UD grads expand their Couch Tomato brand

Eight years ago, The Couch Tomato opened in Manayunk as a lower-priced, take-out alternative to many of the fancier dine-in restaurants on Main Street. Now, with the opening of its two-story, 75-seat Tomato Bistro, co-owners Michael Cassano and Craig Mosmen have added another facet to the Couch Tomato brand.

“The inspiration was to have the same atmosphere (as the cafe),” Mosmen said. “It was just a different style of service..adding a liquor license, a little more gourmet.”

Construction on the bistro began back in March 2010, with completion scheduled for the spring of this year. The project went about 10-percent over budget and took a few more months than expected, Mosmen said, due to a successful attempt to build the bistro without needing to close the cafe directly under it.

Mosmen and Cassano originally met as freshman at the University of Delaware, where they graduated in 2000. They opened Couch Tomato Cafe in 2003, two years after Mosmen got laid off from his job in the financial sector. He said that his experience living in Manayunk as a young college graduate helped shape his idea for the restaurant.

“Everything was really expensive around here for a young college student,” Mosmen said. “There was nothing around that offered a less-expensive, seat-yourself dine-in experience.”

Mosmen and Cassano said they began discussing expansion in 2008, five years after they opened, and talked about adding a new location in West Chester or Ardmore before settling on expanding the business they had.

“We’d seen enough businesses that spread out and sold franchises and they mostly folded,” Mosmen said. “We’re more focused on perfecting one or two places.”

The Couch Tomato Cafe and Tomato Bistro are located on Rector St., and now feature free valet parking.

Josh Verlin is a Temple University student. Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a NewsWorks content partner, is an initiative of the Temple Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.

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