah St.

Dish Osteria: Fabulous Pasta

This small, two room restaurant is big in atmosphere and flavor. A narrow front room is graced with a stamped tin tile ceiling above a long, lively bar and a few tables. There are restrooms at the back, next to a doorway that leads to a quieter, cosy back dining room.

After taking drink orders, the waitstaff brings a complimentary bread basket with a small dish of high quality balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping. 
Foccacia and olive oil with balsamic vinegar for dipping
The house red is excellent, a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Bruni Cellar in Tuscany. It is rich and smooth, complementing the amazing house made sweet Italian sausage admirably. The prickly pear "margarita" mocktail was also delicious, with lime, coconut water, mint and a nice rim of flaky salt.
Prickley Pear "Margarita"
While I was tempted by the pork and beef meatballs, I am glad that my husband ordered the sausage appetizer to share. He had been trying to decide between the Cavatelli and the Rigatoni, as he had always selected the Gnocchi on our previous visits. Our waiter helpfully informed him that he could try the sausage, rapini and roasted tomato that accompanied the Cavatelli as an appetizer.

This Salsiccia e rapini appetizer was amazing. Tender, flavorful slices that were somehow lighter in texture than most Italian sausages I have had. Perhaps the meat was more finely ground, or of a higher quality, and the fennel and other spices were nicely balanced. The flavor was complemented by delicious sweet roasted tomatoes, perfectly cooked, savory soft green stalks of rapini, and a hot pepper. 
Housemade sweet Italian sausage and rapini appetizer
The pasta dishes at Dish Osteria are all stupendously good, each with a distinct sauce that perfectly complemented the pasta shape.

The Rigatoni alla Scamorza Affumicata is one of the best pasta dishes I have had. I enjoyed it immensely the first time I came to Dish in October 2022. The large rigatoni tubes enrobed in a rich creamy Parmigiano sauce is cooked to the perfect al dente texture, with rich smoky notes added by the scamorza and proscuitto di Parma. The sauce is reminiscent of one of my favorite pasta dishes that I enjoyed in Europe -- Hay and Straw with the peas and ham, but the addition of crunchy pistachio nuts with fresh ground black pepepr and parsley kicks the dish up several notches with a pleasing melange of flavors and textures. On this trip, three of us cleaned our plates, spooning every last drop of sauce into our mouths.
Rigatoni alla Scamorza
The fourth elected a larger serving of the aforementioned sausage. The Cavatelli con salsiccia e rapini is truly a beautiful as well as tasty dish. The sausages arrived picture perfect nestled among green rapini, white house-made semolina cavatelli and red roasted campari tomatoes. A dusting of Sicilian pecorino pepato, a sharp, aged sheep's milk cheese studded with black peppercorns, and sprig of basil rounded out this dish.
Cavatelli with sausage and rapini
Our dinners were so perfect, none of us wanted to interrupt the satisfaction in our mouths by even considering dessert.

If Dish has a relative weakness, it would be the salads. Over several visits, we have tried most of the beautifully presented salads.  They are fine salads, but not truly remarkable like the other dishes.
Clockwise from top left: Insalata di Arance e Finocchi, Insalata di Pere e Pecorino, Carciofini alla Griglia, Insalata Mista, Insalata Tricolore
On the other hand, the Grigliata Mista di Mare, or grilled seafood platter, that I had last time was delicious. Every element -- from scallops to calamari, giant Gulf shrimp and swordfish -- was perfectly cooked and tender, with a subtle smokiness complemented by the lemony-oregano salmoriglio marinade. The seafood was accompanied by a saffron risotto and vinegary-sweet Sicilian eggplant caponata. 
Grilled scallops, calamari, wild shrimp and swordfish with saffron risotto and eggplant
Other dishes we have enjoyed include the Gnocchi alla Bolognese, my husband's favorite. His two favorite gnocchi dishes are from Dish and Girasole, which both exhibit a perfect marriage of sauce with silky smooth gnocchi. Dish serves theirs with a ground flank beef and pork shoulder bolognese sauce, generously topped with parmigiano. 
Gnocchi alla bolognese
My husband loves this dish so much that he selected Dish and this gnocchi for his birthday dinner. 
While I enjoyed the grilled seafood, the kids polished off their Cavatelli al Ragu d'Anatra, in a duck ragu with Parmigiano and thyme.
Cavatelli in duck ragu with Reggiano and thyme
The only dessert we have tried was a tasty special -- Flan di Zucca with a beautiful, transparent pistachio brittle.
Flan special dessert
🍃 Green tip: Dish Osteria uses white cardstock takeout containers that are more environmentally friendly than styrofoam.  

Route Map and Logistics


Park at a gravel lot on the northwestern corner of Josephine St and S. 26th St. The #48 bus line stops at this intersection.

The walk back from Dish Osteria to this lot is 0.9 miles. Or you can leave a car parked near Dish for a car shuttle. We pulled into the parking lot sometime around 3:15-3:18 pm, arriving at the base of Mosaic Steps at 3:21, and completing the hike at 4:56 pm, just in time for Dish's 5 pm opening.
Leaving the Josephine St. and S 26th St parking lot, across from the intersection of Josephine St. and Koscuisko Way.  

Map 🐾  

The blue P circle marks the parking area, ascending stairs are shown in purple and descending stairs are shown in green. The dotted line represents an alternative route (Holt to Eleanor St steps) to Mission.

Start and finish of hike are marked by green and red dots, respectively. Stairs that ascend uphill, or mostly uphill, along the route are marked with purple steps, while descending stairs are marked with green steps. Staircases: (A) Mosaic/Oakley St, (B) Sumner St, (C)  Barry St, (D) Sterling St, (E) Marengo St, (F) across from St. Patrick St., (G) Yard Way, (H) St. Michael and St. Thomas, (I) Monastery Ave, (J) Yard Way, (K) S. 18th St. Modified from map generated by Map My Run.
The hike was 3 1/3 miles long, with a total elevation gain of 904 ft (based on the barametric altimeter of Apple Watch series 9 as recorded using the Workout app). It took us 1 hour and 36 minutes at a comfortable pace for a middle aged woman of moderate fitness, who usually brings up the back in most groups. I did not have to take breaks on the way up, aside from brief pauses for photography. The mostly uphill first mile took 31.5 min, 26 min for the second mile descending St. Patrick St, and 29.5 min for the Saints Loop 3rd mile. The remaining 1/3 mile took 9 min. 

The Mostly Saints loop follows the city signed "Church Route", passing multiple cathedrals along roads and staircases named for Saints. However, by joining this route from Mosaic Steps and South South Park, you will miss the cool staircase on 15th St. and Breed St. that leads up to the trestle bridge crossing.
Near Breed St.
Beginning of the Church Route near trestle bridge crossing

Click here to read about our Troy Hill Steps & Dine hike past four restaurants. 


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