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Love Is in the House: 14 Philly Restaurant Couples

By Danya Henninger
February 11, 2014
Photo by: Bob Moysan

Relationships are never easy, but toss in equal dashes of impatient guests, late nights behind the stove and capriciously varying cash flow, and the challenge gets ever greater. The cauldron of the food biz can be tough, but it can also forge solid partnerships that last a lifetime. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re shining the spotlight on pairs who run or work at restaurants together. Get the scoop on the pros and cons of joint restaurant life from these 14 couples (listed in order of how long they’ve toiled together), then head out to dine and bask in the love.

  • Photo by: Stuart Goldberg

    Gregory and Julie Vernick (Vernick Food & Drink)

    Julie runs the front of the house and Greg is the chef at this Rittenhouse New American, a favorite for neighborhood crowds, out-of-town visitors and industry insiders alike.

    Been a couple for: 12 years
    Working together for: 2 years
    Best thing about working together: We have a lot of fun
    Hardest thing about working together: Sometimes it’s not all fun!

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Kristin and Andrew Wood (Russet)

    After working separately in both Philadelphia and Napa Valley, the Woods returned to Philadelphia to launch their own farm-focused Center City BYO. Kristin does the baking and desserts, and Andrew is in charge of savory dishes.

    Been a couple for: 14 years
    Working together for: 2 years
    Best thing about working together: Spending time together
    Hardest thing about working together: Co-managing our staff (it's a lot like parenting)

  • Joe Cicala and Angela Ranalli (Le Virtu)

    Three months after Angela was hired at this East Passyunk Abruzzese, she and Joe started dating. Also look for her sweets and his food at Brigantessa when it opens later this year.

    Been a couple for: 3 years
    Working together for: 3 years
    Best thing about working together: Culinary research trips together to Italy
    Hardest thing about working together: The schedule... she works mornings, he works nights.

  • Josh and Colleen Lawler (The Farm and Fisherman, The Farm and Fisherman Tavern & Market)

    This pair met during their sophomore year at Drexel Hospitality, moved to New York to work at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and then came back to open their Wash West BYO and - just recently - the Cherry Hill market/cafe/bar.

    Been a couple for: 13 years
    Working together for: 3 years
    Best thing about working together: Getting to spend time together, making our own schedule
    Hardest thing about working together: Getting babysitters for the kids

  • Jill Weber and Evan Malone (Rex 1516, Jet Wine Bar)

    She’s a world-traveling archaeologist, he’s a physicist with a cutting-edge design-fabrication studio, but on the side, these Ph.Ds run two successful restaurants on South Street West. Look for their next - Cafe Ynez - on Washington Avenue later this year.

    Been a couple for: 21 years
    Working together for: 3 years
    Best thing about working together: Creative collaboration
    Hardest thing about working together: Working lunches (and dinners, and vacations...)

  • Chris Fetfatzes and Heather Annechiarico (Hawthornes, The Cambridge)

    Building on the Fetfatzes family business, this pair first opened the bottle shop/cafe across the street from Bella Vista Beer Distributors, and then branched out with their full-service restaurant on South Street West.

    Been a couple for: 5.5 years
    Working together for: 4.5 years
    Best thing about working together: Confidence
    Hardest thing about working together: Turning it off

  • Pierre and Charlotte Calmels (Bibou, Le Cheri)

    Fans have trouble deciding whether it's Charlotte’s charm or Pierre’s food that make their French BYO in Bella Vista one of the city’s finest dining gems. Another chance to experience both now comes in liquor-licensed form at their new Rittenhouse bistro.

    Been a couple for: 14 years
    Working together for: 5 years
    Best thing about working together: Working to achieve the same goal, businesswise
    Hardest thing about working together: Talking about anything else when not at work

  • Leigh Maida and Brendan Hartranft (Resurrection Ale House, Local 44, Strangelove’s, Memphis Taproom)

    Leigh matches her husband in love and respect for great beer, and where Brendan brings a wealth of brew-serving experience, she contributes management skills. Together, it’s enough to sustain four gastropubs around the city.

    Been a couple for: 16 years
    Working together for: 6 years
    Best thing about working together: One other person out there believes how crazy your day was.
    Hardest thing about working together: You never really leave work.

  • Jeremy and Jessica Nolen (Brauhaus Schmitz, Wursthaus Schmitz)

    After meeting at former Queen Village bistro Coquette, Jeremy and Jessica took their complementary cooking skills (he does savory, she does sweet) to this South Street German beer hall and its offshoot stand in Reading Terminal Market.

