“You’re going to fall in love with Philadelphia,” Danilo D’Eugenio kept telling the woman who would become his wife, Monica Fenocchio. His mother’s cousin lives in Newtown Square and he visited here from time to time.
Both are widely traveled and Italian-born (he’s from Morro d’Oro in Abruzzo, and she is from Rome).
They’ve relocated to Philadelphia and in March plan to open DaMò Pasta Lab, selling house-made fresh and dried pasta from imported ingredients, in a cafe setting with a glassed-in kitchen at 12th and Sansom Streets. Ordering will be made through kiosks or online. Dining tables, seating about 20 people, will be set up in the window.
DaMo — combining their first names — is coming together in the White Building, whose corner at 12th and Chestnut Streets houses a Shake Shack, while a coffee shop with roots in Croatia (Cogito Coffee Roasters) is planning a spring opening in the middle of the block just north of DaMo.
Fenocchio’s background is in food, while D’Eugenio’s is information technology and event organizing.
It was a visit to Philadelphia that not only inspired their move but their new business, said Fenocchio, who is more confident in English. “People are so nice,” she said. Most of all, she said, the people have a passion for the city and food.
“When he brought me me here, we looked around seriously," she said. “We said this city is so young and full of energy, and the food is amazing. It’s all top quality at a very affordable price compared to New York. We got the idea of passing our passion toward tradition and food to a city that would understand that.”
They have sources for their own organic extra-virgin olive oil, semolina flour, and tomatoes from Puglia, she said. They’ll sell eight pastas — five fresh (with egg) and three dried. On certain days, they will make up 100 orders of a limited-edition pasta and offer it only till it sells out.
They also plan to toss in some education, through signs and videos explaining contemporary Italian cooking — that is, traditional recipes prepared healthfully. “A millennial approach to Italian pasta," Fenocchio said.
They want to take a purist’s approach. They’ll serve it hot if you’re eating there, or refrigerated if you intend to eat at a later date. They’ll also flash-chill a dish if you intend to reheat it, say, an hour later for dinner. (Fenocchio seemed to shudder at the mere concept of reheating a pasta dish that had not been chilled.)
The menu also will include several soups, as well as salads and cold dishes such the Caprese and prosciutto with melon.
“It should be a nice solution for different needs,” Fenocchio said.
This is the second food business run by European-born entrepreneurs to find a home recently on 12th Street in Washington Square West, following Bastien Ornando’s late-2017 opening of the French patisserie J’aime. (The neighborhood also will soon see the debut of Crunchik’n (212 S. 11th St.), a shop specializing in Korean fried chicken, rice bowls, and tacos.)
A quick note for now about Cogito Coffee Roasters, opening next door to DaMo:
Marko Brkich, a Philadelphian of Croatian descent, and Matija Belkovic are behind the company’s rollout in the States. Cogito will sell third-wave-style coffee. Opening is planned for spring.