The Revisit: Lolita

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“You can drink as many of these as you want,” our server said brightly. “They’re good for you!”

The concoction in question, a Green Garden Margarita, featured what Lolita’s new menu called “green stuff” and our waitress had likened to a “juice cleanse, only with tequila in it.”

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen! The reason Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, after ten years running Lolita–every Center City twenty-something’s favorite modern Mexican BYOB–went out and got a liquor license: to dole out Mason jars of juiced spinach, kale, celery, basil, cucumber, ginger and Cozadores Reposado.

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Lolita Is All Set to Reopen Tonight

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Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran’s first restaurant is all grown up. Lolita, which opened as a BYOB ten years ago comes back tonight with a liquor license and a new look, the result of a months long renovation. Among the changes, a sixteen seat bar and chef’s counter that looks into the open kitchen.

Also revamped is the menu. Inspired by Turney’s recent trips to Mexico City, the food is inspired by Mexican street food and includes tacos, ceviches and other traditional plates. Rest assured carne asada loyalist, that signature Lolita dish remains. Freshly made tortillas, formed from a hand-cranked press in the open kitchen will form the base for eight taco dishes that populate the menu. A rotating spit, or trompo, will slow cook layers of thinly cut meats.

Drinks and the full menu » 

About Last Night: Lolita, Reborn

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Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney are still a couple of weeks away from opening the re-vamp of their first restaurant, modern Mexican Lolita, but the place already has polish to spare and we were lucky to get an early glimpse.

Safran and Turney have transformed Lolita–once a narrow, rectangular, rosy-hued room with an open kitchen smushed in to the middle of the space–to a layout that feels much more open. While it is, of course, still narrow, the kitchen and bar now run along one side of the room, creating ample bar seating that affords a primo view of cocktails being shaken, tortillas being rolled (on a Mexican machine complete with menacing safety illustrations), and meat sizzling shawarma-style on a vertical roaster.

The food, the drinks and lots of photos, right this way

Turney and Safran to be Honored This Evening

Photo by Jason Varney

Photo by Jason Varney

Tonight is Women Against Abuse’s Dish It Up 2014 event. The night features food, fashion and fun as it features food from premier female restaurateurs and chefs in the city.

Dish It Up 2014 will also feature the brand new Woman of the Year Award to honor women leaders who have shown “extraordinary support of the movement to end domestic violence in Philadelphia.” The first honorees are chef Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran – whose seven restaurants and boutiques on 13th Street in Philadelphia have helped transform the Midtown Village neighborhood into what it is today. 

Tickets for the event are now sold out but join us in congratulating Turney and Safran.

Lolita Re-Opening Soon in the Gayborhood

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Well there’s finally word on what’s going on with Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran’s Lolita in the Gayborhood. The 10-year-old Mexican restaurant closed for renovations last August, and is expected to re-open this spring “with a fresh look, a new Mexican street food-inspired menu and a full liquor license.” Here’s more on the food, drinks and the new look from a press release:

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Little Nonna’s in the New York Times

Spaghetti and meatballs at Little Nonna's | Photo by Jason Varney

Spaghetti and meatballs at Little Nonna’s | Photo by Jason Varney

Ingrid Williams visits Little Nonna’s for the New York Times. The only flaw she finds is in the pricy wine list.

[O]n a chilly evening in November, I couldn’t resist the Sunday gravy. A heaping portion of “gravy” (marinara made with San Marzano tomatoes) and paccheri (the macaroni of the day) arrived on one platter, and on another were assorted meats — pork braciole, spicy fennel sausage, meatballs stuffed with fontina. Other memorable dishes deviated from the traditional tried and true, like bruschetta with roasted figs, Gorgonzola dolce, celery hearts and crunchy hazelnuts. And a standout pasta dish featured braised duck, pecorino and turnips atop chestnut ravioli stuffed with roasted heirloom squash.

Restaurant Report: Little Nonna’s in Philadelphia [New York Times]
Little Nonna’s [Foobooz]

2014 James Beard Semifinalists Announced

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The 2014 James Beard Foundation Semifinalists have been announced. Local chefs and restaurateurs and restaurants made it to the semifinals in ten categories including Outstanding Restaurant, Fork, and three nominees for Rising Star Chef of the Year, Chris Kearse, Will, Ben Puchowitz, Cheu Noodle Bar and Ben Nerenhausen, Mistral (Princeton, NJ).

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Little Nonna’s Takes Comfort Food To the Next Level

Spaghetti and meatballs at Little Nonna's | Photo by Jason Varney

Spaghetti and meatballs at Little Nonna’s | Photo by Jason Varney

Trey Popp finds that Marcie Turney has breathed new life into red-gravy Italian at Little Nonna’s.

Just to be safe, though, order the polenta and meatballs to share; Turney packs her cornmeal with enough cream, taleggio, fontina and parmesan to put the most shameless cheese grits to shame. And you’ll want to have room at dinner’s far end for pastry chef Sara May’s spumoni, which ditches the usual neon palette in favor of a moody sundae richly muddled with roasted cherries, chocolate pizzelles and pistachio-olive oil.

Three Stars – Excellent

Restaurant Review: Next-Level Comfort Food at Little Nonna’s [Philadelphia Magazine]
Little Nonna’s [Foobooz]

Little Nonna’s Opening Menus

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Little Nonna’s, the red-gravy restaurant from Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran opens to the public tonight and we’ve got the menus. So check out what you’ll be eating, from “Big Mama’s Meatballs” to Grilled Swordfish Oreganata.

Reservations are available by calling 215-546-2100.

Little Nonna’s Dinner Menu (PDF)
Little Nonna’s Drinks and Wine Menu (PDF)
Little Nonna’s Dessert Menu
 (PDF)

Little Nonna’s [Official Site]

Little Nonna’s Sets Opening Date

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Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran have set September 4th as the opening date for their “red-sauce” inspired Little Nonna’s. This is the fourth restaurant and seventh business along 13th Street for the pair. Little Nonna’s will seat 37, forty more seats will be available in the outdoor courtyard and will focus on the strong traditions of Italian-American cooking. Look for satisfying staples of “Sunday gravy” and homemade meatballs. Chef Turney even plans to add to her menu by inviting guests to share their own signature dishes via recipe cards on each table. Turney will choose her favorites to feature on the menu.

In addition to the traditional Italian-American classics, look for  an all Italian wine list and Italian cocktails including the iconic Negroni. Little Nonna’s version will be served in a mason jar with one big block of ice. We’ll have the full menu early next week.

More photos and details » 

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