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A Little Love
for Foodies

Lancaster’s Amorette brings the wow factor


verything at Amorette—from the décor to the menu and every detail in between—is designed to have a “wow factor.”

Owners Donna and Tom Ponessa say the restaurant, five years in the making, was a challenging project from architecture to interior design and menu creation. Self-described foodies who enjoy traveling and visiting the world’s finest restaurants, the Ponessas opened Amorette in May of 2018.

“We took the best ideas from all our travels and put them under one roof,” says Donna.

Located in downtown Lancaster’s recently-renovated Press Building, the restaurant was fashioned by architect Charlie Yohe of Yohe Architecture + Design in an area originally housing the 1907 cigar factory and warehouse’s basement mechanicals. Paul Risk Construction and interior designer David Lyall brought the Ponessa’s vision to life.

“We wanted to create a space where people felt like they were teleported to another city—New York, Chicago, Paris,” says Tom. “We describe the décor as plush, luxurious, sexy.”

The “wow factor” is in the menu, which Tom describes as “adventuresome” for “special occasion” dining.

Created by executive chef Daniel LeBoon, the menu includes many French and Asian influences. But LeBoon says quality ingredients are paramount. Amorette’s chefs source from Lancaster’s Central Market three times a week; seafood often hails from Boston; and some of the highest-quality Kobe beef is sourced directly from Japan.


Two dinner menus, offering four or seven prix fixe courses, feature unique dishes like elk tenderloin, Dover sole, Jamison Farm lamb, and octopus. While the Ponessas recognize that the price points of their multi-course meals aren’t for every- one, lunch items and a la carte menu selections available in the restaurant’s lounge are affordable.

The Ponessas pride themselves on offering vegetarian and vegan options as well.

“I eat a lot of vegetarian,” says Donna. “And in many restaurants, the vegetarian menu is simply the sides of whatever is left over when you remove the meat. So it’s very important to me that we have vegetarian options that are just as ‘wow-able.’”

The seven-course vegetarian menu features a wild mushroom composition with Brussels sprouts, brioche, coddled egg, and shitake foam. Local squash is prepared with tahini, chai foam, Chinese broccoli, pumpkin seeds, and maple sour cream.

Tom considers Amorette “wine connoisseurs of the area,” he says. “Our sommelier Thierry Lesparre is a native Parisian, our assistant sommelier is from Sicily, and we carry about 500 labels from around the world.”

Alongside the worldly talent, chef LeBoon represents the pride of Lancaster. After working his way up through several Lancaster and New York restaurants, LeBoon landed at Phil- adelphia’s renowned Le Bec-Fin, followed by an apprenticeship in France. His talents were showcased at the French-themed Josephine’s, in Marietta, for several years.

Today at the age of 49, he describes working at Amorette as a “dream job.” He provided creative input in the kitchen’s design featuring one of Pennsylvania’s three Hestan-manufactured stoves. A chef’s tasting table offers a bird’s eye view of culinary masterpieces being created.

“We took the best ideas from all our travels and put them under one roof”

Donna Ponessa, Co-Owner, Amorette

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401 N. Prince St., Lancaster, PA
717-947-7710 |
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Tues–Fri: 11:30am - 2pm
Tues–Thurs: 4pm - 12am
Fri & Sat: 4pm - 2am
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Queen Street garage, T.W. Ponessa & Associates lot, and on the street.

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Pastry Chef Renaud Besnard, 29, began his culinary and pastry training at the age of 15 in his native Paris. In 2013, he moved to New York to work for the Charlie Palmer Group, including famed restaurant Aureole, as executive pastry chef.

General manager Michael McCoy, 64, comes to Amorette with nearly three decades of experience in the hospitality industry and coordinates “all the creative minds that have been brought here,” he says.

The Ponessas, who have been married for 31 years, are accustomed to partnership in many ways. They founded and own T.W. Ponessa & Associates Counseling Services, located across the street from Amorette. The couple met attending Lancaster Bible College, raised five children, and enjoy spending time with their 10 grandchildren. Still, Donna, age 56, finds time to bake chocolate chip cookies and cook soups for Café di Vetro, another restaurant owned by the couple, located in the T.W. Ponessa building and managed by one of their sons.

“Letting everyone shine with their talents is important,” says Donna. “We trust in their talents, and that makes everyone happy.”