Chef Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran — who over the last 16 years reinvented the 13th Street corridor in Washington Square West, opening such restaurants as Lolita, Barbuzzo, and Bud & Marilyn's — are branching out.
They've also chosen a company name — something they never got around to doing in the crush of opening nearly a dozen businesses.
As Safran Turney Hospitality, they're planning a restaurant expansion to East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia, where they have purchased four properties, and to yet another location in Center City. Recently married, Turney, 48, and Safran, 43, also are in what they call "the live stage" of adopting a child.
They've also hired a culinary director, chef George Sabatino. It's actually a homecoming for Sabatino, who started with Turney in 2006 as a line cook at Lolita and in 2010 helped open Barbuzzo as chef de cuisine. He recently left Rooster Soup Co. in its transition to The Rooster and previously co-owned the late Center City bistro Aldine.
They've always loved the openings. In 2011, Safran told me: "We're addicted to opening businesses. When you do something and you do it well, you just keep going."
But in 2015, they hit the pause button.
"We took a break after Bud & Marilyn's [opening in 2015], built a home, and started figuring out whether we were having kids or not," Safran said.
"We had to look at the whole picture," Turney said. (As for the company name, Turney said Safran's name appears first "because it had a better ring to it.")
Turney and Safran declined to disclose more about the new projects, other than to say that they will be restaurants. The South Philadelphia project will be near Pat's and Geno's, on East Passyunk Avenue between Reed and Wharton.
The real estate deal also reflects a maturity in their business. "The idea is to not write a rent check every month," Safran said. "This is security for our future."
They emphasized that their 13th Street empire will remain as it is. "We're not going anywhere," both said.
They got into business in 2002 with Open House, a home-furnishing store on 13th Street between Sansom and Chestnut.
They opened their first restaurant, Lolita, in 2004, followed in 2006 by Grocery, a gourmet market/prepared foods shop. Bindi, a short-lived Indian restaurant followed in 2007. (It's now Jamonera.) Then came Verde, a boutique that sells Marcie Blaine Artisanal Chocolates, Turney's line. Then came Barbuzzo, before they went south on 13th Street to Locust, where they opened Little Nonna's and Bud & Marilyn's.