The funniest part of coming through the lion’s share of a long pandemic, its quarantines, its distancing, its vaccination issues, and continued masking (pleeeeeeeeaaaase!) is that having the streets crowded with vaxed-up bozos is actually and truly worse – so much worse – than having the cities frozen in still life and empty due to COVID fears, real and imagined. Now, I knew that all of you would come back to the block more excitable than horny rabbits on meth when the quarantine broke. I didn’t expect the meth to be laced with MDMA, that you’d need to keep up the long-winded discussions of self-care, that you’d be all wiggly and up-close rather than precaution-ar-ily distanced, and SO FUCKING TALKATIVE, STILL. Didn’t you people get all that pent-up everything out on all those Zoom calls? Cripes.
Last week, Philadelphia’s premier corporate multimedia wooly mammoth, Comcast, saw its stock drop 5.5 percent due to the announcement of the mega-deal between Discovery and WarnerMedia’s parent company, AT&T, which are getting set to merge their content businesses. What does this mean for your Xfinity bill and its offers of high-speed upgrades, let alone NBCUniversal’s still-car-paint-new-smelling streamer Peacock and its European pay TV giant Sky? We knew for a while that Comcast and CEO Brian Roberts were interested in WarnerMedia and wanted, at one time, to merge it with NBCUniversal. Could that still happen with a crazy pricey, multi-billion-dollar bid? Or will Comcast just sit still and stay content to the last of the vertical integrationists owning content and distribution? One definite thing to come out of NBCUniversal and its network upfronts the other day is that “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” just got renewed for another five years. Which means Philly’s Questlove, Black Thought and the rest of The Roots Crew just got their day jobs renewed for another five years. So congratulations all around. So, please let’s name a Picnic date to celebrate, shall we?
Live music returns
Speaking of The Roots Picnic: So, I was reading Variety (full disclosure, I work there) when I saw a new story on the multi-million dollar rehabbing and August reopening of Manhattan’s beloved live music venue, Irving Plaza. Blahblahblah, it’s great. Lavish. Lots of ventilation. “We are excited to reveal our grand reopening series of shows and look forward to reopening our doors and bringing live music back to New York City,” said Geoff Gordon, regional president, Live Nation, which operates the venue. That’s Philly Live Nation Geoff Gordon – the man behind making Made in America, The Roots Picnic, HoagieNation and the Peach Fest with all of its names-above-the-title – running Philly and NYC. Atza nize.
We’re hearing from friends and habitues that Club Heat – Old City’s last great after-hours dance floor and bottle service boite from the people behind Phil’s Steaks – is getting ready to reopen after a long C-19 hibernation. That’s fresh. Which reminds me: Old City’s first great after-hours dance floor, that of Revival on 3rd Street, is looking to get one of its finest assets on the map of the Philadelphia Music Alliance and its Broad Street Walk of Fame. DJ Bobby Startup, my friend and the man behind everything from Larry Magid’s original Electric Factory (as stage manager and photographer), the East Side Club, Bar Noir, and of course Revival, is the subject of a Facebook campaign to get his name and star alongside those of Gamble, Huff, Hall, Oates, Blavat, Dion, Avalon and more. It looks as if Philly drummer Joey Bruno and T-shirt maker Dennis McHugh are behind the FB plea. Not only do I second that (e)motion, I’d like to be the guy who gives Startup the award. Huzzah. All of this is crucial to consider as Philadelphia is currently dicking around with a 4am curfew for all of its bars so as to make up for lost revenue during the pandemic. Cool, that; but does this mean after-hours joints can then stay open until, say, 6am?
Lousy, lousy news when it comes to one of my favorite downtown restaurants. One of the last of Philly’s fine dining white linen joints, Davios Northern Italian Steakhouse on 17th Street, is going dark due to something to do with lost leases, etc. I know the very same thing is happening with Radicchio this week, and for that I feel loss. But Davios, man; a mean, cold, crisp, tall, all-vodka martini and a handsomely grilled porterhouse, with (if you knew to ask for them, they weren’t on the menu) an appetizer of fried chicken livers like my the ones my Neapolitan vs. Calabrese aunts used to fight over as to who did what best (forget about the meatball argument? Fisticuffs). Word has it that both locations are looking for new homes. My suggestion for Davios? Go right across the street to Sofitel. I know they have dining, but nothing significant, signature and-or sensational. Just saying.
Philly native and star-creator of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” Rob McElhenney is happily lampooning his own blind purchase of the ages-old Red Dragons Welsh football team (with a guy he’s never met, Deadpool/Marvel actor Ryan Reynolds, until this filming) in a new Welcome to Wrexham mockumentary for FX. A freshly minted trailer on YouTube finds its Wales-based “translator” claiming, “The tall, skinny one does movies, the muscular one sells cream cheese from Philadelphia or something.” Plus, both Reynolds and McElhenney have changed their Twitter handles to “Wryan” and “Wrob” to feel closer to all things Wales-ian. Mae hynny’n ddoniol iawn.
Masked Philly: Jose Galicia
In Icepack’s continuing saga of asking mask-donning local celebrities what they’ve been up to, beyond the pale, during C-19 – from lockdown to the current, slow re-opening and ever-questionable masking – I reached out this week to Jose Galicia, the executive chef of DePaul’s Table: Modern Italian Steakhouse in Ardmore.
Of course, the last year of Galicia’s life has been devoted to crafting a fresh, nouvelle Italian-based steak menu for the old bank building just off the Main Line on Lancaster Avenue. Before that, however, with no time for cute hobbies, most of Galicia’s quarantine life was devoted to his and his wife Erika’s brand baby, Caleb.
“It was a very difficult time because I was working six- or even seven-day weeks at my old job,” claimed Chef Jose, whose every non-cooking minute was devoted to his son. “I learned how to share my time between my family, which was wonderful, and my job, because I had to spend so much time at my job.” This was particularly tough for Galicia, considering the pandemic’s safety closings and the layoffs of everyone from front of house managers to kitchen staff, all of which meant that the chef got a quick education as to juggling many jobs under the culinary umbrella. “I learned a lot too, how important your family’s family support is when you are always working.”
The mask? Galicia is definitely “pro” face covering all the way. “My favorite mask is the one my wife made for me,” said Chef Jose. “Erika took the time to design my mask, pick my favorite color, the fabric is very soft and it’s all perfect for me. When the pandemic started, she worried so much. And I wear it, all the time, everywhere I go to protect myself, I feel everyone should wear a mask to protect ourselves and everyone around us.” Now, that’s a gentleman.
Not only does Chef Jose look forward to a mask-less moment with “less trash, less things to carry, less money to spend” on COVID ephemera, and more time for in-person “sports, concerts, theaters and travel.” Galicia is focused on DePaul’s Table, as well as being ruminative and thankful regarding his business. “Many people gave me good advice and taught me many good things all the years that I have been working in the restaurant industry. I started in a dishwasher position where many of the people who work in the kitchen started. But God has something good for everyone, and right now that’s my new job, at DePaul’s. This is the result of hard work, and God’s blessings. I always believe in this life nothing is free, if you work hard, you will reach all of your goals. Be kind, be good, be patient, and something special will happen in the kitchen.”