Pasta's being made, desserts artfully arranged on plates, pork and fish getting trimmed.
Out front, servers are memorizing the gourmet menu choices, and waiting for patrons.
Petite Passion (24th and Market streets) may look like a fancy restaurant. But really, it's more of a class project -- the final course for budding chefs at the Art Institute of Philadelphia's International Culinary School.
Chef Instructor Dan D'Angelo explains that students get real experience by staffing the restaurant. Experience that can carry them into positions as sous-chefs in kitchens all over the country.
Petite Passion is also a fabulous value for the diners. Four-course lunches are $15 and six-course dinners are $30. The prices include soft drinks or coffee, and there's no tipping.
Dining Room Instructor Alan Gross explains that students also serve as hosts, hostesses, waiters and waitresses, so they learn how to deal with customers and all aspects of running the "front of the house."
Petite Passion doesn't advertise, but regulars swear by by the food... And the value.
Dianne McCurdy of New Castle, Del., says the tables are set elegantly, the service is good and the food is very, very good. Plus, she adds, "the price is right."
Petite Passion is open for lunch and dinner on Wednesdays and Thursdays while school is in session. Though sometimes, it is closed for special school events. Reservations are recommended. For more information, about when the restaurant is open and the menus, click here.
Other culinary schools in our area also operate restaurants.
Widener University has the Heintz Dining Room (1 University Place, Chester, Pa., 610-499-1127), which is staffed by students of the university's School of Hospitality Management. For more information, click here.
Drexel University has a restaurant and cocktail lounge called Academic Bistro (33rd and Arch streets, 215-895-5872) that serves three-course lunches for $9 and dinners for $25. For more information, click here.
JNA Culinary Institute in South Philadelphia (1212 S. Broad Street, 215-468-8800) serves dinner on Tuesday through Friday. For more information, click here.
The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College (4207 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA.) has four different theme restaurants, which offer different menus. They are open Tuesdays through Saturdays for dinner. Prices vary. For more information, click here.