Table Talk: Blackbird's Capasso starts on second spot
By Michael Klein
Collingswood keeps growing.
Alex Capasso of Blackbird Dining Establishment (619 Collings Ave.) says he's starting work on
West Side Gravy - a 50-seat contemporary diner - across the street at 616 Collings. "I kept
looking out the window and saying, 'I wish somebody would open another restaurant here,' "
Capasso says. He's also location-hunting in Philly.
> Meanwhile, Colls crowds have found Joseph Tucker, who's owned a slew of eateries in Philly
and at the Shore, including Joseph's, Joseph's on the Avenue, Pompeii, and Tucker's Steak &
Seafood House. Tucker opened the South Jersey branch of Joe Pesce (833 Haddon Ave.,
Collingswood, 856-833-9888), an Italian-seafood BYOB, shortly after Thanksgiving. (Nothing to
do with the actor Joe Pesci; "Joe" is Tucker and "pesce" is fish.)
> The original Joe Pesce operated during the 2006 and 2007 summer seasons in Ventnor.
Tucker then brought the concept - more seafood, lighter preparations, easier prices - to brother
Robert Liccio's restaurant Pompeii (1113 Walnut St.). That place was reflagged Joe Pesce last
The Joe Pesce in Collingswood - decked out in the blues and stainless steel of a casual market -
also has a raw bar, fish display and open kitchen; a fish display is planned for Philly.
Expect to pay $15 to $29 for most entrees; it's open nightly, and weekday lunch will start in mid-
Also Collingswood-related: Jimmy Marino of Bistro di Marino (492 Haddon Ave.) opened an
Italian takeout next door, called Bistro ToGo. . . . Il Fiore, an Italian BYOB, is under construction
at 693 Haddon Ave. . . . The episode of Throwdown With Bobby Flay taped in January at the Pop
Shop (729 Haddon Ave.) will be shown April 13 at 10 p.m. on the Food Network. The challenge
was grilled-cheese sandwiches.
Nicholas Matteo and Nicholas Sweeney, who met on the line at Striped Bass in the mid-1990s,
are behind a new-American BYO called Nicholas, expected to open in mid- to late-April on
Moyamensing Avenue at Emily Street (just north of Snyder Avenue) in Pennsport. The spot
previously was Cafe Carmen, a gelato/coffee shop.
Jim Kirk and Jake Hampson, bartenders
managers at Bishop's Collar, are converting the former Savannah at 1836 Callowhill St. into Kite
& Key Tavern. Kirk promises lots of beers and solid food, and they hope to open at the end of
May or early June.
As Alison two in Fort Washington gets closer, Alison Barshak has named Anthony Bonett as
chef of Alison at Blue Bell. Barshak will oversee both kitchens. Bonett, who worked with
Barshak at the opening of Striped Bass in 1994, most recently was executive chef at Oceanaire
Devil's Den, the gastropub coming to the old Felicia's at 11th and Ellsworth Streets, is now
aiming at next week for opening.
Many changes at the Bellevue and its assorted restaurants. Chris Dhimitri has taken over Bliss
from Francesco Martorella; chef Anthony Goodwin left last weekend. (Goodwin says he's
weighing an offer in Los Angeles as well as exploring other opportunities on the East Coast.) New
chef is expected to be named shortly, and Dhimitri says he's not sure if the Bliss name will
remain. Martorella is weighing options, too. . . . New manager at Nineteen (XIX), Pamela Bower,
previously was with Le Bec-Fin, and the new sommelier, Scott Turnbull, came from Striped Bass.
. . . Downstairs, Ed Pyne took over Montesini's Pizza from longtime operator Tony Schiano, who
retired after 14 years. Pyne, who previously worked for LaScala's and Apollo's Pizza, changed
the name of the Bellevue location to Angelo's in honor of a favorite relative. . . . Soo Ji Kuk is the
new owner of La Cucina, formerly Pasta Cucina, and Dennis and Susan Miller are the new
owners of Amazon Café.
Table Talk: Slicing up City Avenue pie trade
By Michael Klein
City Avenue is getting so cheesy.
California Pizza Kitchen, which has been turning out hearth-baked pizzas and such for 10 years
at the Court at King of Prussia, this week opened its second regional location at 4040 City Ave.
