What to do for Mom? Let her stay home and get something delivered to her door. (Maybe you’ll show up, too?) Also this week, we run down some great new pizzerias, as well as cookies and other baked goods. There also are some developments in the move to reopen restaurants, and not all of this news is good.
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6 tasty gifts that have ‘Mom’ written all over them
Moms, grandmothers, and even great-grandmothers may seem like they have superhuman strength and energy because they are often catering to everyone else’s needs. But on Sunday, as contributor Carolyn Desalu writes, she can finally sit back and relax because dinner, dessert, and wine can be delivered right to her door.
The move to open the restaurants
Pennsylvania had imposed some of America’s most restrictive restaurant-operating guidelines during the pandemic. Soon, this will change dramatically. Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday dropped restrictions except for mask-wearing, effective May 31. Businesses won’t have to enforce six-foot distancing, bar seating will return, and crowd sizes will not be capped, according to a spokesperson. In sum, the state wants to “encourage” businesses to follow CDC guidance. In ordering the reopening of New Jersey, effective May 19, Gov. Phil Murphy maintains social-distancing and some caps on occupancy. Philadelphia, where the rules have been stricter almost all along, has announced a slight rise in capacity and relaxing of some restrictions, effective Friday, May 7.
The ramp-up of business is good news, although a dark cloud is blocking at least some of the sun: The labor market in the food industry is in crisis, with not enough cooks, dishwashers, and servers to fill the slots. The glib answer: “Workers are sitting home, collecting stimmies and unemployment (which runs out in early September).” But that’s not the big picture. The industry lost many folks over the last year as they switched to other careers — perhaps with better working conditions, pay, and benefits. Meanwhile, frustration is high. Suraya, the popular Levantine restaurant in Fishtown, is paying $2,000 hiring bonuses to line cooks, and Amazon promises to deliver $1,500 to each of the hundreds of people hired at its Amazon Fresh store opening this spring in Warrington, Bucks County.
Reminder: It’s almost Dine Latino Restaurant Week (starts May 5 and runs through Sunday, May 9) and next on the calendar is Ardmore Restaurant Week (May 6-May 16) and Center City District Restaurant Week (May 17-May 28).
↓ Scroll down for more restaurant news. ↓
Any way you slice it, these Philly pizza places rock
Food & Wine magazine just named New Jersey the best state for pizza in the U.S. (Pennsylvania came in 7th). While we’re sure they applied a rigorous scientific model to the ranking, these spots in Philly (and one in New Jersey) have caught our eye in the last year, and are definitely worth a visit. Read on for a hot newcomer in Fishtown.
Where to get cookies, cakes, and other baked goods in Philly
Birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions look a little different right now, but there are still plenty of ways — and plenty of reasons — to celebrate. For starters: treats. Reporter Grace Dickinson delivers a roundup of shops selling great custom cakes, ganache-stuffed cupcakes, and vegan doughnuts.
Popular Philly bartender Lateefah Curtis has died at 52
Lateefah Curtis, 52, the popular bartender at Vernick Food & Drink who started her own business after the restaurant had closed for a while, has died. Her funeral service will be Thursday, May 6.
A chef and his wife, both fighting cancer, turn the ordeal into a positive
Every day between 5 and 6 p.m., whether at home or in the kitchen at Wm. Mulherin’s Sons, chef Jim Burke takes a pill called Tagrisso to treat his lung cancer, which was diagnosed in August 2020. He and his wife, Kristina (also a hospitality vet and who is being treated for breast cancer), are behind a quickly growing series of fundraisers called Tag Time Happy Hour (“tag” is for Tagrisso). Proceeds are going to the LUNGevity Foundation, a provider of research funding for lung cancer. Also, note that Rittenhouse Row won’t be hosting a street festival later this month. Its members are doing charitable things on the couple’s behalf.
And speaking of fundraising: Remember Dustin Vitale, the Philadelphia schoolteacher making cheesesteaks to come up with the dough to travel to Egypt with his mother, Gloria Walker, who has cancer? The Vitales — all 14 of them, including wee ones — fly out Friday, May 7 for Cairo and the pyramids.
After a few days of soft openings, Thursday, May 6 marks the debut of DePaul’s Table (7 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore), a refresh of The Bercy as a white-tablecloth Italian steakhouse with comfy airs, dramatic bar, and soaring ceilings, and high-touch service. DePaul is Anthony DePaul, a steakhouse longtimer with stops in Atlantic City (including Marc Forgione’s American Cut Steakhouse) and for the last six years at The ChopHouse in Gibbsboro. For his ownership debut, he’s partnered with Bercy owners Justin Weathers and Joe Monnich. Chef Jose Galicia, last at The ChopHouse, oversees a menu of dry-aged beef, chops, seafood, and big salads. Dinner daily from 5 p.m., happy hour 4:30-6:30 p.m. weekdays, Sunday brunch for Mother’s Day 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Popular Mexican restaurant Las Bugambilias, which had a 13-year run at Second and South Streets before closing in 2020, has a new home at 15 S. Third St. in Old City, where Farmicia was. Chef Carlos Molina and his wife, Michelle Zimmerman, have new partners (sons Richard, 23, and Alex, 25) and much more dining and bar space in their colorful dining room. It opened at 11 a.m. for Cinco de Mayo. Opening hours are 4 -9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 1-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday.
Vince’s Pizzeria, the landmark Northeast Philly pizzeria descended from Charlie’s Pizzeria on the Boulevard, has opened in Fishtown in a new building at 965 Frankford Ave., across from the Fillmore. Owners are two couples — Kevin and Natasha Lavin, and Patrick Buckley and Shannon Murray (the women are part of the founding Rota family). Other family members own the Grant Avenue location and the taproom in Newtown. Simple menu, done right (whole 12- and 16-inch pizzas, stromboli, salads): Hours: 4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.
The groundbreaking Audrey Claire BYOB at 20th and Spruce Streets has returned from a pandemic hibernation as Charley Dove, with the same ownership, a similar Mediterranean theme, and a new chef, John Taus, in the open kitchen. There’s a small-world twist to the new name.
Has the speakeasy-ish Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co., aka The Franklin, closed after 11 years? That’s the word on the street, and manager Emmanuel Sanchez last weekend promised me a statement that hasn’t arrived. Owners Christopher Doggett and Christopher Galli did not return messages. A closing is inevitable, as the building at 112 S. 18th St. is facing the wrecking ball later this year to allow a developer to move forward with a high-rise around the corner at 1810 Chestnut St., the former Freeman’s auction house. The Franklin’s building will become the entrance.
Distrito, Jose Garces’ Mexican joint at 40th and Chestnut Streets in University City, has reopened, 4-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday initially.
Friday, May 7 at 4 p.m. is the reopening of Graffiti Bar (124 S. 13th St.), which you access through the alley next to Sampan. It’s now roofed and the chain-link fence is gone, among other changes.
Saturday, May 8 at 11 a.m. is the debut of Playa Bowls at 1932 Liacouras Walk on Temple University’s campus. First 50 in line get T-shirts and bowls.
Tuesday, May 18 at 4 p.m. is the reopening of XFinity Live!, the funhouse (hence the exclamation point) across from the stadiums in South Philadelphia.
New owner for Mr. Bill’s, that longtime ice cream and burger shack on Route 73 just off the Atlantic City Expressway that has the giant dude in a yellow shirt, blue pants, and blue suspenders out front. John Ernst, who owned it for five years with his wife, Cheryl, died in October 2020. The Richman’s Ice Cream chain bought it, rehired the employees, and reopened Mr. Bill’s Richman’s Ice Cream & Burger. It’s a mouthful, all right.