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Is there a ristorante in Philly that serves real garlicky pasta with white clam sauce?

For years my wife and I have made a pilgrimage from NY to your fair city every spring to see your Flower Show. And every year we have searched unsuccessfully for a.ristorante which serves a real Napolitana linguine Vongole bianca.

This year we'll be back again the first week in March and would really appreciate any real suggestions.The only requirement is that the place be easily reachable from the convention Center area. Thanks in advance.

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  1. I like the spaghetti and clams at Criniti's (Broad St just north of Oregon Ave.). The dealbreaker for me at most places is when they tell me that the clams are not in the shell. That's a pretty good indicator that they are probably using canned clams instead of fresh. At Criniti's you get about a dozen clams in the shell with lots of fresh garlic.

    You can get there easily from the Convention Center by heading straight down 12th Street to Oregon Ave (about 2-3 miles). Make a right onto Oregon and then another right onto Broad St (2 blocks over). Criniti's is on the right side a half block up.


    1. Pesto Ristorante on South Broad makes this. Don't know if it will live up to your standards, but I think it's pretty good. I've never had it in Italy.

      It's not particularly close to the Conv Center but a cab would only run you $10 or so. You'd probably want to ask the restaurant to call one for you to get back, to make it easy.


      1. You could try Sotto Varalli at the corner of Broad & Locust Streets.


        1. There's Dante & Luigi's at 10th and Catharine. Good food. Never tried that dish there but the place is probably a good bet. Napolitana menu.

          1. I'm not a fan of over garlicky clams but if that is what you are seeking a recommend Bistro Romano. I think they call them clams posillpo. They should be garlicky enough for you.

            1. Great Italian place with one of the best vongole dishes I've ever had is at La Fourno (http://www.lafourno.com/) on South Street. Pretty close to the Convention center, and opens up many other options of what to do after the meal since you're on South Street. Word of advice: GET THE TIRAMISU!!!

              Best spaghetti and clams I've ever had was out in West Chester at Enzo's Italian Eatery on 202. Not much for atmosphere, but their food is definitely to die for. They give you basically a family sized portion in a hubcap sized bowl.

              2 Replies
              1. re: paychecktoday

                Funny you should mention Enzo's. I go to Enzo's in Kennett Square at least a couple of times a month. I've often said that if they prettied up the place and put tablecloths on the tables, they could up their prices by 50% and draw a much larger crowd than they draw now. I often ask for pasta with olive oil and garlic in place of the regular marinara sauce that comes as a side dish with most dinner entrees. I must say, they're one of very few places that isn't afraid to use garlic. Although I've never ordered their spaghetti and clams, I can only imagine how garlicky a dish that would be -- and YES -- I can also imagine the portion size. A side dish of pasta there is enough to serve a family of four. I wonder why Enzo's is so rarely mentioned here on CH.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  If I could eat at Enzo's more often, I would. But alas, I live in the food wasteland that is Delaware County (Upper Darby) so it is a trek for good food if I ever get a hankering for Enzo's or any of the good Mexican out in Kennett Square. My closest decent Italian is Fellini's in Media.

              2. I''ve just returned from my annual visit to your great flower show as well as my annual quest for a good garlicky pasta and clams. I must regretfully conclude that the answer is a resounding NO. It just doesn't exist in Philly or, if it does, I haven't found it. Thanks to you for all of your suggestions.

                As to Criniti's, I tried them two years ago. After a lengthy and expensive taxi ride i found their pasta & clams to be truly disappointing.

                This year I was only able to try two places during my short visit, At Dante & Luigi's I found their pasta to be good but devoid of either garlicky taste nor aroma even after sending it back to the kitchen for a garlic boost which never materialized. It's a nice restaurant and the people were also nice as was the owner Michael LaRusso who explained that they were light on the garlic because they didn't want it to overcome the flavor of the other dishes. Go figure. However their mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat was delightful. However, I never got the 15% discount they advertised for flower show patrons.

                Next I tried La Fourno. They were also very nice. However, their pasta and clams was inedible. Two forkfuls was all I could get down and I sent the rest back although I was still charged for it and was not offered an alternative dish.

                So, there you have it. I think it's time to give up the quest. It seems it just doesn't exist in Philly.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Larry Racies

                  I moved to Philadelphia from NY in 1976 and I have been searching for good Italian food for 35 years. I am amazed that in a city that has so many Italians the southern Italian food is no better than mediocre. You can go to any neighborhood restaurant or pizza place in New York and get better food than at any Italian restaurant in Philadelphia. Actually, I just returned from visiting my mother in West Palm Beach, Florida and the Italian food was so much better than anything I've eaten here. I don't understand why.

                  1. re: Red Head

                    Moved to Philadelphia from Brooklyn in 1971 and share your pain. I tend to cook my own Southern Italian food. And I use lots of fresh garlic!!

                  2. re: Larry Racies

                    Dante & Luigi's under the Del Rocco family up until the late 90's was a very different place. Danny's clams were so garlicky my car smelled wonderfully like garlic for weeks after eating there, never washed my hands, YUM

                    1. re: Larry Racies

                      That's a shame that La Fourno was dissapointing, as every dish I've ever had there was exceptional. What suprises me more is about being charged for your dish, along with not being offered another. The owner, Al, is usually there and is more than willing to accomodate any needs or criticism I've ever had. Sorry about the suggestion of that restaurant, I guess Philly is in need of good garlicy pasta.

                    2. I personally can't stand the way most Italian-American restaurants seem to think flavor = massive quantities of undercooked garlic and puddles of oil on the plate, so I'm quite thankful Philly's restaurants tend to skirt far from that tendency!