    Been a couple for: 7 years
    Working together for: 7 years
    Best thing about working together: Being able to see each other a lot because we both work at night.
    Hardest thing about working together: Same as above, but there’s not much hard about it.

  • Photo by: Bob Moysan

    Joncarl Lachman and Bob Moysan (Noord)

    “I have now dragged poor Bob through the process of opening a restaurant three times,” says Joncarl, a statement that is belied by the delight with which the chef’s partner welcomes you to try the food at the pair’s East Passyunk BYO.

    Been a couple for: 14 years
    Working together for: 8 years
    Best thing about working together: The fun of creating special nights for our guests - we still look at it as throwing a dinner party in our home, every night.
    Hardest thing about working together: We move at different speed and styles - I am fast and furious, Bob is thoughtful and deliberate. While we essentially see that as a positive, it can cause a bit of friction.

  • Jenniphur and Michael Pasquarello (Cafe Lift, Bufad, Prohibition Taproom)

    The childhood sweethearts have created a restaurant kindergarten of sorts with their trio of restaurants on 13th Street in the Loft District. Their newest venture, Kensington Quarters, is coming soon to Frankford Avenue.

    Been a couple for: 12 years (in our adult life)
    Been working together for: 10 years
    Best thing about working together: The days in this business are long, and it’s nice to be able to see each other throughout.
    Best thing about working together: We can’t get away from each other!

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran (Barbuzzo, Little Nonna’s, Lolita, Jamonera, Grocery)

    In addition to their five food-focused ventures (Marcie’s the chef, Val takes care of the books), this couple also runs two boutique shops on 13th Street - a strip they’ve been instrumental in turning into one of the hottest areas in the city.

    Been a couple for: 12 years
    Working together for: 11 years
    Best thing about working together: We see a lot of each other.
    Hardest thing about working together: We see A LOT of each other.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Kate Jacoby and Rich Landau (Vedge)

    Rich is officially the chef while Kate takes care of beverages and desserts, but it’s the duo’s harmony that makes the real magic at their meat-free Locust Street restaurant. Look forward to their new (as yet unnamed) Rittenhouse bar later this year.

    Been a couple for: 13 years
    Working together for: 13 years
    Best thing about working together: Shared inspiration and total understanding
    Hardest thing about working together: Never being able to fully turn it off

  • Jennifer and Mitch Prensky (Supper)

    Without Jen’s organization and direction, Mitch might still have made the jump from playing in a band to cooking behind the line, but it’s doubtful he would have become the well-respected chef he is, running the South Street restaurant as well as a successful catering biz.

    Been a couple for: 21 years
    Working together for: 17 years
    Best thing about working together: Getting to be with each other 24/7
    Hardest thing about working together: Getting to be with each other 24/7

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Places Mentioned

Vedge

Vegetarian • Washington Square West

Food28 Decor26 Service26 Cost$60
 
 
 
Supper

New American • Bella Vista

Food24 Decor23 Service22 Cost$46
 
 
 
Le Virtù

Italian • East Passyunk Crossing

Food25 Decor22 Service24 Cost$51
 
 
 
Jamonera

Spanish • Washington Square West

Food23 Decor20 Service23 Cost$50
 
 
 
Barbuzzo

Mediterranean • Washington Square West

Food26 Decor21 Service22 Cost$43
 
 
 
Little Nonna's

Italian • Washington Square West

Food23 Decor21 Service21 Cost$43
 
 
 
Lolita

Mexican • Washington Square West

Food24 Decor- Service20 Cost$34
 
 
 
Memphis Taproom

American • East Kensington

Food25 Decor19 Service22 Cost$27
 
 
 
Noord

Scandinavian • East Passyunk Crossing

Food27 Decor21 Service24 Cost$47
 
 
 
Mountain Brauhaus Restaurant

German • Gardiner

Food24 Decor18 Service21 Cost$36
 
 
 
Bibou

French • Bella Vista

Food28 Decor20 Service26 Cost$62
 
 
 
Farm & Fisherman

American • Washington Square West

Food27 Decor21 Service25 Cost$54
 
 
 
Vernick Food & Drink

American • Rittenhouse Square

Food28 Decor24 Service26 Cost$63
 
 
 
Russet

American • Rittenhouse Square

Food24 Decor23 Service23 Cost$45
 
 
 
 
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