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Red Gravy Italian in South Philly

Looking for a traditional but still chowish, nice but not stuffy South Philly Italian place to take a friend who hasn't been "home" in years. Looking for that "like you wish mamma used to make" sort of vibe :) You guys have never steered me wrong! Any input much appreciated :)

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  1. I like Cucina Forte (not sure I have the spelling exactly correct) a lot. Wonderful gnocchi. It is a byob.

    2 Replies
    1. re: FayeD

      she doesn't really do the red gravy bit though.

      my personal favie burned down over 15 years ago, but dante and luigi's is still delicious. it isn't particularly home-y though, but it is cozy and comfortable. their lasagne and manicotti are excellent. their lamb stew is also very good, as is the rabe and sausage app.

      1. re: mazza3

        Dante & Luigi's sounds just the thing! Thanks a lot!

    2. How about Mr Martino's?

      1. Easy, Villa di Roma. Have the 'Steak My Way' rare. No gravy but you can get a side or two. Cash only. Middle of the Italian Market, S. 9th Street.

        1. Criniti's makes the best lasagna, eggplant parm and veal picante.

          1. Surprised no one has said Ralph's yet.
            Also, second for Villa di Roma.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Phillystudent44

              I've been to Ralphs, many years ago, and didn't really like it. We tried Dante and Luigi's and found the food very good (if a tad on the overlly expensive side) and the atmosphere slightly Soprano's-esque. This coming from a born and bred South Philly Italian girl. Also the waiters were slightly creepy, if efficient :) It was a colorful time :)

              1. re: gwebber

                I will have to make a stop by Dante and Luigi's. I've learned to always take red-sauce restaurant suggestions from bred South Philly Italians!

                I heard a story once about a Soprano-ish whack happening in a restaurant somewhere in Bella Vista. I remember that Jerry Blavat was said to be at the table, and was asked to leave before anything happened because they all liked him too much!

                1. re: Phillystudent44

                  That was Dante and Luigi's. Blavat had (has?) well known connections to the Philly Mafia.

                  Just this past October, Al Martino, who also had mafia ties, and was planning on writing a book about his experiences in the underworld, died--after having dinner with Blavat. I don't know what restaurant. No cause of death given.

                  If Jerry Blavat invites you to dinner, be careful.

                  FWIW Blavat holds court at Modo Mio these days.

                  1. re: barryg

                    Damn! I've been wanting to go to Modo Mio, too.

            2. Bomb-bomb BBQ is really good (yes it's an Italian restaurant). It has a great family-owned vibe. I had probably the best squid of my life here... calamari and peas, the calamari melted like butter.

              Also the High Note Cafe attached to Franco Luigi's, where you also get to hear live opera. Better food than Victor's and cheaper, too. Used to be BYOB but I think they got a license.

              2 Replies
              1. re: barryg

                OK that calamari and peas sounds awesome. I will definitely have to look into that. My mother used to make peas and pasta with red sauce, which I always loved.

                1. re: barryg

                  Love the mussels in white wine at the Bomb Bomb

                2. This is not exactly a restaurant but taking hungry refuge from a cold rain our little group of 5 (including grandma and grandpa) were pulled in by the promise that we would not be sorry. It is a tiny neighborhood hangout on Porter a(I think) 16, about 3 blocks from Broad. "My mama is the best cook in Philly the young woman proudly proclaimed. Easily the best red gravy I have had. We had her gnocchi and ravioli. Be sure to sample her meatless meatballs. Better than the food was the feeling like we instantly had an Italian family. I am sure there are many places like this in a food desert like Philly, where mama cooks for twe whole neigborhood and they all proclaim her to be the best cook in town. Mama Barone is from Rome and maintians the cooking of that city. "No grease!" she tells us, "in Rome we have no grease in our food."

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: valasekr

                    "a food desert like Philly" ? What ?

                    1. re: Buckethead

                      Yeah, something about this post doesn't pass the smell test. Like...Where exactly is this place and what is it called?

                      1. re: Philly Ray

                        My dad used to tell me stories about eating dinner in people's row homes in South Philly. Never could tell if he actually did this or just heard about other people doing it. Don't think he ever mentioned anything about meatless meatballs, though. Maybe that is a recipe from the Great Depression.

                        1. re: barryg

                          No its on New Years Day, some people feed the tourists that come to see the Mummers Parade.