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spaghetti bolognese A Mano

Philly’s 18 Essential Italian Restaurants

If there is one thing this city knows, it’s pasta

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Be it a white tablecloth or red sauce joint, Philadelphia’s fondness for Italian cuisine runs deep. Meatballs and veal Parmigiana abound in South Philly while other outposts are dedicated to elevated Italian fare. Over the years, the city’s longstanding love affair with these pasta palaces has gotten national attention — Italian food in Philly is just that good.

These 20 restaurants represent not-to-miss spots for pasta, gravy, meat, and seafood. Some are tried-and-true Philadelphia institutions that have been around for decades, while others are newcomers that have carved out a spot for themselves among Philly’s most notable Italian offerings. Everyone has a favorite Italian place, and as soon as you try one of these restaurants, you’ll be sure to lay claim to your own.

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Murph's Bar

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At Murph’s, Puglian chef Francesco Bellastelli cooks up a nightly menu of pastas like strozzapreti with cherry tomatoes and burrata and tagliatelle bolognese in the back of — if you can believe it — an Irish bar. If that sounds like something that could only happen in Philly that’s because, well, it could only happen in Philly.

With starters like an heirloom tomato panzanella salad and honey grilled peaches with stracciatella, House-made pastas include lumache with corn and porcini butter, and mains like grilled branzino and chicken Milanese round out the menu, A Mano is always sure to be an amazing Italian meal. To get the full A Mano experience, opt for the four course family style Abbondanza menu.

Gran Caffe L'Aquila

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The Italy-Philly connection is strong at Center City’s bi-level Gran Caffe L’Aquila, a recreation of an Italian cafe destroyed in the 2009 earthquake that hit Abruzzo. The entire restaurant was designed and built in Italy before being shipped to Philly, along with its co-owners, Stefano Biasini and Michele Morelli. Biasini is a world champion gelato maker and even finds ways to incorporate the sweet stuff into savory entrees (think: truffle gelato melting over buttery pasta). Stop in for a scoop from the case in the front, or settle into one of the restaurants’ indoor or outdoor tables for the full experience.

Via Locusta

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Handmade pastas are the core of the menu at Via Locusta and intriguing additions such as freshly baked focaccia with a variety of accompaniments and Italian accented mains like grilled swordfish with Prosecco vinaigrette round out the menu.

Trattoria Carina

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Trattoria Carina is the perfect neighborhood Italian spot. Start off the meal with a well made Aperol spritz and then move on to a chopped salad or charcuterie plate before digging into mains like spicy crab arrabbiata or gemelli with butternut squash. The all-Italian wine list keeps things reasonable with nothing over $60 a bottle.

Little Nonna's

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First-timers at Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran’s Little Nonna’s risk whiplash spinning their heads to watch the mile-high spaghetti and meatballs pass by. The Sunday gravy, served daily, is also a long-running favorite: braised beef short ribs, meatballs, fennel sausage, and broccoli rabe in a four-hour San Marzano marinara over pasta. Sidewalk, patio, and dining room tables are available via Resy.

plate of pasta with red sauce E. Mencher for Visit Philadelphia

Dante & Luigi's

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Old school is the name of the game at Dante & Luigi’s, going strong since 1899. With its high ceilings, chandeliers, fireplace, wainscoting, and white tablecloths, the South Philly spot is the most upscale of the city’s historic Italian restaurants. But talk about street cred: As the story goes, Dante & Luigi’s was once the scene of an attempted mob hit. Go for the ricotta gnocchi, lasagna, or perciatelli Genovese, a richer spin on a classic Bolognese. Reserve by calling the restaurant.

Ralph's Italian Restaurant

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For more than a century, Ralph’s has been a Philly institution. This place isn’t just locally famous: It’s considered the oldest Italian restaurant in the country. More than a few celebrities have come through the door, including Frank Sinatra, Taylor Swift, and Joe Biden (not all at once). Devoted diners keep coming back for sausage and peppers, mussels, pasta, and veal parm. Ralph’s is still family-run and much of its staff has been around for decades. Reservations are available for indoor and outdoor seating.

Saloon Restaurant

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For 50 plus years, this intimate Italian spot has been welcoming diners with generous portions of linguine pescatore, veal parmigiana, and a Bosses chicken, a paillard topped with sweet and hot peppers. No word on whether or not Saloon’s signature chicken was a favorite of restaurant regular and noted mob boss, Joey Merlino. Reserve tables in the dining room or bar through OpenTable.

Fiorella Pasta

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Marc Vetri’s Italian Market pasta bar is perennially packed and for good reason. From creative cocktails like the Dirty Pasta Water Martini to a tight menu full of fantastic small plates and gorgeous handmade pastas, there’s a lot to love about this former butcher shop turned dining destination. Reservations are available through Tock.

