The retail scene on Chestnut Street - quiet seemingly for decades - appears to be on the way up. Some of it is wishful thinking at the moment as Nordstrom Rack is rumored to be considering the old Daffy's at 17th and Chestnut, and Uniqlo is looking at 1608 Chestnut St.
How about a very real, substantial and homegrown restaurant project to add to the mix.
I'll tell you about Gran Caffe L'Aquila at 1716 Chestnut St., whose past includes the long-empty Copa Miami. It's next door to Sephora and Jacobs Music and is named in honor of the earthquake-ravaged city in Abruzzo.
Behind it is Riccardo Longo, who owns Feasterville's Toscana 52, in a partnership with unnamed Italian celebrity chefs. The project's attorney, Stella Tsai, says Gran Caffe L'Aquila will be a multiregional Italian bar/cafe featuring assaggi (small plates), regional Italian wines and beer, and artisanal gelato and pastry made on premises.
The first floor will be casual. The second floor will be a bit more refined, and will feature an open kitchen and Italian cultural school.
Spring opening is the aim.
Update: Francis Cratil Cretarola of South Philly's Le Virtù sheds a bit more light on this "artisanal gelato." An article in an Italian publication mentions that Michele Morelli and Stefano Biasini - artisan gelato makers from L'Aquila, owners of Gran Caffe Dell'Aquila in the city of L'Aquila - are moving to Philadelphia. They won the "World Cup of Gelato" and were featured during the G8 summit in L'Aquila immediately after the April 2009 earthquake. "They are indeed artisans," said Francis, who is all about Abruzzo. (Thanks for the info and the translation, Francis!)