We caught up with Chris Scarduzio, owner of Table 31 in the Comcast Center and formerly of Brasserie Perrier, among many other fine establishments, and chatted about his restaurant coming to 12th and Morris.
First and foremost, forget the idea that this will be an “Italian bistro,” as was reported in several locations, including here.
“I don’t want to be pigeon-holed into one type. It’s going to be more of an eclectic cuisine,” Scarduzio told us yesterday. “I don’t want to do an Italian menu or a French menu. It’s going to be changing a lot – something fun, changing with the seasons, with the ingredients.”
Meanwhile, this project is so intriguing because it encompasses two Passyunk Post pillars: restaurants and development. Just don’t expect it to happen right away.
Scarduzio and his partners Stephen and Tamar Olitsky, took ownership of the building about two weeks ago and decided to grant Artisan Boulanger‘s request for another 90 days to get their new location ready at 1218 Mifflin St. Sadly, AB hasn’t made any more progress since we last checked in December, by the way.
Once AB is out, Scarduzio is tearing down the building, which has structural issues, and rebuilding to four floors. “We’re going to take that building down and really put something nice on the block that the whole neighborhood can be proud of,” Scarduzio said. “This isn’t a leased place where we’ll go in for a few years. This is the kind of place I eventually want to be able to hang my hat in.”
Pomegranate architects is designing the new building with prep kitchen in the basement and the restaurant on the first floor with about 50 seats and a bar. Fling-out windows will go on both sides and up to another 30 seats could go on the sidewalk outside. Two apartments are planned for the second floor and two bilevel apartments with roof decks are planned for the third and fourth floors. No renderings yet, though.
Scarduzio says he’s going through the zoning and permitting process, but the parcel is currently zoned CMX 2.5 under the new zoning code, meaning they can build to 55 feet by right.
“We’re probably looking at eight to nine months to opening,” he said, adding later that it will definitely be less than a year.
Got a name? “Not yet, but we’re close,” he said.
What about price point? “It’s gonna be a place for the neighborhood, where people can come two, three times a week,” he said. “Don’t expect anything too high.”
“I’ve done all my career in destination restaurants,” he said. ”I always felt I would want a little spot where I could just do my cooking in an environment where I wouldn’t have to worry about 800 covers or 700 covers – 500 covers.”
Scarduzio has deep ties to South Philly. His father John “Bucky” Scarduzio was from 6th and Fitzwater and son spent a lot of time there growing up visiting family, which still lives there. His sister Marianne owns Lucidi Jewelry two blocks away at 1814 E. Passyunk Ave.
“It’s a good long-term, viable neighborhood,” he said. “I also believe that competition is good, and more restaurants is a good, healthy sign.”
Later in the conversation, he reiterated his desire to remain free from the constraints of one type of cuisine.
“If I want to do something with duck confit, I want to be able to do that,” he stressed. “Or coq au vin on a cold winter day, I want to be able to do that. Or if it’s a summer day, a light pasta to go with a glass of sauvignon blanc.”
“And I have a little Asian side, so I want to be able to cook with my spirit and cook with my ingredients.”
Don’t expect moleculor gastronomy though. No foams, no sous vide.
“I want to work with techniques that have survived a thousand years.”