Anthony Muscato

Dear Portfolio Assessment Committee,

Final Reflection

Throughout the semester, I’ve really enjoyed what we’ve learned. We’ve had many different assignments covering an array of topics and I think this aspect has made the course so interesting. In most English classes, the assignments are very structured. However, in this class, I feel as if we were given a sense of freedom where we could write about something we are passionate about. For example, I have been able to write about our family’s traditional “seven fishes” dinner in a blog post and traditional Pittsburgh foods from the Strip District that my family loves in my food blog. I’ve even been able to write about my favorite summer nights in the Allegheny National Forest in my photo essay. I’ve never been able to write about either of these topics in previous English classes so just these assignments alone are enough to put this English class above all of the rest that I have taken. In addition, I really like how we watched short films and clips like Eat Drink Man Woman and Como agua para Chocolate and analyzed them. I’ve never really done this in a class before.

As for my own personal development, I felt as if my creative writing skills heading into the course were lacking. Dating all the way back to high school, it had been almost two years since I was given a creative writing assignment. Before this course, my writing assignments had been all research based where I read a text or interviewed someone and then analyzed. I was never able to put my own creative touch on any of it. With that said, it wasn’t nearly as hard to get back into the flow things as I thought because of how much more I enjoy creative writing. I believe some of my best creative writing can be seen in “my meal for the class” blog post where I describe what kind of meal I would prepare. In addition, getting to write about the strip district in our food blog assignment was something I had been wanting to do for a long time and also served as a solid example to show off my creative writing skills. There is so much rich culture hidden within the city of Pittsburgh that no one knows about and this assignment was perfect for getting all of that information out for everyone to see.

I enjoyed this assignment so much that I didn’t even consider it as an “assignment” because it was something I enjoyed working on so much. The food blog allowed me the opportunity to further connect with family and friends and even learn more about what the Strip has to offer. If you find yourself passionate about food and film like I am, you will have ample opportunities to write about all your favorites in this course. It is my only hope that other classes had more assignments like this one to take the stress out of school work for a change.

Lastly, I believe my editing processes have improved tremendously over the course of the semester. With all of the writing assignments we have had in this class, there has been a lot of editing that we have had to do as a result. I realized this quickly when I turned in my first blog post describing audience and genre and received a check minus. From there on out, I never took for granted the editing process again. I fully participated in all of the peer reviews, used Dr. Li as a resource, and then ultimately thoroughly checked my work myself. Having so many writing assignments, I developed a system that I believe turned out to work pretty well as long as I understood the assignment correctly. First, I got all of my thoughts down on a piece of paper. Second, I checked to see if my work made any sense; did it flow properly? Third, I found every adjective in the paper and checked to see if there was a way I could make the word stronger. Dr. Li loves detail! Then finally, I read over the assignment one last time checking for small grammatical errors or misspelled words. I will definitely be carrying this editing process with me for my future assignments.

In conclusion, not only do I feel as if I have learned many valuable techniques and strategies from this course, but I feel as if I will be able to take these and apply them to my everyday life as well as other classes moving forward. With that said, this semester has taught me four major lessons. First, the significance of knowing key terms like audience and genre and how to effectively incorporate them into my writing so I can get the most out of it. Second, how to evaluate and synthesize through the many blog posts that were assigned as well as the multiple reviews we had to compose. Third, write both academically in the way we presented our formal reviews and then expressively in the way we presented our food blogs. Then finally, how to reach a final product. This class has made me realize just how important the editing process really is and for that, I am very grateful. This has truly been the most beneficial writing

course I have taken to date and I would recommend it to anyone.


Blog Post: Not Your Average Cookout original.docx (Original)

my meal final.docx (final)


Printed Assignment: updated night blog post.docx (Photo essay, using as my printed assignment)


Research Log: updated research blog.docx


Proposal: Food Blog proposal.docx


Food Blog:


Source: Anthony Muscato


Christmas In The Strip


Now that I’ve explained the history of the strip as well as highlighted some of the hot spots, I’m going to tell you about some of the tradition that exists within the strip. For this piece, I relied heavily on my Gram, a retired seventy-two-year-old woman, who is very familiar with the area.

For many in the Western PA region, people associate the strip with good vibes, great feelings, and hope. This is because it is a top destination for shopping come the holidays. Now, we’re not talking about last minute gift shopping, but instead, grocery shopping for Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner.

It all begins with light-up-night, a classic Pittsburgh tradition that kicks off the holiday season the Friday before Thanksgiving. After this celebration, all of the stores have their decorations up and the streets are decked with wreaths and lights. The best representation of this can be seen right in the center of the strip walking down Penn Avenue. Once early December rolls around, you can see a noticeable uptick in traffic in the strip. You can sense the big day getting closer as more and more people begin to purchase the ingredients they need for the holiday season. The allure of the strip for holiday ingredients is that they are all fresh and authentic, at least, according to my Gram.

For her, the strip district resides in some of her earliest memories. She explained to me how every black Friday, they would go down to the strip and buy all the ingredients they needed to get started on Christmas cookies. My Gram’s Mom was born in Italy and came to the U.S. in her mid 20s and she swore that the strip had the most authentic Italian ingredients. Since my Great gramma, my Gram’s Mom, said this, we’ve been going to the strip every year.

