The coronavirus has officially shuttered the critically acclaimed Res Ipsa Cafe in Center City, which halted its breakfast and dinner service early in the pandemic.
Buffering this unfortunate news is word that Alex Bois, a James Beard-nominated pastry chef, will move into the space at 2218 Walnut St. with a cafe and retail location of Lost Bread Co., the artisanal bakery that he operates with Avram Hornik and Four Corners Management. It is expected to open as soon as late November.
Res Ipsa, essentially a 26-seat vanilla box, enjoyed a three-plus-year run under ReAnimator Coffee’s Mark Corpus and Mark Capriotti and Stock owner Tyler Akin, with chef Michael Vincent Ferreri. Its name is from the legal term res ipsa loquitur (Latin: “the thing speaks for itself”).
Inquirer critic Craig LaBan praised Res Ipsa’s coffee program, its luscious egg sandwiches, and its Sicilian BYOB dinners. He wrote that Ferreri, who had worked with Akin at Zahav, channels “refined minimalism with his food, drawing layers of depth from his Sicilian-inspired menu.” (Ferreri is doing pop-ups. Capriotti and Corpus have added Eeva, a pizzeria, to their flagship ReAnimator location in Kensington. Akin, besides operating Stock in Rittenhouse (open Wednesday to Sunday for takeout and delivery, while the Fishtown original is open Friday to Sunday), is chef-partner at Le Cavalier at the Green Room at Wilmington’s Hotel Du Pont.)
The reasons for the closing are obvious: a small dining room allowing few seats under restaurant occupancy restrictions, small frontage providing room for only a table outside, and tight kitchen. “I’m sad," Akin said. “Our teams worked really hard to make this a special place.”
“We did a lot, considering how big the space is,” Capriotti said. “We did what we set out to do, and it resonated with people.”
Bois burst onto the city’s baking scene nearly seven years ago at High Street on Market, taking a scientist’s curiosity into the workroom. Bois told The Inquirer that the new Lost Bread location — next door to the Four Corners-owned Rosy’s Taco Bar — would mill its own flour.
The pandemic has changed his outlook on baking. Though known for esoteric baked goods, Bois said he has been making soft sandwich bread for commercial accounts. This is not your grandfather’s Wonder Bread. He makes it from high-quality local ingredients. “It’s been reinvigorating in a lot of ways to focus on the kind of products that really have broad appeal,” said Bois, 34.
Bois said he also would return to on-site bagel-making, which was a part of his repertoire at High Street, and later will bake pizzas — all with fresh milled flour. He’ll make his own cream cheese from cream, whole milk, and goat’s milk from Lancaster County dairies.
The cafe will have a small food menu and even sell a few grocery items such as eggs (from Lapp Valley Farm in New Holland, Pa.) and pumpkin seeds from Stony Brook WholeHearted Foods — items that he said are “uniquely delicious, or unusual, or just high-quality.”