Even before he signed the lease on East Passyunk Avenue for Townsend - the comfy French bistro that was a hit from its opening in April 2014 - chef Townsend "Tod" Wentz put pen to paper for a spot at the southeast corner of 23rd Street and Fairmount Avenue in Fairmount.
A Mano - finally in the homestretch for a January(?) opening - will be an entirely different restaurant: an informal, 50-seat Italian BYOB dinner house whose approachable, seasonal menu will cover all of Italy.
Wentz will remain at Townsend, where he was named chef of the year in 2014 by Craig LaBan and was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation's best new restaurant. Townsend also was Philly Mag's restaurant of the year in 2014.
Executive chef Michael Millon - a Lansdowne native who has worked with Wentz for 10 years and has worked at the Michelin-starred A Voce in Manhattan and years ago at Bistro du Midi in Boston - will run the show.
Millon's opening menu (whose dishes will be $8 to $28) will be inspired by northern Italy, reflecting the season. The idea is to head south through Italy, culinarily speaking, as winter's crops give way to spring's and summer's.
The interior has been blocked off by craft paper over the windows, but Wentz's camp describes an airy dining room with hardwood floors, grass-green banquettes, windows that open wide to the street, and ladder-backed chairs and banquettes, plus tables with custom wood tops.