The affordable Philly BYOB sometimes feels like it’s going the way of cobblestone streets. With rent and other costs skyrocketing, a liquor license opens up a welcome revenue stream, and the current trend sees local restaurateurs adding booze to their offerings.
But the family behind Girasole — the storied Italian restaurant that began life in 1990 at the corner of 13th and Locust, expanded to Atlantic City, then returned to Philadelphia with a location just off Broad and Pine — is opting to go the opposite direction.
This summer, chef Angela Iovino and her husband Franco will open Angelina’s Italian Ristorante at 743 S. 8th St. in Bella Vista. (The space was previously a string of short-lived cafes, most recently Pellicane’s Nest.)
Per daughter Michele Iovino, who has helped her parents run their restaurants since she was a coat check clerk at their original Wash West spot, Angelina’s will be “nothing like Girasole” — except for its focus on her 61-year-old mother’s cooking, which is inspired by her native Naples, Italy. Think housemade pasta, simple antipasti and whole grilled fish and meat.
“The kitchen is tiny,” Iovino said, noting that it’s tucked into the front corner of the 25-seat dining room, “so we will have very few menu items, changing regularly. There’s not much space, but Italians don’t need that much to work with.”
Downsizing from Girasole, which closed in April, was a move intended to make things easier for her parents as they got older, Iovino said. Girasole Atlantic City remains open.
“On Pine Street, it was a great building, great location, but it was in the Theater District and everything there is always a rush, so fast-paced all the time,” she explained. “Now my mother can just relax and make the dishes the way she wants.”
At the new restaurant, which is just south of Fitzwater on the same block as Cucina Forte and the forthcoming Guppy’s (formerly Growlers), plates will be priced for the neighborhood. Appetizers will hover between $10 and $12, pastas will range from $14 to $17 and entrees will top out around $29. Michele expects to serve dinner seven days a week, and is also contemplating opening for lunch, with an express combo deal of sandwiches and salads.
A quick interior revamp is nearly complete, and the Iovinos are targeting a launch sometime between mid-July and early August.