Olive Tree Café Offers Mouthwatering Mediterranean Cuisine

The Newark eatery boasts an array of internationally influenced dishes at surprisingly affordable price points.


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Moussaka is typical of the wide-ranging Mediterranean food. // All photos by Luis Javy Diaz

When I visit Olive Tree Café at lunch hour on a Thursday, I learn that owner Elias Rhanim is out shopping—in northern New Jersey—for some of the specialty items offered at his Mediterranean restaurant. They include good macarons and delicious Turkish pide (or pita), things the kitchen of his cozy restaurant simply doesn’t have the capacity to produce.

But rest assured, everything else in this tiny gem is bought locally—not from big food purveyors—and prepared fresh, by hand, with no small amount of reverence for culinary tradition. It is also prepared with the hope that Rhanim and his partner, wife Stephanie Ferrell, can educate those who are not familiar with Mediterranean cuisine. Indeed, the menu is an excellent primer, but the food is also diverse enough to please even the most experienced.

The dip sampler allows your choice of three traditional styles, including hummus.

So we decided, on a busy Saturday night, to graze widely. Olive Tree makes it easy by offering a few samplers in proportions large enough to satisfy without stuffing. We started with a selection of dips: zaalouk of roasted eggplant, taktouka of roasted bell pepper and bakoula of spinach and olive. Each is blended with a generous amount of olive oil and nicely seasoned. The dips are served with warm pita, though vegetables are available for a small upcharge.

The sampler of appetizers features items that may be familiar to most folks, but Olive Tree’s are exceptional. The spinach-feta pies known as spanakopita were served as bite-sized triangles so perfectly formed, they could appear to be mass made. They are not. The phyllo was perfectly crisp and flaky, with just enough feta to compliment the spinach without overwhelming its delicate flavor. The grape leaves of the dolmeh, served warm, had a light lemony tang with an exceptionally moist rice filling. The chick pea falafel was, in a word, the best I have ever tasted—crispy outside, moist inside—not the dried, fried balls or patties that are otherwise so common.

The falafel is among the best in the area.

Rhanim was born in Morocco, though raised in Paris, where he worked in hotels and restaurants, all while making notes for the restaurant he wanted to someday own. Olive Tree acknowledges the French influence through various crepes, croissants and quiches, as well as dishes such as steak au poivre on Fridays and Saturdays and a meal-sized Nicoise salad. Even Italy makes an appearance on the menu, via a changing selection of pasta dishes, a good Tuscan vegetable soup and a Caprese salad. The rest of the food can be traced directly to Morocco, Turkey, Lebanon, Greece and Spain, and the clientele seems to reflect the diversity. The international presence is due in some part to proximity to the University of Delaware, but the full dining room on a Saturday night could be due only to delicious food. As word has increased over the past 18 months, so has the number of diners.

Olive Tree seats about 50. Its walls are painted the colors of olive oil, warm saffron and turmeric, with beautifully stylized olive trees painted in gold. Hand-carved wooden screens from Morocco separate the small bar. Large windows in the front admit a flood of sunlight by day. Pendant lamps, also from Morocco, provide soft light in the evening. There is no break between lunch and dinner service, so except for the very busiest of times, diners are encouraged to linger. 

The simple but delicious beet salad can accompany any entrée

The menu offers many of the dishes one would expect: the salad of the crushed bulghar wheat known as tabbouleh, the zesty tzatziki salad of cucumber and mint in rich Greek yogurt, and beef, chicken and lamb prepared as cubed kebabs or ground kefta.

The last appears most spectacularly as beef meatballs in mildly garlicky tomato sauce roasted in a tagine. Tagine describes both the food and the traditional ceramic pot it is cooked in. The vessel’s conical shape and chimney retain enough moisture to prevent the meat within from drying while generating enough heat and pressure to cook quickly. The result is tender meat suffused with the flavors of the other ingredients.

Olive Tree offers tagines of lemony chicken with olives and potatoes, fish with potatoes and peppers, and more, including savory lamb mellowed with prunes, dried apricots and almonds. The meatballs can be ordered with an egg cracked into the sauce. The melding of rich yolk with the tomato sauce is divine. The accompanying rice revealed just a hint of cumin.

Lamb tagine

We also enjoyed grilled lamb chops, which were prepared at the requested medium rare. (That’s a kitchen that knows its stuff.) The chops are served with two sauces: cooling tzatziki and peppery hot harissa. All entrées are served with your choice of rice, handcut fries, sautéed green beans, grilled vegetables or any of the menu’s small salads. We found the diced beets in lemon vinaigrette to be a perfect match for the lamb.

