South Side’s Le Petit Chocolat & Cafe to offer expanded menu

East Carson Street’s Le Petit Chocolat & Cafe will look a little different by the end of February, adding an oasis of healthful eating options to the indulgent South Side.

Le Petit currently offers several health-conscious, quick-bite items, but the menu is about to expand to what the owners, Amanda Bundy and Ibrehim Sougouna, describe as a “gourmet diner,” as they look to meet the needs of those who live and work in the South Side.

“We started to think about how to become an everyone type of spot,” said Bundy, who is also the establishment’s chef. “We love to attract a little bit of everybody, [including] families. So, we decided that it’s best for us to put our energy and effort into all food.”

While a few house-made dessert items will remain on the menu, chocolates are not a part of the new vision. Le Petit’s focus on homemade, specialty diet-conscious foods with an undercurrent of French cuisine and hints of African fare will stay the same. Sougouna is a native of Mali, a French-speaking nation in West Africa.

Many brunch classics — pancakes, French toast and smaller and larger plates with a mixture of breakfast offerings — will populate the new menu, as well as a smattering of salads, panini and soups. A grab-n-go cooler full of those soups will be another addition with busy college students, office lunch breaks and quick dinners in mind.

“I love to nourish people with my food, and I cook it exactly the way I would eat it,” said Bundy.

Bundy, 39, and her husband, Sougouna, 34, have been South Side residents since just months after the first version of Le Petit, known for its gourmet chocolates, opened in 2013. Three years later, Le Petit moved a half block up East Carson Street to its current location. It’s a larger space capable of serving a sit-down crowd with the lighter-fare menu they serve today. Coffee and espresso, homemade cookies and croissants and gourmet cupcakes with billowing swirls of buttercream icing were added along the way.

Many of those menu additions answered calls from the South Side community that Bundy and Sougouna have come to know so well, as both business owners and residents. The expansion has much of the same inspiration, they say.

“It’s a big family community, the South Side,” said Bundy. “A lot of people think it’s just single people, but there’s a lot of families who want to come out and have brunch.”

The family-friendly vibe is driven home by cartoons, sports and news channels tuned onto the space’s two mounted, flat-screen TVs. The playlist of international music suggests the influences that stud their menu; the volume is set at a level to keep conversations private.

The transformation will be aesthetic as well as culinary.

Wooden benches will replace some of the chairs, and a few tables will be added to increase seating capacity. A new logo and accent color are on the way. And, as another step toward hyper-locality, work from a few South Side artists — who are also longtime customers — will adorn the walls.

It might seem like a stretch for one chef to have offered gourmet chocolates and gourmet diner menus over the course of just a few years and to do it all well, but Bundy has been well prepared.

She credits her mother’s lay-chef skills for introducing her to cooking. Her semi-rural upbringing near Dubois in Clearfield County exposed her to wild berry patches, pasture-raised cattle and homesteading techniques. She attended culinary school at the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, specializing in savory cooking, but holiday work with a chocolatier is what taught her about French-style chocolates.

“Opening a [gourmet chocolate business] was easy to do quickly at first, leaving more time for family,” said Bundy, referring to Sougouna and their 11-year-old son, Gavin.

Bundy’s background in savory cooking has been tugging at her, and she describes missing the freedom that comes along with that type of cooking versus the precision of baking. The effect on her family is still the first consideration, however.

“We never thought we could have a restaurant because it eats up too much of your family life, and it does,” said Bundy. “But, Gavin gets it. He’s excited about our business; it’s our family business.”

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