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March 20, 2023

Laurel, 'Top Chef' Nicholas Elmi's South Philly restaurant, to take over his ITV bar

The East Passyunk spot will switch from a tasting menu to a la carte dining when it reopens on April 5

Food & Drink Restaurants
laurel nicholas elmi Kevin McWilliams/Younger Brother Pictures

Chef Nicholas Elmi's East Passyunk restaurant, Laurel, is taking over In the Valley, the wine bar next door. As part of the expansion, Laurel will have an a la carte menu. Elmi also owns ITV.

Chef Nicholas Elmi has a new vision for Laurel, his award-winning restaurant in South Philly. 

Laurel is taking over In the Valley, the wine bar located next door on East Passyunk Avenue. Both establishments are run by Elmi, who won Season 11 of "Top Chef."

As part of the expansion, Laurel is changing from a tasting menu to a la carte dining. The restaurant, at 1617 E. Passyunk Ave., served its last tasting menu Saturday and will be closed until next month for light renovations.

"We are reopening on April 5th as a refined, neighborhood restaurant with a la carte menus that prioritize local sourcing, a wine list that highlights natural and organic producers, and cocktails that range from classics to playful riffs (some of your ITV faves will find a new home here)," Elmi said in a statement posted to Instagram.

Laurel opened in 2013, serving French-inspired food in a minimal space without uniforms, tasting menus or a liquor license. The restaurant was nominated by the James Beard Foundation as one of the Best New Restaurants in America that year.

After introducing tasting menus on the weekends in 2014, Laurel evolved into a tasting-menu-only restaurant by 2015. Once a liquor license was acquired, Elmi opened ITV in 2016. 

As many bars and restaurants were forced to pivot during the COVID-19 pandemic, ITV was converted into a Curiosity Doughnuts pop-up in 2020. Elmi and his team saw customers regularly stopping by for $3 doughnuts that they formerly only saw a couple times a year for the over-$100 tasting menu.

"We were approachable again, having fun, and pushing ourselves to continually improve," Elmi said. "That experience centered us; those qualities were exactly what we wanted for Laurel’s next chapter."

When Laurel reopens, Elmi said his employees will continue to work work four-day weeks and the team located in the front and back of house will continue to be involved in the tip pool.

Elmi's other restaurants include Royal Boucherie in Old City, which he left in 2021 to focus on his other restaurants, as well as Lark and The Landing Kitchen in Bala Cynwyd. He published his first cookbook, "Laurel: Modern American Flavors in Philadelphia," in 2019.

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