Square Dealings

Yes, school bells are ringing all over the area  — a sure sign that lazy summer days are nearly over. As autumn approaches, you can count on the Farmers Market to fill Market Square with the freshest local produce, meats, dairy products and homemade prepared foods each Thursday from 10am - 2pm through November 8.

And while you're in the Square selecting the best of this season's crop, we're inviting you to pull up a chair and enjoy another free lunchtime concert. This week's musical offering features singer Jess Sides, who teams up with partner Roby Edwards on the saxophone, to perform under the group name: Love Addiction. We're sure you'll get hooked by this local talent who blends rock, blues and folk into a style that's all her own.

Area bikers will create a little heavy metal thunder in the Square this Thursday evening as they roll into Downtown for the final ride of this year's Iron City Bike Nights in Market Square. Along with special bike-only parking zones on Forbes Avenue and all around the Square, the season finale will rock the night away with the smooth sounds of Tres Lads. Get your motor runnin' in the Square at 6pm for this revved up evening of bikes, music and fun — and remember, non-bikers are welcome too. Take advantage of the nightly Valet Parking after 5pm for cars in Market Square for only $5.
Everyone knows that Market Square is one of the City's hottest dining destinations, but the menu selection will be getting a little bigger and more diverse in the coming months. If you're a Square regular, you've notice that the space between Moe's Southwest Grill and Starbucks Coffee is undergoing a face lift. The fact is, there's a pretty big transformation going on inside too. That's because the Square's newest eatery will soon welcome visitors to enjoy authentic Italian meals at Il Pizzaiolo.

If Il Pizzaiolo sounds familiar, that's because it's been a favorite on the Mt. Lebanon dining scene for years. As workers reconfigure the new location's four floors into restaurant space, owner Ron Molinari promises that his Downtown menu will feature many of their well-known pizzas, paninis, and pastas prepared in the Neapolitan style.

After years of deciding on opening another restaurant in other parts of the City — including Downtown — Ron decided that now was the time and Market Square was the place to do it. He chalks up his decision to the overall improvements in Downtown and the restaurant revival in and around the Square. While Mt. Lebanon diners enjoy the relaxed atmosphere at Il Pizzaiolo on Washington Road, the location in Market Square will serve customers at a brisker pace during what is an already busy Downtown lunch-hour. After work, however, the Il Pizzaiolo due will get a little more mellow during happy hour and dinner with the help of an expanded choice of wines, beers, and cocktails.

Sure summer is winding down, but remember: there's always something happening in the Square. See you there!


Pens Score in the Square

Birds of a different kind of feather will flock in Market Square this Tuesday when penguins from Pittsburgh's National Aviary drop by for the final KidsPlay session of the summer. Starting at 10am, youngsters can "Meet a Penguin" and learn more about these amazing black-and-white birds that can't fly but sure can maneuver Gold Medal Olympian Michael Phelps in the water. They can reach speeds of 15 miles per hour and hold their breath for a really long time! One of these South African natives will star in this final Tuesday of KidsPlay that teams up with the Carnegie Library Tuesday Reading Room for a special bird themed morning of entertainment and education.

Of course, penguins don't breathe fire. But another type of creature with wings certainly knows how to turn up the heat. This week, the Dreamworks' How to Train your Dragon Live Spectacular sets up at the CONSOL Energy Center for a multi-media extravaganza performance of flying mythical creatures, Viking warriors, artists and acrobats who attempt to bring more than 20 fire breathing dragons under control. As part of this week's closing ceremonies for KidsPlay, a few select youngsters will have the chance to win a family four-pack of tickets to enjoy one of the magical, all-ages performances during the show's run from Aug. 23 - 26.

Once the Aviary's penguins head for home, you might just want to stick around in the Square to watch Steel Dragon, a local martial arts and dance group, perform a lion dance at noon. This Asian infused show is a much anticipated sneak peak of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's "Year of the Dragon" gala scheduled for Sept. 15 at Heinz Hall.

You can discover how to get smart — or even smarter — in the Square on Wednesday during the second annual Education Fair presented by the Continuing Education Association of Pennsylvania. Students of all ages and backgrounds are invited to learn how they can earn certificates, degrees and diplomas of all types to increase their IQ's and improve their job status, too. Counselors will be on hand to help participants study-up on scholarships and financial aid to help them shoot straight to the head of the class. Be there from 10am - 2pm for this textbook lesson on furthering your education goals.

