Growing up, Julia Gongaware and Sarah Sudar never had any intentions of becoming writers. Today, the Point Park alumni are two of four co-authors of theâFood Lovers' Guide to Pittsburgh,â which was published on Sept. 4.
The book is a guide to over 200 restaurants in the Pittsburgh area. It is currently being sold in local bookstores as well as online on Amazon and the Barnes & Nobleâs website for around $10.
"The Food Lovers' Guide is basically your go-to travel guide for food and food events in the Pittsburgh area," Gongaware explained in a phone interview on Wednesday. "It's more than just a restaurant review. It discusses the experience, what kind of atmosphere you can expect there, what price point and, also, a really great dish that you should definitely try when you're at that restaurant."
The book also includes recipes from local chefs, a calendar of Pittsburgh food events and sidebars, which are short features about topics such as 'How to make a Primanti sandwich' and 'Where to go to a farmer's market,' Gongaware said.
Gongaware, of Jeannette, Pa., earned her undergraduate degree in communications with a focus on advertising at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. Sudar, a native of Hopewell, Pa., studied business administration and marketing at the University of Pittsburgh.
The two met in class at Point Park University, where they both went to pursue masterâs degrees in journalism and mass communication.
"[Point Park] really had everything I was looking for in a program. It focused on journalism and writing, and I knew I could mold the program into more of what I wanted than at other universities in the area," Gongaware said.
While at Point Park, Gongaware and Sudar always seemed to find themselves talking about food. In the summer of 2009, the women, along with two friends, Amanda McFarren and Laura Zorch, decided to start a blog about the restaurants they visited and the food they ate, called Eat PGH, according to Sudar.
In December 2009, the bloggers received an email from a publishing company, the Globe Pequot Press, asking them to write a book for its Food Lovers' series. They agreed, signed the contract and started the two-month process of writing the âFood Lovers' Guide to Pittsburgh,â Sudar said.
"The process was really hectic. We all have full-time jobs, [so] we found ourselves writing and visiting restaurants on the evenings and weekends," Sudar said. "Sometimes you'd have to visit three or four places on a weekend and eat at all the places you wanted to go to and then write about it. We met regularly to go over who was writing what, and we edited each other's stuff, so all of our voices are in the book."
Meeting deadlines was a challenge, but two months of visiting Pittsburgh's restaurants had its rewards.
"We were forced to further examine the city and go to places we normally wouldn't have thought of as quickly. Just finding little holes-in-the-wall that have great foodâ"that was my favorite part," Sudar said.
Splitting the work among four authors who got along so well helped ease the sometimes stressful process as well.
"[Gongaware and Sudar] are both really good natural writers," said co-author Laura Zorch in a phone interview on Thursday. "We had 13-hour editing sessions, so it was good to be around people who were excited about what they were doing and able to laugh."
The book's publication in early September brought about a whirlwind of events for its four authors, including a release party, a book signing and speaking engagements at local libraries, Gongaware said.
The authors use their Facebook page and their Twitter account to connect to their readers.
"We're trying to constantly keep engaged with our fans and supporters," Gongaware said, "and just let them know [about] the very best of the Pittsburgh food scene."