"I love the city and my writing is really just a reflection of that love."
Virginia Montanez has directed communications and still serves such area nonprofits as Genre's Kids with Cancer, Haitian Families First and the Mario Lemieux Foundation's Make Room for Kids project.
Since 2009, she and her husband have operated Las Velas, a successful Mexican restaurant in downtown’s Market Square. A native of North Huntingdon, Westmoreland County, she and husband, David, and their two children settled in nearby Irwin.
But her “Pittsburgh story” in the minds of many media watchers started a decade ago, when she became an anonymous caped crusader and hater of pigeons known to the world as the blogger “Pitt Girl.” In a region with a lot of writers and people dabbling in social media, she quickly made a mark.
“There were so many things I had opinions on, but no one to really vent them to. Not only that, I was a writer at heart and had been since I was a teen, and was just thirsting for a creative outlet,” Virginia says.
She’s dabbling in understatement there. That “outlet” exploded, leading throngs of thousands to wonder who, exactly, was penning these oft-pointed but always-entertaining little musings, sometimes on local sports teams, sometimes aimed at local officials, often just targeting the hearts of people who call or called this town their own.
Politicians shuddered at her critiques. Journalists ran in circles trying to find out if she was in their ranks. Other bloggers jumped into the fray. So with pressure growing and would-be outers closing in, Virginia unmasked herself after three years. Under her own name, she now pens a monthly column in Pittsburgh magazine, blogs at PittsburghMagazine.com and -- if she needs to use “potty words” -- at ThatsChurch.com.
“I don’t consider myself a political blogger or an entertainment blogger or a sports blogger, although those are all hats I'll put on at one time or another. I'm a Pittsburgh blogger,” she says. “If it has to do with our people, our leaders, our culture, our sports teams, our past, our future, our problems -- I'll write about it. I love the city and my writing is really just a reflection of that love -- opening others' eyes to it, too, hopefully. “
She’s a self-described “restaurant widow” because, in her words, her husband’s also married to the family business. She spends hours there helping run the operation and spreading the good word, though she’s reluctant to gloat or brag. Oh, and she’s a full-time mom, no small task.
But her words, not her husband’s spicy dishes, burned themselves into Pittsburgh’s palette during Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s seven-year tenure, which dovetailed with her own meteoric rise – and not coincidentally. She chronicled “Luke’s” ups and downs religiously.
“Locally, I don't give a crap if there's a D or an R after any candidate's name. I just want what is best for Pittsburgh, and I'll support the people I think will put their literal blood, sweat and tears into their jobs to better the city,” Virginia says with a laugh. “The ‘Good Ol' Boys’ can kiss my grits.
“My mantra is this: ‘The best thing about Pittsburgh is that it's a small big city. Or a big small city.’ ” she continues. “That means we enjoy world-class culture, passion-stoking sports teams, abundant recreation in a city small enough that you might see a few familiar faces as you stroll to lunch on Grant.
“It's not a seething mass of humanity. It's just perfect. The right size for us to really take advantage of city living and all the good things that brings to us, without being lost in the crowd. You can make a difference here. You really, really can.”
Take her word for it, kids.