Moving on, my Gram explained how she went down to the strip on Christmas Eve every year from when she was four until she was fifty-six! Every year, there was the same large crowd. There was never a year where she didn’t wait at least an hour in line or where she didn’t run into at least a dozen people that she knew. Listening intently, I asked her, “How come you went down there every Christmas Eve, didn’t you get annoyed with the same lines every year?” She responded, “Well you’ve been going your whole life haven’t you?” I couldn’t stop laughing because she was right! Since we moved back from London when I was seven, I’ve been going to the strip with my family every year on Christmas Eve. I just can’t seem to get away from the holiday spirit.

In my opinion, this says a lot about the strip. There are very few places that people want to travel to where they know the stores are going to be packed. With the strip, it is totally different; people embrace the hustle and bustle. Come the Christmas season, something magical happens within the streets of the Strip. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but whatever it is, it keeps me coming back year after year. Regardless of how finals go, or whatever else is happening in my life, it is something I look forward to and I’m not the only one with this opinion. Everyone in my family feels the same way! Take a visit down to Penn Avenue or Smallman street during the holiday season, you’ll catch the Christmas bug immediately!

“The Strip District: A Place like No Other.” Popular Pittsburgh, 24 Nov. 2014, stripdistrict-3/.


201506010lfgaucho05-4It would be unfair to you if I went this entire blog without mentioning the best restaurant the strip has to offer. Located at the corner of Penn Avenue and the 16th street bridge sits the infamous Gaucho, an Argentinian Steakhouse. Before this year, this restaurant was maybe the strip’s best kept secret. However, due to increasing demand, the owners made the move to remodel and annex the vacant building next to them. Now a full blown restaurant, Gaucho is one of the most popular destinations in the strip district.

I have been coming to this restaurant since it first opened, years before the remodeling. I came close with the owner, Paul, and the workers over the years and as a result of this, I know all of the best options as well as the hidden delicacies of the menu. Now, Gaucho doesn’t have your traditional Polish or Italian dishes that the strip is known for. However, it is still very rich in culture like the other restaurants in the Strip as Gaucho only serves dishes with an Argentinian flare. As a result, Gaucho further exemplifies the rich culture of the strip as it now represents another variety of food that you can find wandering up and down Penn Ave. and Smallman Street.

If you are ever able to make it to my favorite spot, try to bring a friend so you can try the asado (beef) plate. This dish consists of five cuts of beef: the ribeye, strip, hanger, flank, and fillet. Paired with these cuts are sides of grilled peppers and onions and garlic bread that is cooked right alongside of the meat for added flavor. These cuts are some of the most succulent and tender that I have ever had in my life. In addition to the meats, Gaucho offers their signature ajo (garlic) and chimichurri sauces. These sauces go great with all of the cuts. My personal favorite is the ajo but everyone else seems to enjoy the chimichurri more so it is probably best if you give them both a try.

If you don’t think you will be interested in trying the asado plate, trying the spicy chorizo sausage. This is by far the best chorizo I’ve ever had and the grilled peppers that it comes with makes it even better. If you are a fan of a spicy smoky flavor, the chorizo will be great.

Along with the historic sites that exist in the strip, I’d recommend that you stop at Gaucho if you ever find yourself on Penn Ave. You won’t be disappointed.

Klein, Hal B. “Best Restaurants 2015.” Pittsburgh Magazine, 21     May 2015,


Pittsburgh Pride



e06ff23546175464564b6d73b4eb99e0            Located just outside the Pittsburgh metro area exists a quaint old steel town, which has been revitalized into the “place to go” for people living in and around the city. The strip district is truly a unique place as it is seen by many as a microcosm of the Western PA region.

If you look beyond the delicious displays of food that can be found in every window of the Strip, there exists a very unique culture. Being from Western Pennsylvania means you share a strong sense of pride with your community. This dates back to the 1800s when the steel factories began to pop up. During this time, there wasn’t much to do in Pittsburgh; everything revolved around the steel industry. The men worked all day in the mills with one another then came home to their families or went to the bar after work every night. Then the next day, they would do the same thing.

A typical steel town crammed a lot of people into a little area. The houses were built on top of one another right along the river by the mills so it wasn’t exactly the cleanest lifestyle either. In addition, the people lived in these steel communities all worked together and that is how the close knit bond began to form.

In addition, it is not just like a small portion of the city worked like this, everyone did, solidifying the sense of pride that everyone shares. This hardworking culture stuck together as the course of time ran itself and if you take a visit down to the strip today, you will see that this sense of pride and togetherness still exists. You won’t see active steel mills or steel workers, but you will see people that were a part of it along with their children, who were taught the same qualities. This is what makes the strip district so special and appealing today; it is surrounded with hardworking people who are deeply attached to their city that want to provide their customers with the absolute best experience possible.

