Greatest Hits and What You Missed: Pizza, Shola, Hoagies, Dogs and Instant Mashed Potatoes

So the biggest news this week was obviously the arrival on the stands of Philadelphia magazine’s 50 Best Pizzas issue. But that wasn’t all we did. No, we were also poking our noses into the kitchens of Philadelphia’s finest restaurants to see who was using Betty Crocker Potato Buds,weighing in on the Amoroso’s strike and subsequent hoagie shortages, giving you the run-down on the just-opened Serafina and figuring out what was happening with American Sardine Bar–which had blown past its opening date like it wasn’t even there.

Here’s some of the other stuff you might’ve missed…

A Sly Fox Beer Dinner at Matyson Scallops, foie gras, pork belly and beer? Sign us up.
A Brunch Menu For Dogs We SO wish this was a joke. Unfortunately, it’s not.
Shola Vs. Blatstein To say that this story of ego, money and the (non)opening of Speck pissed a few people off would be the understatement of the year.
The Great Philadelphia Pizza Quest In which we explain what it was like to eat 1,000 pizzas
The Great Pizza Quest: By The Numbers In which we explain that it was actually more like 1,110 pizzas (and 640,000 calories)

Don’t forget to keep an eye on the Foobooz Facebook page and Twitter feed to stay up-to-date on all the restaurant news in the city. And if you’re also looking for some random thoughts on pizza, tacos, foie gras, pie, chicken wings, zombies, robots and Buckaroo Banzai, you can follow me @Jason_Sheehan.

In The Magazine: Shola vs. Blatstein

For those of you who care about restaurants and chefs (and I mean really care about restaurants and chefs), one of the most maddening and mysterious stories of the past year has been the on-again/off-again promise of Speck Food + Wine–the never-opened (but widely theorized about) modern culinary wonderland by chef Shola Olunloyo. The man had done private, half-secret dinners that had become legendary among Philly’s swells, but never had a restaurant for the masses.

That was supposed to change with the opening of Speck which, itself, was supposed to be the culinary centerpiece of the Piazza at Schmidts in Northern Liberties. But then…

Plans took shape in the spring of 2010. Presided­ over by Shola Olunloyo, the city’s most mystifying chef, the bistro was supposed to be the fine-dining showpiece of Bart Blatstein’s Piazza at Schmidts in Northern Liberties. Then, in March of this year, Blatstein locked Olunloyo out, effectively closing Speck before it even opened.

The million-dollar fiasco seems like a simple tale of a virtuous artist, an avaricious businessman and their inability to compromise. We all know how that story ends.

So much for simplicity.

Read more »

Vetri Awaits Sushi

We’re sure this is just a photo of Marc Vetri hoping to score some sushi as he peers into the former Speck (future Raw) on the Piazza at Schmidts. Right? Right?

We also love that Vetri has his apron on, man is just ready to cook.

Battle Royale at the Piazza: Bart Blatstein Locks Shola Olunloyo Out Of Speck

We’ve been telling you for what seems like years about Speck, Shola Olunloyo’s long-delayed eatery that was to bring sophisticated eating to Bart Blatstein’s Piazza, more known for P.Y.T.’s beloved burgers, booze-spiked milkshakes, and inflatable pools stocked with girls in bikinis than the level of culinary prowess that the Studiokitchen genius would bring to the table. But now, it seems that the Blatstein-Olunloyo partnership is no more, with the landlord locking the chef out of the restaurant, which was – in theory – finally set to open. According to a trusted source, the lockout occurred last week. The source – who personally knows both men well enough to know firsthand that Olunloyo is bristly (and that’s putting it nicely) and that Blatstein does not put up with any B.S. – isn’t privy to the exact nature of the dispute, but observes: “Their relationship has gone south now that they have this beautiful $1 million restaurant that Shola has been locked out of… which kinda sucks.”

Neither Blatstein nor Olunloyo could immediately be reached for comment.


Since posting this earlier this afternoon, the lines are being drawn pretty clearly in the sand. I heard from someone in Olunloyo’s camp, who said that Blatstein wanted the chef to sign an agreement entitling the developer to a part of any books, restaurants, or other future projects that he might pursue. That person added that Olunloyo said last Friday that the project is officially over, and that he paid employees out of his own pocket for lost wages. Oh, and they also mentioned, “Bart Blatstein is an asshole. He held the restaurant completely hostage.”

Nobody at Blatstein HQ wants to speak for attribution. But one person close to the deal – or, rather, non-deal – confirms that there was an agreement similar to this that Olunloyo refused to sign. Their explanation: “If Shola decided he wanted to move to California two months from now, what recourse would there be? Shola has no assets.” That source promised that Speck would open with another chef (maybe Jose Garces?!), and pointed out that Bart has “opened ten restaurants without any drama. How many has Shola opened successfully? Zero, and that’s with drama.” Oh, and they also mentioned, “Some people get all wrapped up in Shola and drink his Kool-Aid like he’s Jim Jones. I think he’s nuts.”

See you in court, fellas.

Quick Bites

At long last, Agiato has opened in Manayunk. Chef Joe Scarpone who owned Sovalo in Northern Liberties is at the helm. [The Insider]

Longtime Rouge chef Michael Yeamans has returned to the Rittenhouse spot and is serving a truffle-centric menu through the end of the year. [Grub Street]

The original Brown Betty’s on Liberties Walk is moving to a bigger, bi-level spot at 722 N 2nd Street. [Restaurant Club]

Speck Food and Wine passed its health inspection Saturday. [Facebook]

Leila Cafe has resurfaced at 1356 South Street. If all goes well the Middle Eastern restaurant could open today. [The Insider]

Read more »

Quick Bites

“Now it’s time to bloody cook.” So says Shola Olunloyo in his latest blog post where he gives a peek into Speck’s kitchen. [StudioKitchen]

The Twisted Tail will be the name of the bourbon and blues concept planned for the former Kildare’s at 2nd and Lombard. [The Insider]

The fondly recalled Jimmy John’s in Chaddsford which suffered a fire on its 70th anniversary is being rebuilt. [Second Helpings]

Chef Jim Coleman has left Coleman at the Normandy Farm Hotel & Conference Center in Blue Bell to become the new chef at World Cafe Live. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Bridgid’s in Fairmount unveiled the East Coast’s only gravity tap this Saturday. [Philly Beer Girl]

Quick Bites

1200 Bank, the upscale billiards spot hoping to open at 12th and Chestnut is going through the approval process. The active Facebook page notes opposition from neighbors and several upcoming public meetings. [Facebook via The Insider]

Speck Food + Wine has been delayed 6-weeks. Diners with reservations to the Studiokitchen counter received an email Monday and the promise of a gratis dinner. [The Insider]

The Bottle Shop on East Passyunk will be opening on Saturday, October 16th. [Meal Ticket]

Nina’s Trattoria softly opened this past weekend. The Italian Market BYOB will be fully open this Friday. [Meal Ticket]

Down Home Diner has reopened in the Reading Terminal Market.

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