Traditional South Philly Italian cooking lands in Rittenhouse starting Tuesday, Nov. 27 with the opening of Giuseppe & Sons (1523 Sansom St.), a joint project by Michael Schulson and his wife, Nina Tinari, along with the Termini Bros. pastry family.
Next door to the Schulsons' Harp & Crown, it’s two restaurants in one.
At 14,000 square feet, it’s a massive one -- among the largest new Center City restaurants since Harp & Crown’s opening two years ago.
At street level, through a revolving door, Giuseppe & Sons is a daytime luncheonette (open at the outset from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays) with a counter serving chicken parm, veal parm, meatball sandwiches, roast pork, salads, and Termini desserts.
Seating for 67 people includes booths, tables, and bar stool at the full bar, though they’re also counting on takeout business.
Downstairs, accessed via a staircase and down a hallway, is the full-service Italian dinner house -- a 206-seater, low-lit with sunken and raised seating areas decorated old-school: plaster walls, a white Carrera marble bar, black and white tiles, and brass, and three private and semiprivate rooms. It opens at 5 p.m. daily.
You’ve heard of ground-floor opportunities. Schulson likes to take the basement, too.
Harp & Crown’s main dining room is at street level, while the lounge (including two bowling lanes) is downstairs. Double Knot, on 13th Street near Sansom, has its bar/cafe on the street level while its dinner restaurant is in the basement.
This makes sense financially, Schulson says. He’s paying top dollar on the street level, but a relative pittance for downstairs.
The menus were modeled on patriarch Vince Termini Sr.'s “side project” -- Mr. Joe’s Café, which opened in 2007 across from the Termini Bros. bakery at 1523 S. Eighth St. in South Philadelphia. (The “1523” in both addresses is a coincidence.)
At Mr. Joe’s, “Mr. Vince” cooks the homespun Sicilian-rooted South Philly dishes he grew up with.
At Giuseppe & Sons, this food is the inspiration. Chef Wesley Fields, who was hired in January, started cooking in earnest in July with Schulson culinary director Leo Forneas. All summer, they worked out of the basement kitchen at Harp & Crown to refine the dishes.
Though the deal was inked nearly two years ago, the project’s seeds were planted at least five years ago when a friend introduced Vinny Termini, now 39, and Schulson, now 45. Soon after, Vince Sr. and son Joe were looped in.
Schulson said he had always wanted to open what he calls a “theatrical” red-gravy-style Italian restaurant in Center City to complement his portfolio of Japanese restaurants (Izakaya in Atlantic City, Monkitail in Hollywood, Fla., Double Knot in Washington Square West, and DK Sushi at Penn), his Asian restaurant (Sampan, in Washington Square West), Independence Beer Garden (across from Independence Mall), and Harp & Crown. Schulson also owns Osteria at 640 N. Broad St. with chef Jeff Michaud.
Schulson also has a steakhouse, Alpen Rose, planned next to Double Knot on 13th Street, as well as an undisclosed restaurant planned for the 1700 block of Locust Street, next to Parc.