My Grandma used to own a flower shop on the corner of the 16th street bridge and Smallman street and she confirmed this ideology. Everyone from the area knew one another and everyone worked as hard as they could. While my Gram was working in the shop, my Pap was working in the mills performing back-breaking work with all his buddies. Something about working side by side and suffering through grueling work really brings people together and even though Western PA and the strip are 40 plus years removed from this era, the same mindset still exists. Pittsburghers stand together. It is a region filled with pride and I believe that is what makes towns like the strip so special.

Malady, Matthew J.X. “Where Yinz At.” Slate, 29 Apr. 2014, 2014/04/pennsylvania_dialects_from_pittsburghese_to_philadelphia_speak_the_keystone.html.

Walsh, Victor A. “Across ‘The Big Wather’: The Irish-Catholic Community of Mid-Nineteenth Century Pittsburgh.” The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, vol. 66, no. 1, Jan. 1983.


A City on The Rise

1280px-view_of_downtown_pittsburgh_from_mount_washington_near_the_duquesne_incline            Hidden in the hills of Western PA, just outside of downtown Pittsburgh, exists a hidden treasure that rivals San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf or Seattle’s Pike Place Market. The difference is, not many people know of this hidden treasure referred to as “the strip district.” The strip, as it is more commonly referred to, is one of the most popular destinations for locals and for good reason. Not only can you find delicious and authentic Italian, Polish, Mexican, and even Greek meals to name a few, but you can find great night life and a great social scene. Now, the strip district has not always been this popular. In fact, it has really only been the last thirty years that it has really taken off.

The strip district as we know it today was founded in 1814, by two men named James O’Hara and George Bayard. The small waterfront village was originally referred to as Bayardstown and maintained this name for more than 100 years. Over the course of the rest of the century, the town saw a lot. It served as a significant destination for shipping goods and artillery during the civil war as it is located along the shore of the Allegheny River about a mile upstream from the Pointe (the location where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers meet to form the Ohio River). After the war, Pittsburgh began to develop into a huge steel town, in fact maybe the biggest in the U.S. at the time. This period lasted through the Industrial revolution, well through WWI and WWII, and into the 60s and 70s. It wasn’t until the steel industry started to die down that we began to see an increase in immigration to the area and an increase in popularity with the Strip District. All of the nationalities that moved to the region opened up shops and restaurants in the Strip and brought their cultures with them. This is what makes the strip such a special destination and is something I will illustrate throughout the rest of my blog.

“The Strip District: A Place like No Other.” Popular Pittsburgh, 24 Nov. 2014, stripdistrict-3/.

Walsh, Victor A. “Across ‘The Big Wather’: The Irish-Catholic Community of Mid-Nineteenth Century Pittsburgh.” The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, vol. 66, no. 1, Jan. 1983.

A Trip “Dahntahn”

Some of the best restaurants and shops that exemplify the rich culture within the Strip District are the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company (more commonly known as Penn Mac), Lidia’s, Primanti’s, Pamela’s, Deluca’s, and Wholey’s Fish Market to name a few. Notice the names of these restaurants: they are all named after a person with the exception of Penn Mac. For example, Pamela’s Diner is owned by a woman named Pam Cohen and was opened during the mid 70s. Deluca’s on the other hand has been around even longer since the 1950s and operates under the slogan, “Best breakfast in town since 1950.” To name another, Lidia’s is owned by a woman named Lidia Bastianich, along with her son Joe. Lidia’s however was opened much more recently in 2001, but still follows the pattern of other Strip District restaurants by being named after the owner. It is believed by many, specifically Hal Klein of the Pittsburgh Magazine, that the simple yet personable restaurant names like the ones listed above is a byproduct of the culture that existed within the Strip District during the steel days because everyone was so friendly and close to one another.

Dating back to the steel mill days, a sense of pride started to developed within the Western PA region and it all revolved around the steel industry. At the time, everyone in the city was working in the steel mill or working in the restaurants that people from the steel mills went to. Now, to clarify, this is not a generalization, this is in fact what the culture was like during the early development days of the strip district. Matthew Malady qualifies this in his “Where Yinz At” article, explaining how Pittsburghers are uniquely proud of their city.

So this is where the restaurants’ names came from. After a long day in the mill, it would be nothing for someone to ask, “So are we going down to Wholey’s tonight?” or, “We getting some sandwiches at Primanti’s?” This tight-knit culture still exists in the Strip today and even in the rest of the city for that matter. While these are phrases that I hear day after day back home, Malady even notes of these common phrases.

If you are looking for a bite to eat where the owner genuinely cares about the food they serve you and the service that comes along with it, the Strip District is the place for you. So make a stop down in the Strip District and try a famous “Pittsburgher” sandwich from Primanti’s, a succulent lobster roll from Wholey’s, Pamela’s world famous chocolate chip banana pancakes, or even Deluca’s savory chorizo hash. I can promise you will not be disappointed with any of these options.

Malady, Matthew J.X. “Where Yinz At.” Slate, 29 Apr. 2014, 2014/04/pennsylvania_dialects_from_pittsburghese_to_philadelphia_speak_the_keystone.html.

Schwab, Katya. “Strip District Shops Rich in History and Aromas.” News Interactive- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12 Aug. 2015,