Chef Gianluca Demontis and Rosemarie Tran, the couple behind popular Italian spots Melograno on Sansom Street in Center City and Fraschetta in Bryn Mawr, are opening their third BYOB restaurant, and this one won’t have much neighborhood competition. L’Anima, which translates to “the soul” in Italian, is located at 17th and Carpenter Streets in Graduate Hospital, just one block north of Washington Avenue. It’s an area with plenty of pricey new-construction homes but, so far, a lack of restaurants and retail. The much-needed (depending on your viewpoint) addition to the neighborhood should be up and running for dinner in about two weeks, and will eventually serve lunch too. Tran says they’ll take walk-ins the first week, but plan to accept reservations via OpenTable.
Like its sister restaurants, L’Anima’s menu will be broken into courses that include antipasti, primi, and secondi. Also like Melograno, it will feature la pinsa — the ancient Roman dish that predates pizza, made from dough that contains soy, wheat, and rice flour, with various toppings. (The “ovum” pinsa is a play on carbonara, with crispy pancetta, pecorino, and pepper, and drizzled with sheared egg.) Each of the couple’s restaurants has its own specialty that doesn’t make an appearance at the others, and at L’Anima, it will most likely be a pasta dish: carbonara with sea urchin. Also expect amatriciana, plus more seafood and handmade pastas. “Luca is really going Roman here,” says Tran. “But he’s going more on the seafood side of Roman.”
The pair designed the space, which occupies the ground floor of condo building Carpenter Square. The development is a few years old, but L’Anima is the first commercial tenant. “I really wanted something warm, but fun,” Tran says of the design. “I wanted color. Melograno is gold-toned, very neutral, and Fraschetta is very rustic. For L’Anima, I wanted it to be modern, but fun.”
The dining room seats about 75, with about 20 more seats in the outdoor plaza in front of the restaurant. Inside, a blue leather banquette lines one wall, kiwi green leather-seated chairs surround the tables, and pillars are covered in paneling made from the reclaimed wood of boats and beach homes. Two eye-catching chandeliers hang from above — Tran’s friend found one on eBay last year, and she recently tracked down its match. “I thought, it looks like a [sea] urchin, so I searched for urchin and it’s actually called urchin,” she says. “It gives off this really beautiful glow at night.”
The couple chose their new restaurant’s name because they met on Via Della Anima in Rome, where Demontis is from, and where Tran was spending a semester studying abroad.