Sweet Home Mt. Lebanon Last April, Stephanie Nardiello, Mt. Lebanon High School Class of 1999, was looking for a way to visit her mother that would abide by social distancing guidelines. They are both artists, so Nardiello decided to sit outside and draw her childhood home on Broadmoor Avenue, while her mother drew flowers on the porch.
When her brother saw the finished product, he asked Nardiello to draw his house across the street. Then her two best friends wanted their houses drawn. Then other requests started pouring in from the Class of 1999. And thus, a business was born.
“I am from Mt. Lebanon. I’m almost fifth-generation Mt. Lebanon,” says Nardiello, who lives in the Strip District now, but still considers Mt. Lebanon home.
She studied oil painting and has a BFA from Indiana University. Now she makes her living as a sales manager, but has been selling her art on the side for many years.
“I have a little studio. When I do oil painting, I do still life,” says Nardiello. “As for landscapes, I really just do houses in Mt. Lebanon … I’m trying to just stick to Mt. Lebanon because that’s where I’m from, and I like the history of the town.”
Nardiello’s house drawings are usually created with oil pastels on 11-by-14-inch paper. Whenever she gets a request, she picks a day, sets up in front of the house under an umbrella and draws until she’s happy with the result. Sometimes her parents, Judith and Robert, join her to keep her company. And once she’s finished—usually in about six hours—she gives it directly to the homeowner.
“It makes me love Mt. Lebanon even more. So many people stop and ask questions or just stay and talk for a while … I feel very lucky to have grown up in such a good community,” says Nardiello.
Crêpes on Cochran Mel’s Petit Café, a French coffee shop and crêperie, is opening at 431 Cochran Road in the former Finders Keepers Consignment Boutique location. At publication time, Melanie “Mel” Streitmatter, a French expat who lives on Arrowood Drive, was on track to open this business by September.
“Because of COVID, I don’t know if I’ll be able to have people sitting outside, or sitting inside at half capacity, or just takeout,” says Streitmatter. “But I will open, even if I can only do online orders.”
Streitmatter, who moved with her husband, Matt, and three sons to Mt. Lebanon eight years ago, regularly cooks traditional French crêpes for her family. When the Cochran Road space opened up, she realized it was an ideal location for a crêperie.
“I know there [are coffee shops] in Uptown, but there’s nothing in this area,” says Streitmatter. “Knowing the owner of La Gourmandine very well, we talked about it, and she thought this was a great idea. They don’t sell crêpes, and we don’t sell what they sell. So the combo of the two on the same street … brings some French culture here.”
Streitmatter plans to sell coffee, tea and espresso drinks, savory and sweet crêpes, waffles and pastries. The savory crêpes, which may include fillings such as ham, egg and cheese and salmon and dill, will contain buckwheat flour, which is naturally gluten free. The sweet crêpes will contain regular flour and various fillings from Nutella to fruit to peanut butter and jelly.
She will cook with a cast iron French crêpe press, and intends to use traditional recipes and styles in all of her creations. “Even the waffles will be traditional, like what you would find in those little booths around Paris.”
Streitmatter expects Mel’s Petit Café will be open Tuesday through Sunday, with prices that are comparable to those of other coffee shops in the area—the most expensive menu items will likely be the savory crêpes, as they are hearty enough to constitute an entire meal.
In addition to some possible outdoor seating and a small indoor dining space, Streitmatter is incorporating a children’s area in the design so that parents can enjoy their coffee and a crêpe without needing to have a small child in their lap.
“We want to keep it as a friendly neighborhood place,” says Streitmatter. “Small, convenient, and with food that tastes good.”
Visit Mel’s Petit Café on Facebook for more information.