Two star New York chefs whose restaurants sparked neighborhood revivals, Tom Colicchio and Andrew Carmellini, will establish operations in Philadelphia as part of developer Bart Blatstein’s proposed Provence casino-entertainment complex.
Blatstein introduced the pair at a short press conference in a tent atop the parking garage at 15th and Callowhill streets that will fall to make way for the casino and its accompanying shops and restaurants should the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board award the second and last casino license in Philadelphia to his project.
Both Colicchio and Carmellini have track records of opening outstanding restaurants that serve acclaimed cuisine.
Colicchio, a native of Elizabeth, N.J., burst onto the New York dining scene with the Gramercy Tavern in 1994. His work at that restaurant earned him the James Beard Foundation's 2000 "Best Chef-New York" award. Craft, which he opened in 2001, was named "Best New Restaurant" by the foundation in 2002, and Bon Appetit magazine dubbed him "Chef of the Year" in its American Food and Entertaining Awards that same year. He now owns four Craft restaurants in New York and Las Vegas as well as 'wichcraft, a chain of sandwich shops in New York.
Carmellini has an equally formidable reputation as a chef. He started out at Gary Kunz' legendary French restaurant, Lespinasse, at age 21, then did a stint at L'Arpege in Paris before returning to New York to become chef de cuisine at Cafe Boulud. There he garnered a Best New Chef award from Food & Wine, two James Beard Foundation awards and a three-star New York Times review. In 2009, actor Robert De Niro approached him about reopening the restaurant in his Greenwich Hotel. That restaurant, Locanda Verde, received two stars in the Times and a Best New Restaurant nomination from the James Beard Foundation.
"A lot of my friends have restaurants here," Carmellini said at the news conference. "Philly's a great food town and I'm glad to be a part of it."
"I grew up in New Jersey, not far from here," Colicchio said. "I'm thrilled Bart invited us to come along for the ride."
Colicchio's cousin, Philip Colicchio, a partner in the law firm of Taylor, Colicchio and Studholme in Princeton, noted that the two have done as well as neighborhood-shapers as they have as chefs. "They didn't go into neighborhoods that were booming," he said. "They went into neighborhoods with potential. They're great guys. They make neighborhoods better."
Blatstein is betting his entertainment complex will do the same for the Spring Garden neighborhood. In a news release distributed at the event, he said, "We pledged from the outset that The Provence would be much more than just a casino, and today's exciting announcement is an important step towards confirming that pledge."
Blatstein also said that more chef announcements would be forthcoming as partners are selected for the rest of the planned eight restaurants at The Provence. And he assured us there will be Philadelphia chefs in the mix: "Of course there will be local flavor." Still, he said of Colicchio and Carmellini, "It's an honor they're part of our team."