Icepack | Jan. 9-16

Philly spots shut down in 2020, Stephen Starr stuff and DeNiro to nix Philly film?

Man reading newspaper
We still prefer to read our gossip like this. But we also like appealing to everyone’s tastes. Enjoy Icepack. | Image: Roman Kraft

Now that every December holiday’s lengths and breadths have been exhausted, and you have no more 2019 sick days to beg your boss on, welcome to your first full week of the new decade.

It stinks already, right? Australia is devastated. Antisemitism runs rampant. We’re at war with Iran. The Eagles blew their chances at the Big Game. “The Irishman” never stood a chance at the Golden Globes, and, we had hardly commenced the New Year but for a few hours when a handful of Mummers douched it up by strutting out in blackface.

Hello, 2020. 

There is some positivism to be had what with a fresh new police commissioner in Danielle Outlaw – a name that nine days into the New Year has already had enough dumb jokes to last the next millennium SO THAT STOPS NOW – and yet another welcome to Philadelphia City Council’s  youngest, most liberal additions to its membership in a minute via Kendra Brooks, Isaiah Thomas, Katherine Gilmore Richardson and Jamie Gauthier. But, somehow, I’m thinking things are going to get a lot more uneasy before they are not.

There are no jokes or yuks or snark here. Nothing truly catty or callous this time. Just a deep breath for all of us.

Three venues lost

Three venue closings are catching my attention at the top of the year. 

First, Ristorante La Veranda along Penn’s Landing’s Pier 3 closed after nearly 30 years of picantes, milaneses and fra diablos. The kids among my column’s readership probably only know La Veranda as the big window-lined place next to the other place with all the nautical stuff on the way to and from Cherry Street Pier parties or The Roots Picnic when it was still at Festival Pier. Icepack elders, however, know it as … ah, pretty much the same thing.  

“We had hardly commenced the New Year but for a few hours when a handful of Mummers douched it up by strutting out in blackface.”

The Erace brothers’ Green Aisle Grocery dynasty will shut its doors to its all of its physical locations at the end of January, and yet, as expected, the two Eraces, Adam and Andrew, are expected to remain brothers. 

The sadder closing for me and other like-minded fans of punk rock and smacking around a ball or 10 comes with the shuttering of Everybody Hits at 5th and Girard Avenue. The only performance venue on the planet with high ceilings, batting cages and bats – to say nothing of the always civilized crowds who yielded those bats responsibly (BET YOU CAN’T SAY THAT OF LA VERANDA)  – is shuttered because the property’s ownership is rumored to be selling the location. Everybody Hits, and everything about it, will be missed. 

Media buys

New York state’s Schneps Media has been on a bit of a buying spree of late, including NYC’s two biggest freebies, amNew York and the Metro newspaper chain, the latter of which has stops in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia. 

The Schneps rejiggered its two NYC purchases to create New York City’s newly branded paper, amNewYork Metro, which introduced itself Jan. 6, and Metro Philadelphia will hold its title (though it sadly lost some of its editors such as Morgan Rousseau) and retain its local publisher Susan Peiffer. No word as yet on the fate of Boston’s Metro.

A Philly twist

Thinking of New York City, yet, with a great big Philly twist, Stephen Starr chose to make his next restaurant more of a Manhattan affair (rather than, say, figuring out what is happening with that 21st and Sansom Street space he’s long held after Il Pittore closed) with Verōnika at Fotografiska. Housed within the still-freshly painted new, international photography museum Fotografiska New York, the Starr restaurant and its Eastern European-inspired theme, opened Jan. 3 on the second floor of 281 Park Avenue South, a 45,000 square foot-historic landmark with three floors of photo exhibition space, a private event space, café, restaurant (Verōnika), and adjoining chapel bar (The Chapel Bar at Fotografiska, another Starr space). 

Starr brought Executive Chef Robert Aikens from The Dandelion and will focus on a dinner menu that is very Russian/Polish/Prague-y with something of a French flair. Both Verōnika and The Chapel Bar were designed by the architectural design crew at Roman and Williams. I’ll send some notes home when I hit Verōnika next week.

Read all about it

In terms of “critical darlings,” no newly beloved author is more highly regarded than Philadelphia’s Kiley Reid, who not only just made her novel debut with the boldly Afro-Conscious “Such a Fun Age,” but is winning accolades from the likes of Emmy Award-winning writer and actor Lena Waithe and fellow writer Emma Straub

Be honest, though, you didn’t know that she started her book tour on Monday at Uncle Bobbie’s, and you probably missed the event. Don’t fret. There’s more, but you’re going to need a car or big Uber bucks if you want to get to Towne Book Center & Café in Collegeville on Jan. 28, Doylestown Bookshop in Doylestown on Jan. 29, and/or Main Point Books in Wayne on Jan. 30. Be a Reid groupie and hit them all.

On the big screen

Remember two weeks ago when I mentioned that the Greater Philadelphia Film Office stated that Robert DeNiro’s next movie, the Philly-filmed “After Exile,” would start early in 2020? The window is getting smaller as DeNiro’s next film after After Exile, Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of the book “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” with Leonardo DiCaprio and “Irishman” cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto will start principal photography in March in New Mexico. Hurry up, Philly.

On the airwaves

Lastly, congrats to longtime Philly radio mouth Matt Cord who just got and started his gig as midday host (9am-2pm) at 102.9 WMGK-FM. Cord dropped the well-planned news about his swing shift during an on-air chat with mustachioed morning jock John DeBella on Monday morning. Cord, known for his tenure at WMMR and Y-100, is, of course, taking over the spot left behind by Debbi Calton’s retirement.

  • A.D. Amarosi's Headshot

    A.D. Amorosi is a Philadelphia-based journalist who, along with Philadelphia Weekly, writes for numerous local, national and international publications including Variety and the Philadelphia Inquirer.