Walking onto the porch and through the main door of Centreville Café, you might think you’ve stumbled into someone’s home by mistake. And in a sense, you have. In front, a stairwell and small hallway lead into the house, and on either side, two rooms with high ceilings are reminiscent of historic homes. The furnishings are also homier than what you might expect in a new downtown eatery.
At all hours of the day, you’re likely to spot a diner hunched over the daily newspaper while enjoying an apricot scone and hot latte, while at a larger table in the same room, four or five friends may be having lunch, their chairs casually pulled away from the table at various angles as if they were in their own kitchen.
“I wanted the place to have that welcome feeling of someone’s home,” says new chef and owner Elizabeth Moro. Earlier this year, longtime café owner and founder Susan Teiser—who brought a taste of what could be called casual dining with a degree of sophistication to this quaint village just south of the Pennsylvania line—has retired. Moro is now putting her own stamp on this locals’ favorite.
“I had been looking [to buy] a place where people could get together in a welcoming setting,” says Moro. On this winter day, about a dozen customers are assembled in the restaurant’s two dining areas as café staff buzzes in and out with lattes, late breakfast fare and lunch sandwiches. Moro smiles: “I am a businesswoman with a passion for cooking.”
Regular hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays (closed Mondays), and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. Later this year, Moro hopes to be open seven days a week.
“A few months ago, three different people asked me in the same day, ‘Did you hear that Susan wants to retire?’” Moro recalls. “So I gave her a call and told her I was interested. …I worked in the kitchen with her for two months before we oﬃcially took over.” Hubby and co-owner Vince Moro has been helping with logistics and modest refurbishing.
By intention, the café now looks a little cozier than when Teiser was in charge. Moro proudly points to a long wooden table where a group can mingle together, coming and going throughout the day over food and drink. “That table came from our home, as did a lot of furnishings here,” says Elizabeth, who lives in nearby Chadds Ford.
Now, a few months after the switch, the café’s food service and menu reveal a few changes. The name of the restaurant isn’t going to change, nor will that of Montrachet, the sister catering business, which Moro will continue to operate. There will still be special food events and, as was the case with Teiser, wine merchant Linda Collier from a couple of doors up Kennett Pike will carry on co-hosting wine events.
“We’ve also taken the upstairs room, which Susan used as an oﬃce, and turned it into a room where people can have meetings or group meals,” Elizabeth says. The café lives in a converted vintage residence, and Moro has plans to acquire licenses to serve alcohol.
“For the menu, we’ve kept all the old favorites, but I have added my own flair,” she says. The Moros also want to significantly expand offerings of prepared takeout meals.
People using the restaurant’s alternate entrance from Owls Nest Road walk into a bustling order bar with a display case of take-away food and views of the open kitchen. Espresso machines, other drink services and a cashier are located just beyond. A menu with daily specials is posted on the wall behind.
For the moment, the menu reads like a cozy blend of comfort food that would appeal to Uncle Herman, who was feeding the cows before daybreak, as well as to daughter Jane, who has just returned from her sophomore year in college.
Sandwiches range from the traditional—The Bubba (grilled, with roast beef, cheddar, pickled onions and grainy mustard on white bread)—to the more urbane The Chuckie (also grilled, but with chicken, brie, avocado, lettuce and tomato on a croissant). There are also daily iterations of seasonal soups and quiches.
Breakfast entrées form a similar pattern. There is the traditional breakfast sandwich with the usual variety of meats (though no scrapple), and it can be served as a wrap or between slices of Kaiser or toast, or on a bagel. The Sammy, however, would be right at home in Brooklyn, featuring smoked salmon with wasabi or plain cream cheese, capers, red onion, tomato and cucumber on a bagel or in a wrap. Prices are very reasonable, with most sandwiches, salads and breakfasts going for $10 to $12.
“I like to use local producers and vendors as much as possible. The coffee is now from La Colombe, a Philadelphia roaster,” she says. Moro also retains much of the same staff.
“There have also been some changes in what we serve and the way we do things that have come from the staff,” Moro says. “I tell them I want them to be empowered to suggest ideas and changes.”
Moro appears to be succeeding in transferring a personal philosophy into a business strategy. “I’m looking for a way I can be of service to the community,” she says, “and I believe hospitality should be about bringing people together. I love conversations and providing a place for people to have conversations.”
A former real estate broker, Moro and husband Vince have a combined family of five grown children from former marriages
She created an organization called Little Barn of Big Ideas and started a blog called “The Civil Graces Project,” which turned into a book with the same name (Balboa Press, 2020). A passage from it reads: “Despite all the shake-ups and letdowns life has presented, I’m still a dreamer for a world where we can make things equal, free, happy and more loving for everyone.”
Now, she is enjoying her dream. “I wasn’t sure how my children would react when I told them I was going to operate a restaurant,” she says, “but they were not at all surprised. They said, ‘Mom, everything thus far in your life was in preparation for this.’”