There’s a new restaurant to add to your must-try list in East Liberty. This time a vegan takeover in the old Union Pig & Chicken and Porked spot at 220 North Highland Avenue. Giving the space a new green spin—from the walls to the food—are Lawrence County natives Chef Anthony Palumbo and his wife Diana Palumbo.

Open 11 am to 7 pm Tuesday to Sunday, Sia’s Garden Grown features a mix of grab-and-go deli food perfect for a quick lunch or dinner as well as warm made-to-order meals like their famous Shepherd’s pie made with lentils, black-eyed peas, toasted farro, parsnips, onions, carrots, and potatoes. Anthony and Diana’s Greek and Italian heritage can be felt across the menu, from their eggplant agro dolce and chicken Milanese sandwiches to their Sicilian grain salad and seasonal bread pudding. You’ll also find vegan “junk food” like Beyond Sausage brats and soy and pea protein buffalo wings.

We spoke to Anthony to learn more about the couple’s first restaurant venture in the heart of East Liberty. He shares their winding journey to opening Sia’s Garden Grown and what they are bringing to the neighborhood.

Dive in below!

What made you and your wife want to start Sia’s Garden Grown?

I’ve been in this industry my whole life as a chef. I worked at the Duquesne Club downtown and have been the general manager of a country club as well. But my wife and I always wanted to open up a 100% plant-based and vegan restaurant. My wife has been vegan for over a decade, and I’ve slowly moved in this direction as well. Initially, we were going to purchase another vegan restaurant in Ohio, but in March 2020, a tree fell on my wife and daughter, and she had a long recovery. It was tough. I was at home for about a year taking care of her. I eventually went back to work, but we still had our dream, so we kept looking. This place came up, and we thought it was perfect for our concept and idea.

Anthony and Diana Palumbo’s decided to launch their first restaurant venture in the heart of East Liberty at 220 North Highland Ave. | Photo by Kristy Locklin, Pittsburgh Magazine

How did you guys start envisioning what you wanted to create at Sia’s Garden Grown once you found the place?

My wife is Italian, and part of her Italian heritage is Sicilian. My heritage is mainly Italian and Greek, so we are using those cultures that we grew up around as influences in what we do here—and there are a lot of things that are accidentally vegan from those cultures as well.

We also took inspiration from the space. It’s a bright space—a lot of light comes in the building—and the communal style seating that was here fit perfectly for what we wanted to do. We’re doing a lot of grab-and-go. If you come here, you’ll see a deli case with a lot of sides, desserts, drinks, and things of that nature. Then we have a made-to-order side of the menu as well that changes weekly. On that side of the menu, you’ll see things like Beyond Sausage bratwurst on pretzel bread with sauerkraut and onion mustard. So, we’re walking the line between some of that good whole food that is just legumes, grains, vegetables, and then also some vegan junk food that is pretty popular.

Sia’s Garden Grown in East Liberty serves a wide array of both made-to-order and grab-and-go vegan food.

Why did you choose to open in East Liberty?

This little section of East Liberty just feels right for what we’re doing. We like what the neighborhood is right now, and we’re excited about what it can be in the future. Also, part of our customer base is going to be young people or college students, and we’re close to both CMU and Pitt, so that also plays into it.

What do you hope to add to the community?

I hope a lot. We’re a family-owned business offering a different style of food. We’re doing things in a way that no one else in the area or city is really doing. Also, this is our home now, so we want to take care of it. My wife was laughing at me before we opened, because I brought our weed whacker down here and was weed whacking around the building. We’re going to try to take care of our own and be a positive member of the community by supporting other businesses in the area, through collaborations or even just buying food or things from people in the community, which I think is important.

What makes Sia’s Garden Grown unique?

We like to add our special touches. For example, we have a reverse osmosis water system, and we make our ice cubes out of coffee for our iced coffees and with dragon fruit for our iced matcha lattes. So, if you get your iced coffee or iced matcha and go back to the office, it will be diluted with coffee or dragon fruit, not with ice, which I think is neat. I also put a lot of love and experimentation into making our vegetables flavorful. When you’re just using vegetables, beans, potatoes, etc. to make something, you have to add more flavor somewhere, for example, through certain types of vinegar, seasoning, or spices. It’s been a lot of trial and error to figure it out. We settled our Shepherd’s pie by using 50-year-old sherry vinegar, which is amazing to me. That is one of the cool parts of working with food—thinking that someone made this vinegar a decade before I was born, and now I’m here cooking with it. I think that product specifically enhances the flavor of the vegetables and the pie in a way that nothing else can.

➡ Be sure to check out Sia’s Garden Grown the next time you’re in town!

➡ Get to know more East Liberty neighbors.