"My goal is to bring Le Bec-Fin to where it once was," said Fanucci in an interview.
The new kitchen will employ French techniques but stress local produce and ingredients. Fanucci said a chef was not yet on board and denied that David Breeden, a veteran of French Laundry sibling Per Se, would run the kitchen, despite local bloggers' insistence otherwise.
Fanucci, a native of the French Riviera who was general manager of Le Bec-Fin from 2000 to 2003, previously was general manager for six years of the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., which stands atop of most critics' lists of best restaurants in the United States.
"We want to keep Le Bec-Fin going for the next 35 years," Fanucci said. Perrier crowed: "I have had it for 42 years."
Perrier settled into a chair and sucked on a celebratory cigar while Fanucci, a trim man of 41, answered questions from the staff. Of course, they would get final paychecks as well as vacation pay. Just come to the office. You can apply for jobs at the revived Le Bec-Fin, which will open this spring but not take reservations till July. Yes, a 401(k) will be offered to employees. Monday morning, he said, a truck would cart off the restaurant's furnishings to be placed in storage during renovations, which will include the three kitchens.
Perrier said he would take a vacation - his first in a decade. He owns Georges', a restaurant in Wayne, the Art of Bread, a bakery/cafe in Narberth, and has a share of Mia in Atlantic City.
Fanucci said he visited Philadelphia in 2008 to address Drexel University's hospitality school. He and his wife, Fazilet, joined Perrier for dinner at Le Bec-Fin. "We said, 'One day, we're going to come back and take care of you,' " Fanucci said. "Last year, a guest I know from Le Bec-Fin was dining at French Laundry. He said, 'You know what would be great? If you would buy Le Bec-Fin.' I said, I think I'm going to go for it. I flew here and I asked him if he would be willing to sell the restaurant. He said, Make me an offer."
Fanucci said he could not immediately find a backer until last October.
Perrier, in a separate interview, said he had wanted to get out of the business for about a year.
Fanucci said the move to buy the restaurant - and terms have not been disclosed - was "evolution."
"I held the best general manager's job in the country. I was just talking to [French Laundry owner] Thomas [Keller] about it. Owning Le Bec-Fin will allow me to follow what I have been training for all my career. It's a huge challenge."
Fanucci said he had briefly considered changing the restaurant's name - "adding a little something to it, and I realized I was making it too complicated."
Decor also will be simpler. "I'm going to tone it down. The chandeliers will stay, of course. This is Le Bec."
The dining room will become smaller as the anteroom, now used for seating, will become a lounge. The downstairs lounge, which recently was renovated, will be redecorated again and brought back as a bistro. Perrier has been asked to name it.
At the outset, main dining will be a la carte as well as five- and seven-course fixed-price. Asked how many dollars a person would pay for dinner, Fanucci thought a bit and replied, "Less than 200, more than 100."
Perrier would remain, Fanucci said, to help him with ideas and to have coffee with.
Chef Nicholas Elmi would not be staying on, but is developing his own restaurant in the city.
Contact Michael Klein at firstname.lastname@example.org.