Sowing The Seeds Of Love At Sia’s Garden Grown in East Liberty

A New Castle couple is putting veggies on the map in a former hotspot for carnivores.


When Chef Anthony Palumbo wants to get back to his roots, he heads to the garden. 

His grandmother taught him about life, love and the culinary arts, so he plants her heirloom mint in places that hold special meaning. There’s some growing in East Liberty. 

In June, Anthony and his wife Diana opened Sia’s Garden Grown, a vegan restaurant at 220 N. Highland Ave. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. 

Once upon a time the large storefront housed meat-forward eateries such as Union Pig & Chicken and Porked. Now it’s a destination for herbivores. 

Anthony is a vegetable wizard. I’m not sure how he makes lupini beans taste like “I-want-more-lupini beans,” but I’m a fan. I’d never even heard of lupini beans until he turned them into hummus for my Eggplant Agro Dolce Sandwich with sweet-and-sour eggplant, arugula and on crusty sourdough bread from Allegro Bakery in Squirrel Hill. 

I also had the roasted potato salad and, being the spud lover that I am, went back for the cucumber and dill potato salad that is my new favorite thing. The dish consists of redskin potatoes, pickled cucumber and dill. Done.

“Preparing vegetables always resonated with me,” says Anthony, who once worked at Downtown’s Duquesne Club. “Giving special attention to veggies was a way to showcase your skills. I was doing different things with grains and vegetables not because I had to, but because it’s fun. You can make ‘em taste really good.”

Did I mention the cucumber and dill potato salad? 

I’ve visited this storefront when it was a haven for carnivores, but it’s better suited as a green space. The spot is designed as a grab-and-go joint for vegheads on the move, but I recommend grabbing a seat at one of the long, communal tables and staying a while. There are a lot of plants and, thanks to large windows, sunshine pours in all day. 

The Palumbos also radiate light. 

Anthony’s got mad kitchen skills, but I believe larger forces are on the family’s side. 

Life hasn’t always been a bed of roses for them. They were set to take over a landmark Ohio restaurant when a freak accident changed the course of their lives. 

While visiting a park in their native New Castle, a tree fell and hit Diana and the couple’s 2½-year-old daughter, Anastasia. Anthony and their son, Enzo, were unharmed, but the girls were in rough shape.

Diana, a nurse who never lost consciousness during the ordeal, experienced multiple fractures and a punctured lung. Little Anastasia, or Sia, nearly lost an eye, but the resilient toddler was up, walking, talking and refusing to hold Dad’s hand within days of the accident. 

That was in March 2020. 

Covid-19 added another heaping helping of misery to the family’s full plate. Anthony and Diana couldn’t see each other face-to-face for 17 days. 

Since Diana is a longtime vegan who can’t stomach hospital food, her dutiful husband brought her quinoa salad, handing it off to a guy in a Hazmat suit. 

That kind of love goes into the food at Sia’s, too. 

The Palumbos took over the space in January, giving the kitchen and dining room an overhaul. The deli case is typically stocked with quick-grab eats in compostable containers. The made-to-order menu changes weekly.

Many ingredients are purchased from the Strip District and roadside stands they pass on their commute from Butler County.


Even the water used in beverages gets special treatment through a reverse osmosis system that removes pollutants. In addition, iced coffee drinks get coffee ice cubes. Iced tea drinks get tea ice cubes. My Matcha Dragon Fruit Latte made with organic matcha and Elmhurst cashew milk had dragon fruit ice cubes!  

It was so magical, I slurped it down before those suckers had a chance to melt and turn the liquid purple. 

Any gardener will tell you patience is a virtue, but when it comes to food I do not possess this trait. I love a good steamed burger and a few good smashed burgers. I’ve also been known to polish off pulled pork sandwiches the size of my head. These days, for health reasons, I’m swaying more toward the veggie side of the spectrum. 

I wolfed down Sia’s Shepherd’s pie in a matter of minutes. 

I know what you’re thinking: “A meatless Shepherd’s pie? Ewe gotta be kidding!”

I don’t joke about food unless it’s a bad pun.

Anthony has turned a traditional minced meat dish into veggie comfort food made with lentils, Greek black-eyed peas, toasted farro, carrots, parsnips, onions and olive oil-whipped potatoes. 

Did I mention the cucumber and dill potato salad? 

Categories: PGHeats