The Love: Starr and Olexy to open restaurant in Rittenhouse

Stephen Starr and Aimee Olexy are opening a restaurant, The Love, at 18th and Sansom Streets.

Stephen Starr’s love affair with the Philadelphia dining audience continues as he and Aimee Olexy, his business partner in Talula’s Garden and Talula’s Daily on Washington Square, are partnering on a third restaurant.

The Love will take the southwest corner of 18th and Sansom Streets in the 10 Rittenhouse building in late October.

Starr says The Love — sharing the locavore, farm-to-table ethos that are in evidence at the other Talula’s restaurants — will be intended not as a destination but for those in the neighborhood, with lunch and dinner menus priced to appeal to people who’d eat there several times a week. It will have 100 seats, split among the main dining and bar areas, outdoor seating along 18th Street and an upper-level loft with a 20-person communal table for large parties or walk-ins.

Joshua Tomaszewski, a former chef de cuisine at the late New York landmark A Voce, will be chef.

The Love’s first job fair will be held Monday, Sept. 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Talula’s Garden (210 Washington Square West).

Roman & Williams, the New York design firm that designed Starr’s sumptuous Le Coucou and Upland, is handling the interior, which is on two levels and will have what is described as a relaxed yet sophisticated aesthetic, using painted brick, reclaimed tiling, custom wallpaper, and handmade fixtures. The space was the Philadelphia branch of Serafina, which closed a year ago. In July 2016, Starr agreed to take over the location.

The move further expands Starr’s holdings in the neighborhood — notably Parc, the French brasserie at 18th and Locust Streets that is his busiest Philadelphia restaurant. Starr also owns The Dandelion, across the street from the new restaurant, as well as Alma de Cuba (1623 Walnut St.), Barclay Prime (237 S. 18th St.), Butcher & Singer (1500 Walnut St.), Continental Mid-town (1801 Chestnut St.), and El Rey (2013 Chestnut St.). A planned Starr restaurant with chef Peter Serpico at 2025 Sansom St. did not pan out.

This will be Starr’s 34th restaurant, in an empire including New York City, Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and south Florida. In a recent panel for the Association of Food Journalists, Starr said he was bullish on Philadelphia, in part, because his employees had access to affordable housing close to work.

Olexy was the opening general manager at Blue Angel, Starr’s critically acclaimed French bistro that had a short run at 706 Chestnut St., and assumed high-level managerial roles elsewhere in Starr’s empire.

In 2001, Olexy and her then-husband, chef Bryan Sikora, left Starr to open Django, an American BYOB in Queen Village. In 2005, after selling Django, she and Sikora moved to Kennett Square to open Talula’s Table — a market with a hard-to-score chef’s table. In early 2010, on the eve of a planned collaboration with Starr to revive Blue Angel, the couple split. (Sikora is now chef/owner of Hearth Kitchen in Kennett Square, as well as La Fia in Wilmington.)

In summer 2010, Olexy hosted a pop-up restaurant on the ground floor of the Ayer, a building on the west side of Washington Square that had housed a shuttered Starr restaurant, Washington Square. Talula’s Garden opened six years ago. In 2013, she and Starr followed up across the lobby with Talula’s Daily, a market-cafe.

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