Finally, the Square goes to the dogs, cats and just about every other type of pet you can imagine when the Animal Rescue League of Western Shelter & Wildlife Center holds its Pet a Puppy, Cuddle a Cat event on Friday from 11am - 1pm. For just a dollar, animal lovers can spend some personal time with one of the adorable dogs or kitties that are looking for a good home. Sponsored by the Honors Program at Point Park University, this four-legged fundraiser packs plenty of animal attraction.

Summer vacation might be almost over, but there's still plenty going on in the Square.


Fine Forecast on the Square

We don't need a crystal ball or Doppler radar to predict that this will be one great week in Market Square. Rain or shine, the weather report will be just fine as WPXI-TV chief meteorologist, Stephen Cropper, drops by the Square on Tuesday during KidsPlay, from 10 - 11:30pm. Stephen will make sure that everyone keeps better trained eyes on the skies with an interactive weather forecasting demonstration to help youngsters and adults better understand high pressure systems, low fronts, and barometer readings. The kids will hear about all of the cool — or hot — factors that enable him to figure out the weather each day and let us know if we need to bundle up, cool down or bring along an umbrella when visiting the Square. Joining Stephen, the Carnegie Science Center's Science on the Road team will park in the Square to provide everyone with even more insight behind the business of TV weather forecasts. Of course, all the regular activities — from storytelling and craft making, and even the Carnegie Library's "Reading Room" from 11am - 2pm — will be apart of the fun, too.

Once our junior weather trackers clear the Square, come back to the Farmers Market this Thursday from 10am - 2pm to get another crop of fresh produce and homemade treats made from the freshest local ingredients. From wholesome organic veggies, to tasty "to-die-for,"  baked from scratch sweet treats, the Farmers Market has it all — plus a FREE lunchtime concert with returning acoustic pop singer, Greg Macklin.

Speaking of great FREE music in the Square, we'll bring down the curtain on the Iron City Sound Downtown Live! summer concert series this Friday with the popular sounds of The Stickers. Come watch this homegrown crew of singers transform the Square into a high-energy rock show with their unique brand of country rock tunes until 8pm. Opening the show at 5pm, Tarra Layne will entertain with a sultry set of funk-infused tunes at 5pm. Don't miss this grand finale of the only sizzling summer music series that showcases the best of the ’Burgh's established musical stars along with some rising stars.

Let's just say that we have to run this week — literally. We're lacing up our shoes right now to start training for the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile this Friday at 7pm. With the starting line at 17th Street in the Strip District, this one-mile race will travel along Liberty Avenue to the finish line in front of Two PNC Plaza Downtown. This fast & slow-paced family fun race features five waves of runners from the recreational jogger to elite sprinters with dreams of gold medals in their heads. And once the race is won, everyone is invited to head over to Market Square for a little rest and relaxation at one of the City's premiere dining destinations.

After working up an appetite from your one-mile stretch, venture into one of Market Square's participating Pittsburgh Restaurant Week 2012 eateries. Sienna Sulla Piazza and La Cucina Flegrea are just two of the more than dozen Downtown participating Pittsburgh Restaurant Week establishments offering fixed-price menu options this week only. Market Square has surely become one of the hottest destinations for dining Downtown and now is your chance to try out some of their finest offerings at a special discounted price. Both restaurants will be featuring a three-course meal option, allowing customers to sample some of their delicious Italian dishes. One way or another, we'll see you in the Square. 


A Boat Load of Good Will

Mother Nature can deliver a pretty hard punch sometimes. Over the past few seasons, nearly two dozen canvas umbrellas that drape cool shade across the tables in Market Square suffered severe damage from wind, rain and other nasty weather. Just when it seemed that the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership would face a huge bill to repair the battered umbrellas, one of our staffers found an affordable solution right in the Square at La Gondola Pizzeria.

You see, a hungry office mate noticed La Gondola owner Sergio Muto scooping out his delicious pizzas from the store's oven with a wooden paddle, instead of the metal ones you see in most pizza parlors. And when our curious colleague asked about the paddle, he discovered that Sergio made it himself in his home workshop. Instead of ordering extra toppings on his slices, our clever co-worker asked Sergio if he might be able to repair the damaged wooden parts that help the umbrellas fold up and down. Of course, Sergio replied, "it's no problem."

