CBS 3 anchorwoman Pat Ciarrocchi and fashion designer Paula Hian discuss their chance meeting and subsequent friendship over dinner at Vernick.
Pat Ciarrocchi (LEFT) first met designer Paula Hian through Hian’s mother.
Manayunk may seem an unlikely location to forge a fashion empire, but designer Paula Hian has enjoyed sartorial success here for more than 15 years. From her Gay Street showroom and boutique, she has dressed celebrities like Carrie Underwood and Natalie Morales of the Today show, along with a parade of notable Philadelphians. Hian now calls many of her clients friends, including CBS 3 anchorwoman Pat Ciarrocchi. In between their hectic schedules, the pair meet for dinner to catch up and explore the city’s best restaurants. A new favorite is Vernick Food & Drink, husband-and-wife Greg and Julie Vernick’s bilevel Rittenhouse hideaway. The New American restaurant, known for its creative cocktails and collection of small plates served on toast, has been one of the city’s most coveted reservations since opening in 2012. Hian and Ciarrocchi recently visited together, before Hian left on a three-week trip to Paris to work on a new collection, to talk about wine, style, and star chefs.
The mushroom salad with a “crispy egg” and charred pepper dressing.
Philadelphia Style: How did you two meet?
Pat Ciarrocchi: I was doing a program called Evening Magazine on Channel 3, and I got a phone call from Paula’s mom. Paula Hian: I was just starting out. PC: She was looking for someone to guest-promote your designs. You were a baby and I was a baby, but we met and we fell in love. [Laughs] PH: We connect on every level. Not just about clothes or design, but on a personal level. You really get who I am and what I do. And vice versa. We talk about everything.
What’s a typical night out?
PH: We got together not too long ago in Manayunk and went to Bruce Cooper’s places. We love Bruce Cooper. Derek’s and [Jake’s and Cooper’s Wine Bar] are both great. PC: We love wine. I’m drinking a Rioja tonight, and it’s delicious. PH: It’s from the dark corridors of Spain. [Laughs] PC: I start out in Paula’s shop, trying on a million things, and wanting to buy everything. Your work has a flair that other designers don’t. I think it’s because of the fabric, which you design yourself. PH: When I started the knitwear in France in 2010, I think that gave things an extra edge. I could design the materials, not just pick them.
Vernick utilizes its wood-burning oven to roast fresh caught fish.
Speaking of edge, what do you see as Philadelphia’s culinary edge?
PC: A place like Vernick, with really great food that is well presented. It’s individual chefs with a concept. They don’t necessarily want to be in every casino and in 500 locations. PH: Right now, we are waiting for that [Amish roasted] chicken. PC: We heard this chicken was spectacular. While we wait, we are eating… PH: It’s branzino. It’s really good. And the ceviche and the peppers were great. PC: I like that the food has texture—and so does the décor. You have wood, brick, and stone, and the colors are soft. It feels like the food is not competing with the environment. PH: I like the metal and the wood, and that the people are right there with you. It has an intimate feel. It’s not stuffy. It’s anti-image, I would say. Good cooking. PC: The salad with the mushrooms was great. My family grows mushrooms. PH: She really knows mushrooms. She’s from Kennett Square. PC: In ancient Japan, mushrooms were used to support your heart health and your energy, and even your mental health, which I never knew. In the United States, we grow mushrooms for a commercial market, and that’s pretty typical. It’s a different approach.
Arctic char ceviche with crispy skin and dill.
What other spots do you love in Philadelphia?
PC: I love Il Pittore. PH: Il Pittore is my favorite, too. I love everything they serve. Osteria is great. I like relaxed, low-key, really great food. PC:Del Frisco’s is a fun bar where you can really get a sense of the people. There is an energy about it, and the staff is terrific. My husband and I go there for the stone crabs.
What do you think we should look out for in Philadelphia’s dining scene?
PC: A chef who expresses who he is. It’s similar to Chris Painter at Il Pittore, and Luke Palladino’s on Passyunk. It’s individuals with an appreciative audience. It’s art! PH: Like fashion! Vernick Food & Drink, 2031 Walnut St., 267-639-6644