If developer Bart Blatstein wins the city's second casino license, he has commitments from New York chefs Tom Colicchio and Andrew Carmellini to open restaurants at his Provence Resort & Casino at Broad and Callowhill Streets.
Tower Entertainment's Blatstein, who created the Piazza at Schmidt's in Northern Liberties, announced the letters of intent at a news conference today at a parking garage formerly used by employees of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.
Blatstein bought the 18-floor Inquirer and Daily News building in 2011, paying north of $19 million. The Provence would be a $700 million project.
Colicchio, a household name from his role as the head judge on Bravo's Top Chef, made his mark in the mid-1990s when he and Danny Meyer opened Gramercy Tavern; he later sold his interest. His current holdings include Craft, Craftsteak, Craftbar, 'wichcraft', Colicchio & Sons, and Riverpark, in various cities. Collicchio said his restaurant would be a 220-seat steak house using locally sourced ingredients. He was impressed with the "amazing scope and scale" of Provence.
Carmellini, raised in Ohio and trained at the Culinary Institute of America, is chef and partner at NYC's Locanda Verde, The Dutch, and The Lafayette. He also has written two books and won a Michelin Star while at A Voce in Manhattan. He said his restaurant would be an Italian theme.
Colicchio and Carmellini have much in common, notably the legal services of Colicchio's cousin Phil, who also represents Top Chef winner and Philly chef Kevin Sbraga.
Blatstein was trying to keep the chefs' identities secret before the news conference but they all were spotted having lunch at El Camino Real in Northern Liberties. They gave chef Keith Bernstein a quick-fire challenge: guacamole, carnitas tacos with salsa verde, steak tacos with charred salsa, a smoked BBQ mixer of smoked short rib house-made hot link and smoked pork shoulder, and rare tuna tacos with sweet-and-sour slaw.
Tower and four other applicants will appear before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board over several days, beginning Jan. 28, in suitability hearings. A decision is not expected before spring.