Mediterranean fare offers numerous options for vegetarians and pescatarians. All meats are halal. The dessert list covers the region: crème brûlée and macarons from France, tiramisu and gelato from Italy, and traditional baklava and butter cookies from throughout the Mediterranean. The few beers offered cover traditional European styles and a few craft bottles. The small list of imported wines does an impressive job of representing most varietals.

I regret not trying Olive Tree’s pastilla, a pie of ground chicken and almonds between layers of phyllo dusted with cinnamon and sugar—a personal favorite—but that gives me a reason to visit again soon.

And a final note: Though price and quality of food sometimes have no correlation, the Olive Tree Café is an exception. You can feast like a sultan on disproportionately delicious food without hurting your wallet in the least.


13 Chestnut Hill Plaza, Newark, 266-4598, olivetreecafede.com  |  PRICES: Appetizers, $4.50-$12; entrées, $12.50-$17.  |  RECOMMENDED DISHES: appetizer sampler, kefta tagine.

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In a continuing effort to prevent losing lives to overdoses, the Division of Public Health (DPH) will distribute free naloxone kits at clinics in March. If you or someone you care about is...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Delaware Tech — Terry Campus
100 Campus Drive
253 N.E. Front St.
Dover, DE  19904
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Sponsor: Division of Public Health
Telephone: 302-424-7140

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The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
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Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

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By Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee  Directed by Sanford Robbins  “It’s not about science versus religion. It is about the right to think.” Inspired by the sensational Scopes “Monkey...

Cost: 15-32

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
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Telephone: 302-831-2204
Website »

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Epilepsy Foundation of Delaware’s Yara’s Fund supports the emergency medication program.  Individuals with epilepsy, who struggle to pay for their medication can receive assistance...

Cost: NO COST - SHOE DRIVE

Where:
Bear-Glasgow YMCA
351 George Williams Way
Bear, DE  19702
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Sponsor: Kind Girls Rule The World
Telephone: (302) 219-0718
Contact Name: Valerie Nelson
Website »

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Jacalyn Beam “A Way of Seeing”  Plein Air landscape paintings from the Brandywine Valley and Delaware beaches. Opening Reception to Meet the Artist - Friday, March 1, 5...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19809
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

CCArts Winter class registrations are open   The Center for the Creative Arts presents its Winter 2019 class and workshop offerings. With over 50 classes and workshops there is...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
Hockessin, DE  19736
View map »


Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

From End Caste Apartheid to Smash Brahminical Patriarchy: The Art of Equality Labs February 25 – April 12, 2019 Curated by Thenmozhi Soundararajan Featuring: Khushboo Gulati | Maari...

Cost: 0

Where:
Asian Arts Initiative
1219 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA  19107
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Sponsor: Asian Arts Initiative
Telephone: 215-557-0455
Contact Name: Melissa
Website »

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TOTALLY MYTHOLOGICAL Henry Bermudez February 28 - April 25, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, March 1, 2019 5 - 9 PM | during first Friday Art loop 5:30 - 6:30 PM | Panel discussion,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

TIME STILLED, MY HAIR NARRATIVE A Draper Experiment by Tia Santana March 1 - April 28, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, March 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

A SENSE OF PLACE 47°-80° N Bethany Springer January 16 - May 12, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop A Sense of Place 47° - 80°...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

More information

By Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee  Directed by Sanford Robbins  “It’s not about science versus religion. It is about the right to think.” Inspired by the sensational Scopes “Monkey...

Cost: 15-32

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Telephone: 302-831-2204
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

CCArts Winter class registrations are open   The Center for the Creative Arts presents its Winter 2019 class and workshop offerings. With over 50 classes and workshops there is...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
Hockessin, DE  19736
View map »


Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

Jacalyn Beam “A Way of Seeing”  Plein Air landscape paintings from the Brandywine Valley and Delaware beaches. Opening Reception to Meet the Artist - Friday, March 1, 5...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19809
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

A SENSE OF PLACE 47°-80° N Bethany Springer January 16 - May 12, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop A Sense of Place 47° - 80°...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

TIME STILLED, MY HAIR NARRATIVE A Draper Experiment by Tia Santana March 1 - April 28, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, March 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

TOTALLY MYTHOLOGICAL Henry Bermudez February 28 - April 25, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, March 1, 2019 5 - 9 PM | during first Friday Art loop 5:30 - 6:30 PM | Panel discussion,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

From End Caste Apartheid to Smash Brahminical Patriarchy: The Art of Equality Labs February 25 – April 12, 2019 Curated by Thenmozhi Soundararajan Featuring: Khushboo Gulati | Maari...

Cost: 0

Where:
Asian Arts Initiative
1219 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA  19107
View map »


Sponsor: Asian Arts Initiative
Telephone: 215-557-0455
Contact Name: Melissa
Website »

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

Every Friday | 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.   Read a story fromFairy Tales to Nursery Rhymes, explore art, and create. Ages 2+. Family Friendly.  