(215-477-8101), next to a Target store. It has a full bar. The new CPK will donate 100 percent of
all dine-in pizza sales Monday to Please Touch Museum. (Another CPK is due April 7 in
Plymouth Meeting, in the new section where Ikea was; among restaurant tenants will be
Redstone Grill, P.F. Chang's and Benihana.)
Also entering the City Avenue pie wars is entrepreneur Tony Altomare, who on Feb. 22 rolls out
the flagship Tony Roni's location at 4504 City Ave., across from Bala Shopping Center. On the
first day, he plans to hand out free slices to folks in traffic.
Altomare, a former financial planner who went into the food biz 11 years ago with Tony A's pizza
(now three locations), intends Tony Roni's as a franchise. Because Tony A's is a common name,
he says, he decided to franchise under something new.
Menu will include salads, sandwiches and wraps. He hopes to open Tony Roni'ses in Center City,
Havertown, Hatfield and South Jersey this year. Northern Liberties' Jesse Gardner, who also
designed Cuba Libre and Vietnam, did the decor.
Coming and going
Sticks & Stones won't break your bones. Or your wallet. Owner Nick Meglino describes his bar,
which he hopes to open at 1909 E. Passyunk Ave. in early April, as a hang for the neighborhood.
(Meglino last year sold Felicia's at 11th and Ellsworth, opening in about three weeks under
Manayunk's Scott and Erin Wallace as Devil's Den.) Meglino describes Sticks & Stones' menu as
an "eclectic mess" (pizzas, an Italian version of mac and cheese, meat loaf). The name? From a
TV show: "I want people to drive by and smile and look at the name. I want to catch them off-
Saturday is the scheduled opening of a South Jersey branch of Penang (480 Route 38 E., Maple
Shade 856-755-0188), from a branch of the family that owns the Malaysian BYOB in Chinatown,
which just reopened after a renovation. The Penang in Maple Shade will be sibling to those in
Edison and West Windsor, N.J.
Vickers Tavern in Exton has closed. Calls seeking comment were not returned.
The building housing Ludwig's Garten (1315 Sansom St.) changed hands last week, spelling the
beer hall's demise after eight years. Owner Paul Olivier couldn't be reached, but talk is that he's
leaving Philadelphia. Next occupants will be Jason and Delphine Evenchik, who own Vintage
nearby. Their new place will be called Time - as in "time to eat, time to drink." Jason Evenchik
says the physical changes will be cosmetic/cleaning. The bar will have 20 beers on tap and more
than 50 by the bottle, plus a serious liquor list (single malts, whiskies, rye). The dining room will
have what he called an "old-school country-club menu, but updated" - "nice, like Capital Grill and
Smith & Wollensky, but not stuffy." Opening is penciled in for the second week of March.
The space at 38 S. 19th St. that housed Bootsie's will become an Indian restaurant called
Ashoka Palace, specializing in northern Indian cuisine, says owner Kinder Jit Singh, who used to
cook at Taj Majal and Passage to India in Center City. It should open within a month, he says.
At Jonathan's American Grille in the Jenkintown train station, brothers Tim and Jonathan
Zeigler have switched roles: Jonathan will retain his ownership stake in the restaurant but is
easing out of day-to-day management. Tim has taken over as managing partner. Manager Rod
Pichon has been promoted to general manager, and chef Shawn Buffert replaces Jesse Fellows
in the kitchen. Buffert's new menu features more pastas, lower prices, and comfort foods such as
meat loaf, short ribs and chicken marsala. Jonathan's will be opening on Mondays for lunch and
dinner beginning Monday.
Speaking of comfort foods: WMGK's John DeBella will host the station's Comfort Food Fest at
Northern Liberties' Cescaphe Ballroom (923 N. Second St.) from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 27. Chefs from
top eateries will create dishes out of family favorites such as Manwich and Rice-A-Roni, and
judges will name a winner. Among them are Dan Marcantuno from Brasserie Perrier, Cary Neff
from Coquette, Brian Duffy from Kildare's and Matthew Levin from Lacroix at the Rittenhouse.
It's free, but a ticket is required: 215-627-1082, Ext. 3.