Paradiso Restaurant & Wine Bar on East Passyunk Avenue is closed Mondays so married chefs/owners Lynn Rinaldi and Corey Braver can rest. But Dec. 1 was an exception: the couple celebrated the 10th anniversary of the white linen restaurant Rinaldi opened in 2004 with a 10-course meal cooked by 10 of the Avenue’s best chefs.
Diners came for the star-studded collaboration, and to celebrate a neighborhood native’s pioneering vision: Rinaldi opened the Italian restaurant on an ignored block long before it became one of the city’s hottest go-to dining strips.
“My whole life I never understood why this strip was barren,” says Rinaldi, who grew up just off East Passyunk at 12th between Dickinson and Tasker.
Rinaldi’s first food venture was a cafe at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. But what she really wanted to do was make meals inspired by her Abruzze and Calabrese grandmothers — with a modern edge.
In 2002, she started hunting for locations, winding up back in her own neighborhood, where the Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corporation took her around to several long-vacant spots. “Paradiso was a dilapidated former furniture store that needed lots of love,” she says. “But I envisioned a block exactly like it is now — always busy.”
Any gourmand in Philadelphia knows East Passyunk has transformed over the past 10 years from what Rinaldi calls a “ghost town” to the strip Food and Wine magazine named one of the Top 10 Foodie Streets in America last year.
One restaurant contributing to that designation is Noord, which Joncarl Lachman opened in 2013. Lachman came up with the idea for a Paradiso anniversary dinner.
“He mentioned a party,” Rinaldi says. “Several late nights drinking wine at the bar and we made it work.” That’s how things go on the Avenue now: “We know each other’s food and restaurants because we’re on top of each other. We’re family.”