Italian and other European foods that Philly is known for
I'm coming to Philadelphia in January and am interested in Italian and other European foods that Philly is known for (I'm from the South.) I already have reservations at Osteria and thought to round out the experience with an old-school Italian-American restaurant; online reviews and opinions are all over the map. Do you all think that Dante & Luigi's or Criniti's are any good? Or is there a better version of that same type of Italian food? What about other (Greek, Polish, etc) recommendations? Thank you!
If it were me I might consider something like Zahav (Israeli) which is unique to Philadelphia rather than the "old school" Italian places in town since you are already going to Osteria. While Estia (Greek) has some really great fresh fish, it is very pricey at dinner, as the fish is sold by the pound. Not many other Greek options in town are outstanding if you ask me. Some are decent but not memorable. There is Kanella which is technically Cypriot but I have found them to be hit-or-miss. And no Polish destination restaurants here either. You may want to broaden your search as there are plenty of really good New American, French, Tapas, and small plates places worth visiting. Here are some good places to start:
If you're thinking of exploring an old big city Euro-ethnic neighborhood and stopping for a meal that represents the cuisine of the "old country" that won't happen here.
The Italian market is a pretty interesting place and both Claudio and DiBruno Bros are great shops. Claudio is more of an old school Italian grocery/deli; DiBruno's is similar but has become more of an upscale gourmet shop over the years (less focused on Italian stuff )
Port Richmond is great for Polish but it's not all that nice looking (besides the churches) and it's a car ride away from center city. New Wave Cafe and Syrenka are the most popular here. Krakus Market also has a restaurant along with lots of fun polish groceries. While you're up there Marian's has great Polish style donuts and Baltic Bakery makes good babka and rye bread.
Farther north than Port Richmond is the Northeast - filled with Russians, Ukranians, etc. I've only been to the grocery stores up there, but there are several big banquet halls with food and entertainment - but, again, it's not pretty and it requires a drive.
We do have lots of restaurants that do European foods well - Kanella is excellent for Greek Cypriot, Bistrot La Minette for classic French, Noord for Dutch/Scandinavian, Brauhaus Schmitz for German (great beer, too), a few Spanish places...
I second a trip to Port Richmond.
Lunch at Krakus Market or Syrenka's Luncheonette. They're very basic, but a great experience. Order what they're good at- kielbasa, borscht, pierogies, golabki.
It'll be like eating at your Polish babcia's table.
Check out all the different kelbasas and Polish larder foods.
Hit Allegheny Ave, Richmond St. and Tilton Ave.
It's a nice walk and you'll get to see the Polish heart of Philly.
Ask around to see if anyone is carrying/making Polish donuts called packzi (poonchkey).
I would say in lieu of South Philly Italian-American (which IMHO is basically like most generic Italian I've had when in the South), I'd try one of our homier BYOB Italian places. To me (Italian-born and yearly visitor) some of these really feel more like the Italy I know and love, like visiting a small neighborhood trattoria. I love Salento, Roberto Cafe, and Melograno especially.
With regard to old style/red sauce italian, I agree that L'angelo is good as is Melegrano (both BYOB). Food is well done and comforting, but not blow your socks off.
For more ambitious Italian, I would say Le Virtu, or Ulivo (amazing gnocci at Ulivo).
Agree with recommendation on Zahav--amazing lamb shoulder prix fixe dinner that is something unusual and delicious.
Would also highly recommend Vedge--vegan, but fine dining and extremely creative. Once of the best restaurants in town,
Nice french at Bibou (hard to get reservations) or it's newer bistro Le Cheri in Rittenhouse.