Majors Makeovers in the Square

Seriously, sometimes even we need a scorecard to keep up with all the changes going on in Market Square. So just in case you haven't visited the Square for a week or two, you might be surprised to discover a "new" cozy little restaurant with the great big name of Sienna Sulla Piazza. Located in between Nicholas Coffee Co. and La Cucina Flegrea, Sienna is such a fresh face on the Square that a temporary banner hangs over its entrance (at the former Bella Sera Trattoria). Even if the location is familiar, Sienna offers a fresh take on everything from the menu to the decor.

We've got plenty of dining choices on the Square.  So what's Sienna Sulla Piazza's specialty? Chef Matt Porco — Pittsburgh Magazine's 2010 Chef of the Year — tells us that Sienna looks to create an atmosphere that's "upscale" but "inviting" to just about anyone who ventures into the Square looking for a bite to eat anytime of the day. During lunch, the menu features a large selection of sandwiches, flat breads made on the premises and plenty of pasta dishes. At dinner, the selections expand with meat and fish entrees, plus mac and cheese and other sides. And since prices and portions tend to be moderate, Matt says many diners sample an extra course or two.

After operating Mio in Aspinwall and doing a star turn at the Big Apple's award-winning Veritas, Matt returns to his roots in the Square, where his father and uncle operated bars and restaurants in the 1970s and ’80s. "I spent a lot of time here as a kid chasing pigeons," he says with a laugh. But he also earned his kitchen chops — and learned how to grill them, too — in the family-owned businesses.

With Sienna, Matt comes full circle in the Square and is excited to be part of the Downtown restaurant renaissance. He's even moved Downtown to be part of the action 24/7. A major Pirates fan, Matt welcomes Bucco Boosters to stop in for a pre-game meal and rub elbows with the Symphony-goers and Downtown residents — all part of the crowd Matt expects to become regulars at Sienna. Barely a week old, Sienna is growing up fast. Sometime in May, new windows will be installed that will open the entire front of the building to create an al fresco atmosphere inside and out.  Also, look for the wine list to continue to evolve and change in the weeks ahead. Open Monday-Saturday, Sienna accepts reservations by phone or online.

On the other side of the Square, an old favorite is getting a cosmetic touch up with a twist. Instead of modernizing its exterior, the Original Oyster House will transform part of its facade to match the older building's historic exterior on the corner of McMasters Way. The new "old" look will match and complement the age-appropriate appearance of the "original" Original Oyster House, the city's oldest dining establishment. Even though scaffolding already covers the makeover area, the Oyster House will be open for business until the project wraps up sometime in May. Lent may be over but grabbing a lunch of fried oysters like Dad, Grandad, and Great-Grandad did, is something we love all year long.

This is one of the things that makes our city unique, and one of the best places to in the world to visit in 2012 — where old and new traditions live side by side — in Market Square!

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