Sprezzatura is an Italian word which, in typical Italian fashion, means so much more than just one word in English. The art of practiced nonchalance, we can all use a little more sprezzatura in our lives—whether it’s at a high stakes business negotiation, a dinner table “eat your veggies or no dessert” negotiation with the kids, or an internal negotiation to choose the latte or the cappuccino when you’re next in line.
If you’re looking for a lesson in sprezzatura, look no farther than Pittsburgh’s very own Jen Saffron. Jen is the owner and chef at Sprezzatura, a heritage-inspired Italian cafe and caterer located in Millvale. Jen pays homage to her family’s time-tested recipes, dishing out food and an energy that just make you feel good about life.
Jen learned to cook from her mom, and she told us she won’t cook anything she wouldn’t eat herself. You better not ask for stale banquet fare like chicken parm when Jen’s catering your next event. What you can expect is a savory veggie lasagna with too many layers to name, herb-infused ricotta stuffed shells drenched in homemade red sauce, and caramelized onion tarts topped with kalamata olives. Oh, and matching biscotti and dogscotti cooked up for you and your best mate by Lorraine (our canine taste-testers wholeheartedly approve of these bakes).
Jen’s story is just as interesting as her menu. With a background in war photography and filmmaking, and service as a Dean at a major research institution, Jen was worried what her peers would think when she decided to leave it all and bite into cooking professionally. During our visit, she recalled her absolute worst day in the kitchen. It was a dreadfully hot day in Arizona, and she was making mistakes left and right. Stepping outside for a break, she saw an old colleague approach. If she wasn’t already sweating, this did her in. She knew he wouldn’t understand why she chose this over a secure, salaried career. Summoning her sprezzatura, Jen chatted with him, and what he said to her was utterly surprising and affirming. “You know, we’re all jealous of what you did.”
In 2018, Jen began catering in Pittsburgh and selling at winter markets when times were tough. This is how she began to realize that she could turn her food gig into a full-time business. Now Sprezzatura is a dine-in cafe in Millvale’s Food and Energy Hub, open for dinner Thursday-Saturday and available to cater your events! We highly recommend you visit for a meal. As part of the EcoDistrict, the Food & Energy Hub is a model for carbon neutrality and repurposing Pittsburgh’s vacant buildings into vibrant community gathering spaces.
Harvie’s launching two of Jen’s amazing recipes that are a must try— Lemony (vegan!) Chickpeas and Artichoke Parmesan Dip. These come to you packaged and refrigerated, ready to nosh. Sign up today to try them out!