Chef Luke Palladino's home base has been the Jersey Shore (Atlantic City's casinos and the mainland), but for years he's been itching to open in Philly.
Five years ago, he almost had a deal on 12th Street in Center City (now Pennsylvania 6).
But in the interim, he says he has been watching and waiting. And when the Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corp. bought the fire-gutted building at the Juniper Street gateway to East Passyunk - a former casual eatery called Colombo - he made his move.
The ink is barely dry on a lease for Palladino to open an Italian steak and seafood house called Palladino's at 1934 E. Passyunk Ave. The plan is for 80 seats inside and 40 seats and a bold neon sign outside, and a late-fall opening.
The property will require extensive renovations to the ground floor and to the apartments above it. An open kitchen will be a feature, and a clever plan is in the works to allow wheelchair access. The building has been empty since a 2012 fire.
Though the Avenue has its share of upper-end Italian restaurants (Le Virtu across the street, Paradiso farther up the street) and even a red-gravy spot (Marra's), it lacks a steak house.
In an interview this morning, Palladino explained that while the restaurant will indeed be a steak house - and he does have a new upmarket meatery called LP Steak that opened last year in Northfield - the new restaurant will cater to different budgets.
"The menu will have a lot of range," he said. "You can select your experience - whether you want to dine small, like $25 [a head], or you want the full experience." He plans to feature cuts of meat for two or four.
The space excites him. "Most development is on the other end" of East Passyunk, Palladino said, referring to PARC head Sam Sherman's more recent culinary coups - Noord, Fond BYOB, Laurel and the future Brigantessa - closer to Tasker Street.
"This is really tying it all together," Palladino said. Across the way, PARC has a William Penn Foundation grant to develop the plot at Broad Street in front of United Savings Bank as a green space with a fountain.
Palladino, who burst onto the scene in 2003 with two restaurants at the Borgata in Atlantic City, now owns:
Luke Palladino Seasonal Italian (opened 2010), 80 Seats, Upscale Italian, Linwood, NJ
Luke Palladino Harrah's Resort (opened 2011), 200 Seats, Upscale Italian, Atlantic City
Luke's Kitchen & Marketplace (opened 2012), 120 Seats, Casual/Quick Serve, Atlantic City, NJ
LP STEAK (opened 2013), 30 Seats, Upscale Steakhouse, Northfield, NJ