Best Italian restaurants in Philadelphia
Instead of serving dishes à la carte, James-Beard-award-winning chef Marc Vetri offers a four-course tasting menu for $155 in his upscale dining room just off Broad Street. Located in the former home of Georges Perrier’s legendary Le Bec Fin, the gourmet menu includes Italian-focused dishes such as porcelet chops, Swiss chard gnocchi with brown butter and a chocolate polenta soufflé. As long as you’re splurging, you might as well add a full or partial wine or beer tasting to your experience.
Taking over his grandfather’s members-only South Philly social club, Zeppoli chef Joey Baladino has reimagined the space into an intimate Italian-American enclave. To keep things in the family, a limited number of memberships are available at the door each evening. Once you’re in, order a well-mixed negroni and don’t miss the stuffed artichokes, spaghetti with crabs and housemade spumoni.
Billing itself as “Italian influenced, American executed and completely Fishtown,” Wm. Mulherin’s Sons is a cozy spot decorated in wood and leather that is below a hotel also run by the owners. Spend the night in one of the four beautiful guest rooms and then treat yourself to the decidedly Philly “Spicy Jawn” pizza for brunch.
Philadelphia top chefs like Nick Elmi and Joe Beddia have raved about Zeppoli, calling it one of their favorite restaurants in the Philadelphia area. The homestyle Sicilian fare at this intimate, 35-seat BYOB in Collingswood, New Jersey, hits all the right marks when you’re looking for a simple yet classic Italian dining experience. Standounts on Chef-owner Joey Baldino’s menu include pesto trapanese, a Sicilian-style fusilli pasta with almond-pistachio pesto, and the coniglio pizzaiola, rabbit stewed with tomato and oregano and served with rosemary oven-roasted potatoes. The wine is on you, considering the space is a BYO, but coffee drinkers will find a selection of espresso drinks on the menu that are perfect digestifs after a filling Italian meal.
The Abruzzo region of Italy inspires the flavors at this upscale dining spot along East Passyunk Avenue. That means head chef Joe Cicala uses fresh, local ingredients to whip up rustic dishes that run the gamut from lamb and pork to fish and pasta handmade with Abruzzese flour. Start your meal with polipo grigliato, a grilled Mediterranean octopus dish; dive into the seafood- and tomato-based spaghetti alla chitarra; and finish up with a meat or fish entrée such as the lightly spicy brodetto vastese, a seafood stew reminiscent of bouillabaisse. Dolci, or dessert, includes everything from an assortment of biscotti to mousse and lemon cake, and there’s a jampacked menu of wine, beers by the bottle and on tap and signature cocktails that change by the season.
Chef Michael Millon serves a seasonal menu at this 48-seat BYOB whose name translates to “by hand.” The ingredient-driven, hand-crafted food pulls its inspiration from regions all over Italy. Think Calabrian chilis, egg-based pastas with hearty sauces and house-made sausage. And with Chef Michael Millon in the kitchen, the presentation of each dish is its own work of art.
This upscale classic Italian joint is one of the newest eateries owned by Midtown Village restaurant mavens Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran. When it’s warm out, diners can choose to sit on the picturesque back patio, which is every bit the Italian scene with light bulbs hanging overhead and even a clothesline draped with laundry. Begin your stay with wine and Gigi’s Anitpasto Plate before losing yourself in the fontina-stuffed meatballs served with pasta soaked in slow-braised “Sunday Gravy.” Just be sure to order early: The red sauce is only available each day while supplies last.
Another Vetri family restaurant, Amis Trattoria’s menu is inspired by quinto quarto aka “the Fifth Quarter, which is a Roman culinary practice that centers on using an animal in its entirety. The seasonal menu with daily specials offers items like duck hearts with pomegranate and herb salad and grilled veal tongue with pepper mostarda. Whatever you order, be sure to save room for Mom-Mom’s rice pudding for dessert.
Another one of the Vetri family of restaurants, Osteria is reminiscent of the traditional osterias found in Northern Italy. Chef Jeff Michaud, winner of the 2010 James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic,” offers such plates as lemon ricotta cavatelli with nduja rock shrimp in this cool industrial space outfitted with exposed ductwork, rustic wood floors and a huge open kitchen.
This classic Italian eatery is decorated with red-checked tablecloths set against dark walls that are covered with photos of musicians and celebrities. Open since 1933, Victor Cafe was originally a gramophone shop and was known as a “music-lovers’ rendezvous” serving only spumoni and espresso. It now boasts a full menu complete with a zuppa del giorno (soup of the day) and a spicy fra diavolo that diners rave about. The real draw here, perhaps, is the waitstaff—many of whom are trained opera singers who sing to diners throughout each meal shift. Dinner here is one of those classic Philly experiences.
This South Philly, family-run eatery offers classic menu like clams casino, a ravioli of the day, and veal parmigiana. The white-linen-covered tables and eclectic decorations stand out against the dark burgundy walls, providing a classy, comfortable vibe. Pair your meal with a nice glass of chianti and finish it off with a Broad Street Manhattan.
Villa di Roma is consistently winning accolades for its meatballs, and it’s easy to figure out why. Since 1963, this family-owned, cash-only South Philly restaurant has been serving up classic Italian fare like shrimp scampi, spaghetti with oil and garlic and baked rigatoni. After you top off your meal with a bowl of spumoni, grab a container of Villa di Roma’s classic house-made marinara sauce to take home.
For a quintessintial Philly-meets-Italy dining experience, head to Dante & Luigi’s. Situated in an elegant Bella Vista Victorian mansion, the restaurant boasts a menu of classic Italian fare—like pasta with red sauce and a particularly scrumptious osso buco—that attracted Italian immigrants as they were arriving in Philadelphia more than 100 years ago.
Since 1900, this family-owned South Philadelphia eatery has been serving up classic Italian fare to hungry diners. After outgrowing their original location and moving around the corner, Ralph’s is still going strong 117 years later, now run by the fourth generation of family owners. Try the sausage and peppers, clams casino, or eggplant parmigiana with a glass of red or white from their extensive wine list.
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