Ever-advancing chef Damon Menapace learned the ropes at acclaimed chef Marc Vetri's hot spots, including pig-centric Alla Spina on North Broad and its neighbor, Italian joint Osteria. Now he's the executive chef at the new Kensington Quarters, which is a restaurant, bar, butcher shop and classroom all rolled into one. KQ is part of the 13th Street Kitchens family, which also runs Bufad Pizza, Prohibition Taproom and Café Lift. We spoke with Menapace about the innovative setup at 1310 Frankford Ave.
For those who may not know, what is Kensington Quarters and how does it operate?
Mainly it's a butcher and restaurant that brings in whole, locally sourced animals to use.
Has it been well-received so far?
Absolutely. We took a lot of time opening and making sure that every little aspect was addressed. We wanted to pay attention to the details before we opened. So I think we came out of the gate pretty strong: Strong service, strong food, strong knowledge.
Why do you think that Fishtown is a good fit for this place?
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I don't want to make a generalization of the neighborhood. There are a lot of hard-working people up here who enjoy quality products. It's not a show here. We're not reaching for that Center City, super high-end crowd. We're being very honest and real about all of it. This neighborhood — and other neighborhoods — can really appreciate that.
What is the collaboration like between you and Kensington Quarters' butcher Bryan Mayer?
Before we opened we sat down and I had a rough menu. We figured out what we could handle every week. He's dealing with whole animals, so there's only so much to go around. We're much more flexible now that we're live. At the end of the night I'll go to the butcher and see what we're doing tomorrow. I'll get a big bucket and go shopping — it's kind of a dream for a chef.
How did you end up at Kensington Quarters?
When I worked at Osteria we would frequent Prohibition Taproom. That's how I got to know [Kensington Quarters owner] Mike [Pasquarello] a little. When I left the Vetri company, Mike and I got to talking. Shortly after we sat down with Bryan and started making plans.