The idea for the summer restaurant series came during the pandemic. For several months in 2020, Dornsife Center hosted a dinner party with a local bakery, Supreme Oasis Bakery and Deli (SOBAD), to prepare take-out meals for residents rather than the regular in-person dinners they had always had. Pepino and the students had taken charge.
“Chef Pepino couldn’t use the campus (commercial) kitchen and local businesses were struggling, so we started working with SOBAD and paid them to cook the meals,” Kirby said. “People were picking them up and bringing them back to their neighbours, especially older people who couldn’t come to restaurants and dine.”
Then they worked with 12th Street Catering, a West Philly-based catering company, for three months of dinner parties until Chef Pepino could return and prepare the take-out dinners. Even now, around 110 meals are reserved for people who cannot come to dine in person, but around 140 are reserved for on-site diners.
For Lee’s turn in the restaurant series, he kept the menu simple to make preparing 250 meals go as smoothly as possible. His experience with previous Dornsife dinners helped him prepare by making Alfredo sauce with chicken and meat sauce with vegetables. He wanted people to see what he’s doing in Farina so they know a good place to go the next time they’re in Center City.
“That experience was just invaluable,” Lee said. “The hardest part was the take-out meals… The menu part was relatively easy. I’ve been running this restaurant for a while now so I understand portion sizes and know what people really like when it comes to large crowds.
After dinner was served, Lee had a chance to walk around, talk to residents, and promote his restaurant. Coming back to the culinary world of Drexel and seeing chefs and teachers was like seeing old friends again, and when it came to the community, Lee said he received positive reviews across the board.
“I’ve definitely seen a few older people say, ‘This food is great,’ and they’d say to Lee, ‘Do you work there? ‘” Kirby said. “And he said, ‘I own it. There was this light on a woman’s face and she kind of jumped back like, ‘Oh, my God,’ and she gave him a big thumbs up.
Now that Farina Pasta and Noodle has been integrated into Drexel’s supplier system used by University offices to work with external companies, it will be easier for another department to use the restaurant for potential catering at the University. future, Kirby said. Part of the objective is to prepare various companies to do business with the University. Of course, another goal is to introduce Philadelphians to new restaurants and new restaurants to more Philadelphians.
“These dinners in general are mostly about building community,” Kirby said. “The restaurant series is an idea that really worked and we really liked it. We think we’re going to continue next summer, so we’re looking forward to that and people were really excited about it.