Bala bistro Avril is open for business

Christian Gatti and his wife, April Lisante , stand in front of their new restaurant, Avril, in Bala Cynwyd. For now, it's a Tuesday-to-Saturday dinner spot. Lunch, brunch, and Sunday dinner menus are in the works.
Christian Gatti and his wife, April Lisante , stand in front of their new restaurant, Avril, in Bala Cynwyd. For now, it's a Tuesday-to-Saturday dinner spot. Lunch, brunch, and Sunday dinner menus are in the works.
Posted: August 06, 2009

New and just off City Avenue: Avril (134 Bala Ave., Bala Cynwyd, 610-667-2626), a cozy BYO bistro from chef Christian Gatti and his wife, April Lisante - hence the name.

Gatti's Mediterranean menu starts in southeast France and heads into Italy. It will go farther inland as the weather cools off.

Lisante, who spent a decade as a reporter, food writer, and editor at the Philadelphia Daily News, met Gatti in 2003 when she interviewed him for a feature about hot, young chefs. His background includes City Tavern (Concepts by Staib), White Dog Cafe, and Audrey Claire.

Avril, now open for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays (entrees: $18 to $26), will later add lunch Tuesdays through Fridays, Sunday brunch and Sunday dinner. Sunday dinners, known as bombance sur dimanche ("Sunday feast"), are a collection of prix-fixes ($25 to $40).

What's new

Shank's & Evelyn's, which for nearly five decades dispensed homestyle from a luncheonette at 10th and Carpenter, resurfaced as Shank's Original at 120 S. 15th St., next to the parking garage at 15th and Sansom Streets. There's still a Poppa in the house: Pamela Poppa, daughter of founders Frank ("Shank") and Evelyn Perri. Everything is cooked on the premises: cheesesteaks made with sirloin, sliced-to-order hoagies, roast pork, giant breakfast giambotta, and the signature chicken-cutlet sandwiches, with pan-fried chicken, broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone. No tripe or veal scaloppini uptown. The Poppas sold the Shank's name to Marcello Ciurlino, who is planning to franchise. Hours will be 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays; Saturday lunch will wait for the fall.

Manayunk buzz

Chefs Matt Levin and Joseph Scarpone each has a project underway on the upper end of Main Street in Manayunk as both are partnered with real estate developers Richard Rivera and Rob Nydick. Both are aiming at mid-fall.

Scarpone, who previously ran Sovalo, a polished, three-bell California-style bistro in Northern Liberties, is going into 4359 Main St. with a paninoteca/wine bar called agiato. Think Le Pain Quotidien here: Setup will resemble a Tuscan cafe with a 10-seat community table and 20 other seats. Menu includes small plates, pressed sandwiches, salads, house-made mozzarella and breads, and a tight wine list of mainly Californians. It will be open from breakfast till late evening.

Levin, formerly chef at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, is going into a former building-supply store at 4445 Main St., next door to the fire station, with Rubb, which he describes as "no-rules, punk-rock barbecue" - order at the counter, take it to your seat. Levin says his more ambitious project, Masano, is still in development.

What's coming

Beer aficionado Chris Fetfatzes and girlfriend Heather Annechiarico, a marketer, are setting up Hawthornes in the former Bella Vista Beer Distributors on the southwest corner of 11th and Fitzwater Streets in South Philly. Fetfatzes, whose father owns the beer business (now at 11th and Catharine), describes Hawthornes as a "homey cafe-slash-gourmet deli-slash-brunch-spot-slash-bottle shop," with prepared food to go and a changing menu of food based on local, seasonal ingredients. Cheese plates, too. "We'll have obscene amounts of beer - 800 to 1,000 varieties plus growlers to go," she says. Opening is expected in mid-September.

Dmitri Chimes is plotting a third location of Dmitri's, his down-home Greek-style eatery, at 944 N. Second St. in Northern Liberties, the corner spot at Second and Laurel that's been a couple of short-lived coffee bars, including Elixir Cafe. He hopes to open, as a BYOB, in late September.

Michael Chow, whose Sang Kee Peking Noodle House has been wowing folks at Ninth and Vine since 1980 or so, is going into the Sheraton University City Hotel at 36th and Chestnut Streets. He hopes to open in a couple of months, combining Chinatown's noodle concept with the polish of his Sang Kee Asian Bistro in Wynnewood; also planned are a noodle bar and open kitchen.

Jason Dilks and Marlo Fioravanti are creating another location for Slice, their Neapolitan-style pizzeria at 10th and Federal in South Philly. Spot: 1740 Sansom St., which was Bish Bish Cafe for four minutes after it spent eight minutes as Philly Falafel. Fioravanti hopes to open by midmonth.

Briefly noted

Sonata, the new BYOB at 1030 N. American St. in Northern Liberties, is open Sundays for dinner.

Those following Francesco Martorella from spots such as Brasserie Perrier to Bliss: He's executive chef at the new Capital Grill location in Cherry Hill.

Mémé in Center City is closed Sundays and Mondays until Sept. 5.

Contact columnist Michael Klein at 215-854-5514 or See real-time restaurant info at

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