Fiore Fine Foods

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At Fiore Fine Foods in Queen Village, there are a range of options on offer for a host of different tastes — from picture-perfect breakfast pastries to elegant pasta dishes for dinnertime like ricotta gnudi and orecchiette with pork and tomatillo ragu. The amaro cocktails and the rotating menu of luxe gelatos are highlights for after dinner.

Villa di Roma

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Since 1963, the throwback Villa di Roma has been an Italian Market favorite for hearty pasta dinners. The red sauce is so popular that the restaurant even sells it by the jar. But it’s not just spaghetti here. The menu includes enough veal, seafood, chicken, sausage, and steak entrees to make choosing just one a challenge.

Palizzi Social Club

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Is something automatically more fun when it has a secret, exclusive vibe? Maybe, but it helps when one of the region’s best Italian chefs is at the helm. A hundred years ago a group of expats from a town in Italy started a club in a South Philly rowhome and named it after an Italian painter. In 2016, chef Joey Baldino — known for his Collingswood destination spot Zeppoli — inherited the club from his uncle and now runs it as a members-only restaurant and bar. Those lucky enough to hold a membership card feast on raviolo, spiedini, spaghetti with crabs, and tricolor spumoni.

The Victor Café

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Housed in a former gramophone shop on Dickinson Street, Victor Cafe is Philadelphia’s premier destination for red sauce Italian and live opera. Choose from a menu of straightforward Italian classics like linguine with clams and veal saltimbocca and enjoy an evening of being serenaded by opera singing servers. Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant.

Le Virtu

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East Passyunk’s destination for Abruzzese eats serves excellent classics like pappardelle ai funghi and branzino with fingerling potatoes, as well as rustic plates like fettuccine with butcher’s ragu. The outdoor patio is lovely and the wine list is thorough. Reservations are offered through OpenTable.

Irwin's

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You’d be forgiven for thinking a reservation at Irwin’s is all about the view — at Bok Building, there’s nothing like it — but it’s Michael Vincent Ferreri’s family-style dorade, fritto misto, and handmade pastas that really take the cake. Reservations can be made through Resy.

L'Angolo Ristorante

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Situated in deep South Philly, this cozy corner Italian joint opened in 2000 but feels like it’s been around forever. L’Angolo’s menu is a homage to the cuisine of Puglia — think Southern Italian dishes like grilled sausage spiedini and penne melanzane. L’Angolo is BYOB so be sure to grab a couple bottles of Puglian wine to bring with you. Call the restaurant for reservations.

Zeppoli

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South Philly native Joey Baldino worked his way up to chef de cuisine at Vetri before opening his 35-seat BYOB in 2011. He focuses on Sicilian cooking at Zeppoli, a short ride across the river in Collingswood, New Jersey. It’s the only spot on this list that isn’t in Philadelphia proper, but it’s too good not to include. Don’t skip the overflowing antipasto to start or the zeppoli Siciliano for dessert.

Murph's Bar

At Murph’s, Puglian chef Francesco Bellastelli cooks up a nightly menu of pastas like strozzapreti with cherry tomatoes and burrata and tagliatelle bolognese in the back of — if you can believe it — an Irish bar. If that sounds like something that could only happen in Philly that’s because, well, it could only happen in Philly.

A Mano

With starters like an heirloom tomato panzanella salad and honey grilled peaches with stracciatella, House-made pastas include lumache with corn and porcini butter, and mains like grilled branzino and chicken Milanese round out the menu, A Mano is always sure to be an amazing Italian meal. To get the full A Mano experience, opt for the four course family style Abbondanza menu.

Gran Caffe L'Aquila

The Italy-Philly connection is strong at Center City’s bi-level Gran Caffe L’Aquila, a recreation of an Italian cafe destroyed in the 2009 earthquake that hit Abruzzo. The entire restaurant was designed and built in Italy before being shipped to Philly, along with its co-owners, Stefano Biasini and Michele Morelli. Biasini is a world champion gelato maker and even finds ways to incorporate the sweet stuff into savory entrees (think: truffle gelato melting over buttery pasta). Stop in for a scoop from the case in the front, or settle into one of the restaurants’ indoor or outdoor tables for the full experience.

Via Locusta

Handmade pastas are the core of the menu at Via Locusta and intriguing additions such as freshly baked focaccia with a variety of accompaniments and Italian accented mains like grilled swordfish with Prosecco vinaigrette round out the menu.

Trattoria Carina

Trattoria Carina is the perfect neighborhood Italian spot. Start off the meal with a well made Aperol spritz and then move on to a chopped salad or charcuterie plate before digging into mains like spicy crab arrabbiata or gemelli with butternut squash. The all-Italian wine list keeps things reasonable with nothing over $60 a bottle.

