Table Talk: Melograno relocates; Mémé takes old spot

Posted: October 02, 2008

Melograno's neighbors near Fitler Square moaned earlier this year when they learned that Rosemarie Tran and Gianluca Demontis' lease would not be renewed at 22d and Spruce Streets. Their tiny but airy Italian BYOB had drawn a following in its nearly five years.

Melograno just resurfaced five blocks away, at 2012 Sansom St. (215-875-8116), and, as Tran said last week, they're starting to view the move as a blessing in disguise. The new space may be midblock, but it's twice the size (80-ish seats) and a touch cozier; the lower ceilings dampen the dinner din. The Rome-raised Demontis still has an open kitchen for his Tuscan/Umbrian/Roman cuisine (no major changes from the old spot; entrees top out in the high $20s). Family photos line the walls, and check out the teeny-weeney Vespa scooter, which the couple got from an antique carousel in Italy. Melograno is open for dinner Tuesdays through Sundays.

In that charmed corner at 22d and Spruce, Melograno's successor is the days-old Mémé (2201 Spruce St., 215-735-4900), a lively 40-seater from chef David Katz, who gained notice at the now-closed Restaurant M near Washington Square after working at Salt and Pollo Rosso.

Look up above the Spruce Street window at the chalkboard menu, broken into "small-ish" and "larg-er" plates, as well as several dishes aimed for two. It's BYOB until the liquor license arrives (probably not before January); he'll focus on beers and estate-bottled wines. Katz is positioning Mémé - that's what he called his Moroccan grandmother, pronounced "may-may" - as a drop-in place with a $40-a-head check average. (By drop-in: He'll take reservations for half the dining room.)

Among dishes on the seasonal menu: sauteed skate with tapenade; lamb leg with ratatouille; sizzling mussels; and beef tartare with salty chips. The sous chef from M, Jonathan Petruce, and his brother, Justin, who relocated from Chicago, are working alongside Katz.

It's open for dinner nightly except for Tuesdays. There's also Sunday brunch. Well-thought-out Web site, too: www.memerestaurant.com.

What's new

Kaizan, which lasted a Philly minute in the Academy House (1420 Locust St., 215-735-1144), has been reconceptualized as Sakeya, an izakaya (Japanese bar). Owner Jonathan Chun has brought in Barbra Hur as general manager. Atmosphere is dark and sexy. Menu includes maki, sushi, salads, noodles, donburi and tempura - all small-plates. Beverage list includes 10 sakes and several Japanese beers. It's open nightly.

The ultracasual Mix (2101 Chestnut St., 215-568-3355 ) now lights up the ground floor of the RiverWest Condos at 21st and Chestnut Streets. It's a combo coffeeshop, salad stop, and brick-oven pizzeria with a bar in the back; it's open daily from lunch through late night. Menu includes pastas (top price: $15.95) and many vegetarian options. Owner Victor Fellus also has Soho Pizza in Old City.

Gregory and Mary Russell at University City's Zocalo have gone next door with Zocalito (3606 Lancaster Ave., 215-301-0013 ), a cutesy coffee and bagel shop (pastries, breakfast sandwiches, etc.). It's open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekends. Plan is to expand menu to lunch. Meanwhile, Sergio Flores, who was executive chef of the former El Mariachi restaurants at 24th and Walnut Streets and in Blue Bell, is cooking at Zocalo.

Capriccio Cafe & Espresso Bar at Cafe Cret has opened at 16th Street and the Parkway, across from JFK Plaza.

What's with Alison two?

For all the restaurants that open five minutes after they get their health certificates, there's Alison two (424 S. Bethlehem Pike, Fort Washington, 215-591-0200). The lights have been on for two weeks at chef-owner Alison Barshak's new place, but only friends and family members are being served. Tonight marks the opening of the bar (Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 5:30 p.m.), and the first night of service in the dining room will be Oct. 16. Meanwhile, Barshak's restaurant Alison at Blue Bell is closed for renovations, as she had planned. <<Item has been updated; see more at http://go.philly.com/insider>>

Briefly noted

Tip O'Leary's Bryn Mawr Pub will fill the space that previously housed the Pub of Bryn Mawr and the Great American Pub at 610-612 W. Lancaster Ave. in Bryn Mawr. It's from the team at Kellianns Bar & Grill (16th and Spring Garden Streets) and Tip O'Leary's Saloon (300 West Chester Pike in Havertown), who plan a mid-October opening. Menu will include salads, sandwiches, brick-oven pizza and seafood specialties. Ten beers on tap.

The renovations at the Elephant & Castle at the Crowne Plaza (18th and Market Streets) are just about done, so reopening is set for Monday.

Chop House in Gibbsboro has opened for weekday lunch.

Lacroix at the Rittenhouse commissioned designer Marguerite Rodgers to carve out a bar in the dining room. Result: mahogany bar back with an elegant U-shaped Bellagio granite bar top flanked by 10 chairs, plus four cocktail tables. Chef Matt Levin now offers a bar menu.


Contact columnist Michael Klein

at 215-854-5514 or mklein@phillynews.com. For more restaurant news, see "The Insider"

at http://go.philly.com/insider.

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