Chef Mann goes solo

MacGregor Mann, a former chef de cuisine at Amada and one of Jose Garces' on-camera sous chefs during his initial Iron Chef run on Food Network, has made his solo debut in the Brandywine Valley.

Junto, an American farmhouse-style BYOB, opens this weekend in the Old Ridge Village Shoppes (100 Ridge Rd., Chadds Ford, 484-574-8041).

Junto, taken from the name of a social club founded by Ben Franklin, is local. Mann sources ingredients and inspiration from Pennsylvania, including the Amish produce auction down the road; seafood will come from a wider area: the Atlantic Ocean between Hudson and Chesapeake Bays. Figure on about $45 per person in country-stylish digs.

Dinner will be served Tuesday to Saturday; brunch is on from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekends.

What's new

The Japanese bar concept known as izakaya is represented at coZara at Chestnut Square (33d and Chestnut Streets, 267-233- 7488), next to the new Zavino, Shake Shack, and Joe Coffee on Drexel's campus. Owner Hiroyuki "Zama" Tanaka, who owns Zama near Rittenhouse Square, set up this bilevel 140-seater with a menu of Japanese small-plates from chef de cuisine Chris Paulikas. No sushi. Boxwood Architects went for chic red and black, adding painted images of shoguns and geishas. It's open for dinner only for now.

South Philadelphia native Joanna Spitalieri, who spent years helping a friend run a cafe in Florida, has come back north with her first restaurant. Spitalieri's is a homespun Italian BYOB, where Gnocchi was, just off Fifth and South Streets at 613 E. Passyunk Ave. (267-324-3144). Her mother, Jeanie, is in the kitchen, which is open from 3 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, plus 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Stephen Starr has opened a considerably larger branch of El Vez in New York City's Financial District. There's no lowrider bike over the bar, but there is a photo booth and plenty of Mexican kitsch.

After six months, the Exton BYOB Vella has been reflagged Forage American Brasserie (in the Main Street at Exton Town Center complex at 120 Woodcutter St., Exton, 610-524-3334). Chef Ralph Fernandez, whose background includes top jobs at the Moshulu and White Dog Cafe, is now running it.

Chef chat

Northern Liberties lost a great BYOB last summer when David Gilberg and Carla Goncalves closed Koo Zee Doo, their Portuguese restaurant. This spring and summer, starting Thursday, Gilberg will turn up as chef at Morgan's Pier, the seasonal joint beneath the Ben Franklin Bridge (221 N. Columbus Blvd.).

Waldemar "Val" Stryjewski, last at Le Cheri on Rittenhouse Square, has landed in Fishtown, where he is chef at Lloyd, the whiskey specialist. His new menu includes such fun bar snacks as ramp butter popcorn, fried deviled eggs, and candied kielbasa.

The Hattery Stove & Still, opening in May in the Doylestown Inn, has hired Hakeem Otenigbagbe, a Nigeria-born French Culinary Institute grad, who will give up his commute to New York's Blue Fin at the W Hotel in Times Square. He previously was chef at Union Trust.