"From the jump, we wanted to do Ambra," said Southwark chef-owner Chris D'Ambro. In fact, one of the reasons he and his wife Marina de Oliveira decided to take on the challenge of reopening a neighborhood institution was because Southwark came with sort of a sidecar restaurant.
Restaurant Ambra, their boutique, contemporary Italian restaurant at 705 South 4th Street, will be open by the end of month— "most likely the last weekend in August," said D'Ambro.
Southwark, up and running for close to six months now, seemed to never really skip a beat during its change-of-hands. It nestled into its 4th and Bainbridge Street corner comfortably with expert cocktails and an easy menu of roasted chicken and simple pastas. And that's Southwark's thing: pretty, but not precious, and neighborhood-friendly in every way.
Ambra, however, will be a little different. It's tiny — 16-seats-tiny (a number which regularly triggers a smirk from D'Ambro) — and dark, and sexy, and a little more done-up than its sister restaurant two doors away. It's all mixed-material and modern—a beautiful composite of different woods and metals, with a wall of fabrics lit from behind — an ode to its neighborhood, Fabric Row.
And its menu will be just as tiny: a four course, $65 prix fixe which includes your choice between two antipasti, primi, secondi, and dolce, not to mention the complimentary amuse bouche and canapés. Supplement your night with a cheese plate and wine pairing, or if you'd rather, order a bottle à la carte from Ambra's all-Italian wine list, complete with a healthy assortment of amari, grappas, and digestivi. D'Ambro's cooking won't be restricted to any certain region in Italy. Rather, it'll be Italian-inspired, "taking the best from our region's (here in Philly) bounty, and applying to it an Italian technique or mentality."
D'Ambro called on his brother, Joseph D'Ambro, a skilled craftsman with an art degree, to design Ambra, in its entirety, from the ground up. Everything, from the hardwood floor to the custom tables to the antipasti-dessert bar in the back (like a miniature open kitchen), was built by hand.
Ambra, by the way, is named after the earliest form of the D'Ambro last name, and the Tuscan town from whence it came.
Stay tuned for pictures and an official opening date.