Garden Theater building aiming to be completed this fall


By Abbey Reighard

The restoration of the Garden Theater and Masonic Temple Building is set to be complete this fall – and local business owners are eager to move in.

According to Tom Hardy, development consultant for the Allegheny City Central Association and association executive director, construction on the Garden Theater and Masonic Temple Building should be complete by September.

Hardy said the ACCA has been working on the “shell” of the Garden Theater Building. Hardy added that the ACCA will turn construction over to Domenic Branduzzi in the next 30 days so Branduzzi can begin working on his new ARDE restaurant.

Hardy said that many elements of the original Garden Theater lobby will be reused and developers will try to incorporate some fixtures and elements from the original interior of the theater into the new layout, but Hardy added that the inside of the theater will be completely renovated and the layout and design will be very different from the theater’s original internal structure.

“We’re going to basically retrofit the inside to accommodate the restaurant,” Hardy said.

The ARDE restaurant will feature “Rustic Italian” cuisine and the entrées will be cooked with seasonal and local ingredients, according to Branduzzi.

Branduzzi said he decided to open ARDE in the old Garden Theater building because of the “historic charm” of the building and so he can create more dining options for locals.

“The location is ripe for change,” Branduzzi said. “I feel like I can bring something new to the neighborhood.”

Branduzzi also owns and runs another restaurant in Lawrenceville, Piccolo Forno, 3801 Butler St.

Branduzzi said he will serve wood-fired pizza and homemade pastas at ARDE, similar to the dishes currently served at Piccolo Forno, but also said he wants to add more fish and meat entrees added to the menu.

Branduzzi said he picked the name ARDE for the new restaurant so the old Garden Theater marquee could still be used. The four middle letters of the marquee will be lit, to spell out “ARDE” instead of “GARDEN.”

The word “ARDE” in Italian means “burning wood” or “to burn with passion,” according to Branduzzi.

Branduzzi said the name and translations are appropriate because of “the wood we burn for our pizza and the passion we have for our food.”

He said he plans to keep the restaurant space “as open as possible” so patrons can view some of the kitchen activity while they’re dining.

The restaurant will include a dining area, bar, outdoor patio, a wood-fired pizza oven and can seat up to 150 people.

Hardy discussed the idea of outdoor tables on the sidewalk in front of ARDE so patrons could enjoy the view of Allegheny Commons Park while they dine, at the ACCA monthly meeting on Monday June 9.

“That would be a nice addition to the restaurant,” Hardy said.

Branduzzi said ARDE will have seating on the outdoor patio behind the restaurant, but added that he will consider sidewalk seating if people inquire about it.

Branduzzi said he is hopeful that ARDE will be open by this fall.

“I really don’t want [construction] to drag into the winter,” Branduzzi said.

As for the Masonic Temple Building, it will become the new location for City of Asylum’s Alphabet City Literary Center.

According to the City of Asylum’s official website, Alphabet City will be a “cultural complex intended to serve as a hub for the community.”

Hardy said after a developer purchases the Masonic Temple Building in the coming weeks, the building will then be turned over to the developer and construction will continue for the next few months and should be complete this fall.

Henry Reese, co-founder of City of Asylum, said the Literary Center will be located on the first floor and basement level of the Masonic Temple Building.

Reese said the center is designed to be a “flexible space” so that the area can be used for different activities. The bookshelves will be placed on tracks so that seating can be organized to accommodate anywhere from ten to 200 people.

The center will include a bookstore, café, performance space for readings and music, conference room and space for educational programming.

For more information on the City of Asylum and the Alphabet City Literary Center, visit the City of Asylum website,

For more information on ARDE, visit

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