Turns out, Sergio volunteered for a boatload of work. Many of the parts were so badly damaged that he had to replace them with painstakingly hand-crafted and hand-fitted new pieces. After working 12-14 hours a day all week long at La Gondola, a mainstay in the Square since 1978, he set off to his workshop on weekends to carve, shape, glue and clamp replacement pieces of hard maple, one of the more difficult woods to work with, to the battered umbrellas.

While Sergio says the result of his hard work is "no big deal," we think it's a really huge deal that he repaired the multi-colored umbrellas that dot the Square and provide a hideaway from the sun on summer days. When he showed us a few of the repaired umbrellas, some of which also needed newly shaped arms to stretch the canvas, we couldn't tell the old from the new. In fact, he paid so much attention to detail that even the wood grain matches up to spots where the replacement pieces meet original wood. And to retain the weather-warmed patina of the wood, he mixed up his own blend of stain.

So far, Sergio's repaired twelve of the damaged umbrellas, with nine more to go. Sergio is happy to help out with a great deal, especially with all the time involved. When we asked how many hours he's put in so far, he just laughed and said, "we're not even going to talk about that!"

The next time you're enjoying a little protection from the sun in the Square, take a look up and see the handiwork and friendship of Sergio on display. And remember to stop in for a slice of pie or hoagie all topped with a smile. That's always a good deal.

Speaking of good deals, the Iron City Sound Downtown Live! FREE concert series continues this Friday in the Square from 5 - 8pm. The show opens with the spicy Cuban-infused sounds of Guaracha, while headliners John McDonald and The Mango Men transforming the Square into a tropical party with reggae and merengue jams.


Holiday Greetings from the Square

Sure we can hear the dog days of summer barking around Market Square these days, with Tuesday’s KidsPlay and the Carnegie Library Reading Room, the City's biggest Farmers Market and Lunchtime concert series on Thursdays, and Iron City Sound Dowtown Live! every Friday. While we always enjoy watching people head to the Square to soak up some sun during lunch or to chill for a bit after work, we're putting out the call this Summer for performers to help us ring in a cool new holiday tradition in the Square this year — the first ever Peoples Gas Holiday Market.

Inspired by the centuries' old Yuletide markets of northern Europe, such as the Christkindl Market in Germany, the Peoples Gas Holiday Market will add a continental accent to the Square with upscale vendors selling decorations and gifts inspired by Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and other countries that contributed so much to Pittsburgh's culture and heritage. The market opens for business on November 24, immediately following the 32nd annual My Macy's Holiday Parade, and will operate between the hours of 11am - 8pm right up to December 23. It's going to be a great way to find that extra special gift for the extra special people in your life.

And to make the Peoples Gas Holiday Market even more exciting, we're looking for local performers to add their special talents to the festivities.  We think this is an extraordinary way for dancers, carolers and performers of all types and nationalities to bring some of Pittsburgh's most endearing cultural and ethnic holiday traditions, songs, dances and stories in Market Square — the heart of Downtown. Show times are scheduled for 12noon - 2pm and 5 - 7pm Sunday through Friday with additional performances held every Saturday during the Holiday Market from 11am - 8pm. So if you want to show Pittsburgh you're talent this holiday season — or know of a group or individual who does — submit a performer application before Friday, September 28, 2012.

Speaking of talent, the Iron City Sound Downtown Live! FREE concert series continues this Friday with another round of upcoming stars paired with local legends. Best known for their high-energy, classic rock sound, the Granati Brothers headline this week's show with their homegrown blend of soaring harmonies and guitar-driven power pop. Favorites around town for decades, this family affair has shared the stage with popular rock n' roll hall of famers, such as Van Halen! Just starting her own legacy, Danielle Barbe opens the evening with her own brand of pop-rock tunes. With prime time TV soundtrack credits already in her brag book, Danielle's working with major industry professionals, including producers who have worked on studio albums by Bon Jovi and the All-American Rejects. As always, the music starts at 5pm and rocks until 8pm.

From live music to go along with the summer breeze, to the coolest international talent this holiday season, there's always something happening in the Square.