John Trapani was hoping to find the perfect fit.
Over the span of 17 years, the owner of the Allentown restaurant Grille 3501 was asked four different times to open a new restaurant location.
When Gateway building developer Dennis Benner asked him in December 2017 to consider opening a new restaurant on Third and New Streets, Trapani finally felt this was the right opportunity.
“It’s perfect,” Trapani said. “It’s 15 miles (from the Allentown location), and we are now a part of the resurgence of the South Side.”
His second restaurant will be located on the sixth floor of the new development called the Gateway Building and will have two balconies — one facing the Steel Stacks and another facing the North Side and Fountain Hill.
While the South Bethlehem location will share some similarities with the Allentown location, Trapani said the new restaurant will not be an exact mirror of Grille 3501 and will find its own identity.
The South Bethlehem location will seat about 275 guests, whereas the Allentown restaurant seats about 210. Trapani said the executive chef, John Pukanecz, will introduce New American cuisine but also keep fan favorites on the menu.
With Lehigh in close proximity, Trapani said he hopes to attract faculty, students, their families and the community.
“My son just graduated from Lehigh in December, so we are pretty invested in Lehigh,” Trapani said.
The restaurant is one of many businesses playing a part in the revitalization of South Bethlehem.
Sarah Fouts, a postdoctoral fellow in Latin American and Latino studies, conducts foodways research, which is focused on how foods can be social, cultural, political and economic aspects of a community.
“We often think of food as something that we eat, but there is also production — who is growing food, where is it coming from,” Fouts said. “It’s a more holistic approach to looking at food.”
When a city undergoes revitalization, Fouts said it’s important for restaurants and developments to consider hiring and purchasing foods locally.
“This is one way that gentrification and these developments mitigate some of the negative impacts of gentrification by having a more local focus on hires and having a more local investment in farmer’s markets and small farms,” Fouts said.
Trapani said he will continue to hire local employees and welcomes Lehigh students to apply for positions.
The Allentown restaurant uses locally grown produce and products, a practice that will continue in the new location, which is scheduled to open in late summer or early fall.
Rachel Gevirtz, ’18, an Allentown resident, said she immediately texted her family when she heard a new Grille 3501 location was opening in South Bethlehem.
Gevirtz said she will come back after graduation to visit the new location.
Trapani said he is still deciding on a name for the South Bethlehem location. Prices will remain the same as those in Allentown, with appetizers ranging from $10-$19, lunch entrees ranging from $14-$15 and dinner entrees ranging from $22-$36.
“I hope it’s as popular here as Allentown,” Gevirtz said. “I hope the (outdoor) bar will be an upscale place for students and young professionals to go.”
Trapani said he is excited to be an addition to the South Bethlehem community.