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Authentic Red Sauce Italian in Philadelphia

Former New Yorkers, now Seattites, coming through Philly. We are desperate for an authentic neighborhood restaurant serving great Italian. Also looking for something casual, but tasty for arrival night after long flight in from the West Coast. We are staying in City Center. Thxs!

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  1. If you want old school, there's Villa di Roma on 9th St or Dante & Luigi's at 10th & Catherine.

        1. Wherever you end up, if you want to make points with your server the tomato sauce is "gravy."

          1. We always go to Marra's (1734 E. Passyunk Ave.) when we're coming from the airport. Good, red sauce Italian.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Hopefulone

              I really like the pizza at Marra's, i have been less happy with the pasta there. But the atmosphere is definitely old school.

              1. re: cwdonald

                If by "old school', you mean rude and nasty service, then I agree. I also agree about the food. Pizza good, everything else...not so much.

                1. re: Philly Ray

                  +1 for the "rude and nasty service" comment regarding Marra's.
                  After reading about the debut of Marra Brothers some 20+ years ago (1989?), and their extreme attention to detail , the GF and I went for dinner. Since the accolades were so elevated, we entrusted our waiter to make the selections and bring us the "specialties of the house." The response was (paraphrase), "Well, if you want veal, we got veal. If you want fish, we got fish. If you want pasta, we got pasta." In other words, "Make up your minds and get outta my face."
                  After the ho-hum meal, marginally fresh fish and the bitch-moan attytood, we have obliged by remaining forever absent.

                  1. re: Chefpaulo

                    Chef.. can you confirm you are talking about the Marra's that claims to have been around for 83 years. I am a bit confused as to that which you are speaking of, and the place in South Philly known as Marra's. Not being originally from Philadelphia, I do not claim to know the history of all the institutions, but I thought Marra's had been one of the originals.

                    The website of what I know as Marra's.


                    1. re: cwdonald

                      I've eaten at Marra's a number of times. The pizza is fantastic, as are the meatballs. Other food is average. Service has always been pleasant. It's not a fine dining place, and not fine dining level service, but I have never found them rude.

                      1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                        Just want to echo that pizza is the way to go at Marra's. I look ordering it well done to make sure they cook the crust all the way through.

                      2. re: cwdonald

                        If I am in error, I apologize. I was referring to Marra Brothers and maybe assuming they were one and the same. My experience was a one-timer for sure.

              2. Three choices:
                Ralph's-Philly's oldest Italian resto: www.ralphsrestaurant.com (Ask if they take credit cards. They may not.
                )Tre Scalini-also a super choice: Can't seem to find their website: 1915 E. Passyunk Avenue Philadelphia PA 19148; (215) 551-3870
                Victor Cafe: www.victorcafe.com Can't beat the opera singers during your meal!

                Have fun.

                4 Replies
                1. re: hils

                  The Scalini is ok (a recent meal there was very mixed) but it's not really a red gravy place, it's Abruzzi cuisine and the menu is very different than aplace like Ralphs, Victor, or Villa di roma.

                  1. re: barryg

                    Scannichios is so not what it used to be. Meh is more of a description than anything else, the last two times we went there.

                    I don't know the exact meaning of 'red gravy, old school' but L'Angolo is my idea
                    of Old School Italian, family style.

                  2. re: hils

                    the mussels in red sauce are probably Ralph's best dish. The sauce is slightly spicy and excellent. The rest of the food is so so. The veal parmigiana is pretty good. Villa di Roma has similar food, but I'd go to Ralph's for the mussels.
                    They do take credit cards

                    1. re: hils

                      On my two visit to Ralph's I never have had the mussels so I suppose I missed one of posters here favorite dishes. Those who enjoy Ralph's are/or were in good company as Sinatra is said to have been a regular customer. Perhaps, who knows. I have had the two of the worst Italian meals of my life there so there. Love Victor's for basic red sauce Italian and the singers (I don't ask for gravy as it comes off as phony from a non-Philadelphia WASP.)

                    2. Villa di Roma is the best choice. It is definitely old school and their red sauce or gravy is great. You can't go wrong.

                      1. I'd recommend Modo Mio for their Sugo Sunday dinner. Otherwise, their food is really good but maybe not quite as traditional as you'd like.