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hitting up the city of brotherly love on memorial day

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my wife and i will be visiting this fair city the weekend of memorial day. we'll be coming in from houston, and both of us have no experience with philly. i've done some research, and we will definitely be partaking of some cheesesteaks at john's roast pork (and possibly some of their namesake items as well) and the reading terminal market which seems to get universally great reviews.

the main thing i'm requesting are some recs for good italian food. this is one genre of food that i feel comfortable admitting houston DOESN'T have a pretty good grasp of. other than the typical chain places, there's not much to see here. i would really like to try someplace with great food. honestly, the ambience is secondary. in fact i would prefer a place that doesn't mind it's customers in jeans and t-shirts (you get the picture). my wife LOVES italian, and i must say i'm a fan myself. can you help us out?

i'm envisioning a place that's been there since forever, and is good enough that locals still frequent even though it may have been discovered by tourists ;) bonus points for a family run joint with big portions and not so big prices.

i am definitely in for other recommendations as well, like best big breakfast...

my apologies if this cuts to closely to other recent threads, i browsed over them and didn't see anything on a cursory look that was directed towards italian suggestions. tia.

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  1. I'm not all that good with the Italian recs but as far as breakfast, the Dutch Eating Place in Reading Terminal (Weds through Sats) for pancakes is tops. Also good options are Morning Glory, Sabrina's, Cafe Estelle, and Honey's Sit and Eat. The problem with most of them is that they are off the beaten track and are more difficult to find for someone out of town. All are very casual.

    1. You'll want to go to South Philly for Italian. Here's a relatively recent post with some suggestions.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/574095

      1. thanks, guys!

        2 Replies
        1. re: goags2005

          I'd also suggest going to the Italian market and taking some goodies home. It is also in South Philly. You'll want to check out Claudios and Dibruno's for cheese and pasta. Go to Sarcones for bread and Isgro's for cannoli. If you like artichokes, Claudios has delcious stuffed artichokes as well as fantastic olives, roasted peppers, etc.

          1. re: DaisyM

            i agree with everything daisy said. and while you are in that (my!) neck of the woods, i would head over to dante and luigi's. it is the best italian-american restaurant in the neighborhood and delicious. it is fairly casual, though t-shirt and jeans might be cutting it close. nice-ish jeans and an upgrade on the shirt should be fine.

            as for italian italian food, raddicchio, modo mio (superb, but out of the way), tre scalini, l'angolo....

            and ralph's is mediocre, dante and luigi's is way better and only a block away.

        2. authentic South Philly Italian- Ralph's is a must!

          1. i would absolutely recommend spending some of the daytime strolling the italian market which runs down 9th street a ways south of center city. it's walkable, but a good 15-min walk to the beginning of the italian market from center city, going straight down 9th. if you take a cab, to 9th and washington would be an easy place to jump off from.

            as for some places that have been there forever, for locals and tourists alike, big portions and fairly cheap, we've got a ton of those. finding a good one is key. marra's, ralph's and villa di roma are three of the most popular, however the quality of their food is pretty heavily debated on this board. and they're all really italian-american, which is mostly what you'll find at the south philly joints.

            i have not explored all of the south philly institutions (and there are certainly a ton), but based on the ones i have been to, criniti is definitely my favorite by far. it's deep in south philly but very accessible by the broad street subway line (or by cab).

            1. i suppose i should say that we are fine with italian-american style food.

              1. Many of the best Italian restaurants in Philly are BYOB - you bring your own wine, no corkage fees.

                I think you would like L'Angolo - a small, homey place in South Philadelphia.

                Another favorite, a little bigger, is Tre Scalini, which has a larger menu - marvelous veal chops and veal filets, very good homemade pasta, etc.

                A very good place that has a bar is Paradiso - slightly more upscale.

                These are all in South Philly, all have very good food - all favorites of ours.

                1 Reply
                1. re: sylviag

                  I'd add Mr Martino's

                2. i saw one person suggested ralph's. the guide book had it listed, and i am intrigued to visit a place that's real "old school". does any one else like it, or is it one of those places that is a has been?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: goags2005

                    I have not eaten there in 10 years but found it to be pretty mediocre. Seems like another Bookbinders if you ask me.

                  2. One of my favorite places is Modo Mio, in Northern Liberties (right off Girard). It's a BYOB, very cozy, fairly casual, loved by locals, and well priced. They have a seasonal menu, which makes it always fun to go since the menu gets changed up enough so that I don't get bored. The pastas are fresh and never overcooked, and there are interesting yet traditionally based main dishes, The best part of the menu, however, is the menu turista, where for $32 you get an antipasta, pasta, secondo, and a dessert. If you go with others you can try most of the menu that way, and really learn which dish is your favorite. They just opened up a sandwich shop, also on Girard, which has been getting good reviews too.
                    And even though Modo Mio isn't in center city, it's only three metro stops from the Liberty Bell (a ten min subway ride) or a short taxi ride from center city. Do not let the distance frighten you from having a wonderful meal.