April 2, 2009


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The Chestnut Hill Local
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Hill diners enjoy the prosciutto of happiness for one year at Bocelli-2

A chef named Hernan may not be setting the world on fire, but he is certainly blazing a trail for other young chefs to follow at the first Bocelli restaurant in the Gwynedd Valley train station. (Photo by Ron Schock)

After Stella Notte in the Chestnut Hill Hotel went out of business a few years ago, Chestnut Hill diners had to go cold turkey — or should I say cold ravioli — without a serious Italian restaurant on the Hill. (Of course we do have Cosimo’s, but that’s more of a pizza/sandwich place.)

Now, however, we can have our chicken cacciatore and eat it, too, ever since Feb. 1, 2008, when the 50-seat Bocelli-2 opened at 8630 Germantown Ave., formerly home to Al Dana, a Middle Eastern BYOB. “A big property owner in Chestnut Hill told me about this vacancy,” said Roberto Lakhoua, 50, who also owns another Bocelli at 521 Plymouth Rd. in the Gwynedd Valley Train Station.

The Chestnut Hill property, across the street from Borders, turned out to be a horse that Roberto wanted to ride. “I wasn’t really looking for a second restaurant at the time,’ he explained, “but I thought I might as well check it out. So I came to Chestnut Hill and ate at every restaurant here. I concluded that a good Italian restaurant would do well here, so my partner (Raphael Habib) and I decided to do it. We actually did better than I thought we would do here until the economy collapsed.”

Hill activist named ‘Favorite Straight Person of the Year’

John and Ruth, a lifelong Chestnut Hill resident, are both big-time award winners. John was recently named “Straight Person of the Year” by The AIDS Fund, and Ruth was named “Hearing Person of the Year” last November by the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf for her 25 years of exemplary service to this institution. (Photo by Erin Vertreace)

I was kind of amazed,” commented Chestnut Hill resident John Cella. “I’m in some pretty high company.”

Indeed. Past winners of “Favorite Straight Person of the Year” award, which will be presented at the 10th annual Black-Tie Gay Bingo on Friday, April 3, 6:30 p.m., include former Philadelphia mayor, John Street, and former mayor and current Pennsylvania governor, Ed Rendell. And the venue? Not shabby either: the elegant Crystal Tea Room, inside the Wanamaker Building on Penn Square  in center city.

John, 58, a Drexel Hill native, will be retiring in May, ending 17 years of service to the AIDS Activities Coordinating Office of Public Health (AACO). Those who worked closely with him throughout this time surely sought out a way to honor his hard work, support and dedication in aiding those 30,000 people living in the Philadelphia area with this devastating disease. Since 2004, Cella has served as director of AACO. He oversees $46 million in federal, state and local funding for HIV/AIDS care and prevention services as well as HIV/AIDS surveillance activities.

‘Baseball Mania’ a hit at church with strong Hill ties

St. Malachy’s parish in North Philadelphia has many fans and supporters in Chestnut Hill. Perhaps its most famous connection to our town is that Chestnut Hill actor David Morse portrayed St. Malachy’s long-time pastor, Rev. John McNamee, in the popular 1991 Hollywood movie Diary of a City Priest. Father McNamee is an author and poet who can be seen from time to time reading from his works at The Irish Center in Mt. Airy.

Obama promises we’ll never run out of toilet paper

I had a dream. Paul Revere was riding a skateboard, shouting “The bankers are coming, the bankers are coming!” He was being followed by legions of cash-eating zombies with hats in hand, shuffling out of boardrooms and stately mansions for as far as the eye could see. I took this to be an omen.