Back in 2001, Robert DeAbreu was working as a manager at a Carrabba’s Italian Grill in New Jersey.
“I really wanted to open my own restaurant and I wanted it to be exactly the opposite of a large impersonal chain. It would be a comfortable, welcoming place that served comfortable, welcoming food but with a twist. Yes, we’d have meatloaf, but different from what Mom or the local diner makes. Yes, we’d have a great brunch, but prepared with fresh ingredients and in ways you’d never tasted before, and all at a price that most people could afford.”
Robert’s wife, Raquel thought it was a great idea.
“I wanted it to be the kind of restaurant where I would love to eat myself. Sure, there would be waiters and waitresses and a check, but it would be more like eating at the home of a friend than a restaurant…that is, if that friend could really cook!”
In May 2001, the first Sabrina’s Café opened in the space previously occupied by the famed Litto bakery, once the source of Philadelphia’s finest cannoli. Robert and Raquel named their new baby after their new baby, Sabrina Isabella, who had been born in February 2000. Executive Chef Lance Silverman started not long after, working the busy brunch shift.
“We did amazingly well pretty much from the start,” says Lance. “Sabrina’s became the place for brunch among hip young people. At some point, I guess they started bringing their parents because it became the brunch place for everybody.”
With the success of the original Sabrina’s, Robert and Raquel opened their next restaurant on Callowhill Street in Philadelphia’s Spring Garden section in June 2007 and named it Sabrina’s Café and Spencer’s, Too after their son, Spencer Robert, born in July of 2004.
These days, both spots are becoming just as well known for dinner as brunch.
“We’re serving the same style of food at night as we do during breakfast and brunch, only more appropriate for the evening,” says Robert. “Great meat and fish and pastas. Our patrons tell us they don’t get bored because Lance is always trying to incorporate “the wow factor” – coming up with something new. Most of them dine often in the city’s fancier places, but they say our food is as good or better for half the price – and they can bring their own wine or beer. It makes us feel great that they keep coming back to Sabrina’s.”