Little Nonna's

First-timers at Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran’s Little Nonna’s risk whiplash spinning their heads to watch the mile-high spaghetti and meatballs pass by. The Sunday gravy, served daily, is also a long-running favorite: braised beef short ribs, meatballs, fennel sausage, and broccoli rabe in a four-hour San Marzano marinara over pasta. Sidewalk, patio, and dining room tables are available via Resy.

plate of pasta with red sauce E. Mencher for Visit Philadelphia

Dante & Luigi's

Old school is the name of the game at Dante & Luigi’s, going strong since 1899. With its high ceilings, chandeliers, fireplace, wainscoting, and white tablecloths, the South Philly spot is the most upscale of the city’s historic Italian restaurants. But talk about street cred: As the story goes, Dante & Luigi’s was once the scene of an attempted mob hit. Go for the ricotta gnocchi, lasagna, or perciatelli Genovese, a richer spin on a classic Bolognese. Reserve by calling the restaurant.

Ralph's Italian Restaurant

For more than a century, Ralph’s has been a Philly institution. This place isn’t just locally famous: It’s considered the oldest Italian restaurant in the country. More than a few celebrities have come through the door, including Frank Sinatra, Taylor Swift, and Joe Biden (not all at once). Devoted diners keep coming back for sausage and peppers, mussels, pasta, and veal parm. Ralph’s is still family-run and much of its staff has been around for decades. Reservations are available for indoor and outdoor seating.

Saloon Restaurant

For 50 plus years, this intimate Italian spot has been welcoming diners with generous portions of linguine pescatore, veal parmigiana, and a Bosses chicken, a paillard topped with sweet and hot peppers. No word on whether or not Saloon’s signature chicken was a favorite of restaurant regular and noted mob boss, Joey Merlino. Reserve tables in the dining room or bar through OpenTable.

Fiorella Pasta

Marc Vetri’s Italian Market pasta bar is perennially packed and for good reason. From creative cocktails like the Dirty Pasta Water Martini to a tight menu full of fantastic small plates and gorgeous handmade pastas, there’s a lot to love about this former butcher shop turned dining destination. Reservations are available through Tock.

Fiore Fine Foods

At Fiore Fine Foods in Queen Village, there are a range of options on offer for a host of different tastes — from picture-perfect breakfast pastries to elegant pasta dishes for dinnertime like ricotta gnudi and orecchiette with pork and tomatillo ragu. The amaro cocktails and the rotating menu of luxe gelatos are highlights for after dinner.

Villa di Roma

Since 1963, the throwback Villa di Roma has been an Italian Market favorite for hearty pasta dinners. The red sauce is so popular that the restaurant even sells it by the jar. But it’s not just spaghetti here. The menu includes enough veal, seafood, chicken, sausage, and steak entrees to make choosing just one a challenge.

Palizzi Social Club

Is something automatically more fun when it has a secret, exclusive vibe? Maybe, but it helps when one of the region’s best Italian chefs is at the helm. A hundred years ago a group of expats from a town in Italy started a club in a South Philly rowhome and named it after an Italian painter. In 2016, chef Joey Baldino — known for his Collingswood destination spot Zeppoli — inherited the club from his uncle and now runs it as a members-only restaurant and bar. Those lucky enough to hold a membership card feast on raviolo, spiedini, spaghetti with crabs, and tricolor spumoni.

The Victor Café

Housed in a former gramophone shop on Dickinson Street, Victor Cafe is Philadelphia’s premier destination for red sauce Italian and live opera. Choose from a menu of straightforward Italian classics like linguine with clams and veal saltimbocca and enjoy an evening of being serenaded by opera singing servers. Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant.

Le Virtu

East Passyunk’s destination for Abruzzese eats serves excellent classics like pappardelle ai funghi and branzino with fingerling potatoes, as well as rustic plates like fettuccine with butcher’s ragu. The outdoor patio is lovely and the wine list is thorough. Reservations are offered through OpenTable.

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Irwin's

You’d be forgiven for thinking a reservation at Irwin’s is all about the view — at Bok Building, there’s nothing like it — but it’s Michael Vincent Ferreri’s family-style dorade, fritto misto, and handmade pastas that really take the cake. Reservations can be made through Resy.

L'Angolo Ristorante

Situated in deep South Philly, this cozy corner Italian joint opened in 2000 but feels like it’s been around forever. L’Angolo’s menu is a homage to the cuisine of Puglia — think Southern Italian dishes like grilled sausage spiedini and penne melanzane. L’Angolo is BYOB so be sure to grab a couple bottles of Puglian wine to bring with you. Call the restaurant for reservations.

Zeppoli

South Philly native Joey Baldino worked his way up to chef de cuisine at Vetri before opening his 35-seat BYOB in 2011. He focuses on Sicilian cooking at Zeppoli, a short ride across the river in Collingswood, New Jersey. It’s the only spot on this list that isn’t in Philadelphia proper, but it’s too good not to include. Don’t skip the overflowing antipasto to start or the zeppoli Siciliano for dessert.

Related Maps