Staff Q&A: Lizza Robb

STAFF Q&A/Lizza Robb works from home. And since home is a popular Mt. Airy restaurant, life sometimes seems like one big feast for this SP2 staffer.

“They actually get more out of me if I work from home.”

Lizza Robb

Position:
Electronic Publishing Specialist, School of Social Policy and Practice

Length of Service:
7 1/2 years

Sidelight:
Cresheim Cottage Café, the restaurant Robb owns with her partner, Donna Fitzgerald Robb, was voted best for “Outdoor Dining” by Citysearch.

Photo credit: Cancade di Carlo

Sipping a glass of water on the patio of Cresheim Cottage Café, Lizza Robb, in baseball cap and jeans, looks relaxed. But Robb is more than a customer at this popular Mt. Airy restaurant. She’s also, with her partner Donna, the owner. That’s not her day job, though. From 9 to 5 Robb works for Penn, as a web designer in the School of Social Policy and Practice. Oh, and she’s also Mom to feisty 3-year-old daughter Spencer.

Though she admits she has a lot on her plate, Robb says two things make her busy life easier: working from home and living on the second floor of the restaurant. Robb, who has also battled Crohn’s disease in the last few years, says having understanding bosses at Penn has helped her succeed on both the work and home front. Fortunately for Robb, her job as electronic publishing specialist—”It’s really just a confusing title for graphic designer”—lends itself well to telecommuting. We were envious, and curious, so we asked for more details.

Q. How did you first start working from home?

A. I went on maternity leave and kept my daughter at home for the first year. So I put in a request to work from home temporarily, and I think they realized that they actually get more out of me if I work from home, so I put in a request to do it indefinitely and they accepted. I guess it suits my personality to be alone and focused. My productivity during work hours is higher, I think, at home, but there are really no boundaries between work and home so I often will be working at night or early in the morning. I go in a couple of days a week, and I try and keep meetings at Penn to one or two days a week.

Q. How did you end up owning a restaurant?

A. Donna, my partner, worked at a place called Judy’s [in Queen Village] for about 10 years, which is where we met. She moved around after that but … I think chefs get to a point in their career where they have to have their own place. We started looking around and we really wanted to be in Mt. Airy.

Q. What’s it like living “above the shop”?

A. We only moved here a couple of months ago. We bought the restaurant about two and a half years ago, and soon after that I started to get really sick. I was basically out of commission for about a year. Maintaining our house in West Philly and this place was too much. So we sold the house and moved upstairs into the apartment. We love it. The work I do for the restaurant is graphic design stuff and advertising and I do that in the evening. For me it’s a place to eat lunch every day. I don’t really work at the restaurant. But for Donna it’s great because ... the commute used to be 30 minutes and now it’s just a walk down the stairs.

Q. How does your daughter like living in a restaurant?

A. She’s a nice little restaurant child. She enjoys all the strangers being in her house every day. She’s actually a little bit shy, but I think living at a restaurant is bringing her out a little bit.

Q. Is she an adventurous eater?

A. Yes. Her favorite things to eat are duck, smoked salmon, potatoes and sushi.

Q. How have you changed the restaurant since you took it over?

A. We lowered the prices. Almost everything is $20 or under. It’s less of a special occasion destination. Now we have people who come two to three nights a week. Donna likes fine dining food but she doesn’t think it should cost a lot of money.

Q. Tell me about this building.

A. It was built in 1748 and it’s the oldest building in the area. The Battle of Germantown was fought all around here. Also, we have a ghost. We’re in the ghost registry. Her name is Emily and she lives in the attic, which you get to through my room. I talk to her all the time and she’s very nice. I never have any problem with her. People who work here say she moves things and takes them. I just try to keep on good terms with her.

Q. Tell me about the food.

A. Donna’s cooking is really unique. She’s developed a menu that accentuates the feel of the restaurant. It’s colonial and historic but when we bought the place she took down all the quilts and knick-knacks and redecorated. Her food is based on American classics but she gives things a bit of a unique twist. Probably the best example of her philosophy of cooking is the chicken and dumplings. It’s an American standard but hers is a sesame-crusted chicken with shitake mushroom dumplings. She also does a dip trio and she comes up with really interesting dips like blueberry and mascarpone, pistachio lavender and watermelon jicama. Those are great. People really love those.

To find out more about Cresheim Cottage Café (7402 Germantown Avenue, 215-248-4365), visit the web site at www.cresheimcottage.com.

Originally published on July 6, 2006