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentemere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

More information

Chadds Ford Elementary welcomes over 65 local and regional artists for the 70th Annual Art Sale & Show on March 22-23, 2019. Artists display and sell their art in an array...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Chadds Ford Elementary School
3 Baltimore Pike
Chadds Ford, PA  19317
View map »


Sponsor: Chadds Ford Elementary PTO
Contact Name: Kara Hyman
Website »

More information

By Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee  Directed by Sanford Robbins  “It’s not about science versus religion. It is about the right to think.” Inspired by the sensational Scopes “Monkey...

Cost: 15-32

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Telephone: 302-831-2204
Website »

More information

Poisoned apples. Glass slippers. Who needs ’em?! Not Snow White and her posse of disenchanted princesses in the hilarious hit musical that’s anything but Grimm. Forget the princesses...

Cost: $10 - $25

Where:
Bootless Stageworks
1301 N. Broom Street
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Telephone: 130-288-79300
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Jacalyn Beam “A Way of Seeing”  Plein Air landscape paintings from the Brandywine Valley and Delaware beaches. Opening Reception to Meet the Artist - Friday, March 1, 5...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19809
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

CCArts Winter class registrations are open   The Center for the Creative Arts presents its Winter 2019 class and workshop offerings. With over 50 classes and workshops there is...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
Hockessin, DE  19736
View map »


Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

TOTALLY MYTHOLOGICAL Henry Bermudez February 28 - April 25, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, March 1, 2019 5 - 9 PM | during first Friday Art loop 5:30 - 6:30 PM | Panel discussion,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

TIME STILLED, MY HAIR NARRATIVE A Draper Experiment by Tia Santana March 1 - April 28, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, March 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

A SENSE OF PLACE 47°-80° N Bethany Springer January 16 - May 12, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop A Sense of Place 47° - 80°...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

Delaware & Pennsylvania Home Owners Thinking of selling your home? Whether you're just considering selling or have already started to prepare, our experts will walk you through...

Cost: FREE

Where:
INDEPENDENCE MALL
1601 Concord Pike, Suite 88
Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Sponsor: The Kat Geralis Home Team
Telephone: 302-575-1080
Contact Name: April Griffith
Website »

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

Keeper Talks, 11:30am & 1:30pm, www.brandywinezoo.org (302) 571-7747 Join our keepers for daily talks about the animals here in the Zoo. Topics and animals change daily, so there’s always...

Cost: Adults $ 5, Seniors $4, Kids $3; free for under 3yrs and for members.

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Website »

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Meet Marilyn A. Bauman, author of Edward L. Loper Sr., The Prophet of Color.     Image:Old Farm,1954. Edward Loper Sr. (1916–2011). Oil on canvas, 18 × 22...

Cost: Free with Museum admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

ART & SOUL ART AUCTION AND CONTEMPORARY AFFAIR Saturday, March 23, 2019 7 - 10 PM VIP Pre-Party | 6 - 7 Celebrate our 40th anniversary at this glamorous event inspired by the...

Cost: $80 - $250

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

Chadds Ford Elementary welcomes over 65 local and regional artists for the 70th Annual Art Sale & Show on March 22-23, 2019. Artists display and sell their art in an array...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Chadds Ford Elementary School
3 Baltimore Pike
Chadds Ford, PA  19317
View map »


Sponsor: Chadds Ford Elementary PTO
Contact Name: Kara Hyman
Website »

More information

The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

More information

By Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee  Directed by Sanford Robbins  “It’s not about science versus religion. It is about the right to think.” Inspired by the sensational Scopes “Monkey...

Cost: 15-32

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Telephone: 302-831-2204
Website »

More information

Poisoned apples. Glass slippers. Who needs ’em?! Not Snow White and her posse of disenchanted princesses in the hilarious hit musical that’s anything but Grimm. Forget the princesses...

Cost: $10 - $25

Where:
Bootless Stageworks
1301 N. Broom Street
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Telephone: 130-288-79300
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

More information

Sal "The Voice" Valentinetti comes to The Event Center at SugarHouse Casino on Saturday, March 23, at 8 p.m. Tickets go on sale Friday, Jan. 11, and cost $29 to $49.

Cost: $29-49

Where:
SugarHouse Casino
1001 N. Delaware Ave
Philadelphia, PA  19125
View map »


Website »

More information

The concerto grosso, one of the high baroque’s most varied and conversational forms, pivots on dialogue between an orchestra and groups of soloists. We perform masterpieces of the genre by...

Cost: $25-39

Where:
Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral
23 S. 38th St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Sponsor: Tempesta di Mare
Telephone: 215-755-8776
Contact Name: Ulrike Shapiro
Website »

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