Picture a bustling marketplace in Lisbon, Portugal filled with fragrant foods and friends socializing on a Saturday afternoon.
Property owner Anthony DiCio and General Manager Bruno Leca frequented a place like that when they were working in Lisbon years ago. So they designed The Pennsylvania Market in the Strip District to be that kind of upscale food hall. The spacious new eatery, which opens this weekend, offers seating for 468 people and an array of dining options, from Romulus Pizza and Edgar’s Tacos to Bistro 108, Cherish Creamery and Hillside Orchards.
“We always said, ‘Let’s meet at the market!’” Leca says. “I can have a sandwich, he can have a salad, other friends had a wide selection to chose from. It was very casual, very pleasant and not overly expensive.”
At 12,000 square feet of space, including a balcony and courtyard, the two-story building straddling 18th and 19th Streets feels like a microcosm of the surrounding neighborhood. (Exact address is 108 19th St.)
Pennsylvania-based vendors who have built a reputation for their quality and craftsmanship, including The Olive Tap and Jonathan Moran Woodworks, now have permanent kiosks at the PA Market (it’s already going by that nickname). There is also one kiosk that will feature a rotating selection of businesses. Vendors will work together, sharing ingredients and products, to create one-of-a-kind creations for visitors to enjoy.
The second floor of the building has an expansive bar and a “Wine Library” with more than 100 varieties of vino that you can’t get elsewhere in Pittsburgh.
Anastassia Schlussel, who designed the interior of the market, says a “wine librarian” will be on hand to educate people and help them choose a bottle that’s right for them. An index system (kind of like a card catalog) has information ranging from price and grape type to country of origin, designed to guide people in their selection process.
“We want to instill a sense of comfort and ease,” Schlussel explains.
The team purchased the building, which has had many lives as a nightclub, restaurant and produce center, and completely gutted it. They’ve created an elegant and inviting atmosphere with lots of exposed brick and woodwork.
Four vendors, including East End Brewing and Courtyard Winery, were already occupying the ground floor and stayed on to be part of the experience.
The owners say they are happy to accommodate large corporate events and small, intimate gatherings since the large area can easily be sectioned off. The space is already booked for a wedding next fall.
And classes will soon be offered on topics ranging from wine and beer to olive oil usage and pizza-making.
DiCio, who grew up in Pittsburgh and regularly visited the Strip District with his grandfather, says there’s no other place he’d want this business to be located.
“My perception of the Strip is that it’s where history meets the future,” he says. “You have new, high-tech businesses, but yet you’re sitting amongst this rich history. There aren’t a lot of neighborhoods like it in the country.”
Adds Schlussel: “It’s a place where you can see a driverless car going down a cobblestone street.”