Philadelphia’s restaurant scene is a melting pot, and while the city is beginning to discover new cultural cuisines previously unknown to the East Coast, one type of traditional fare is not going anywhere: Italian food.
Made with love, Italian food is the ultimate comfort food. Not only do Philly’s best Italian restaurants make you feel at home, but the innovative masterminds behind them are reinventing traditional Italian food with a few modern twists. Despite being zero percent Italian, spaghetti and meatballs is my favorite childhood meal, but Philadelphia helped me discover what authentic, homemade pasta should taste like.
It’s no wonder Philadelphia is the Italian food hub with its large Italian population, but any of these restaurants would impress even the pickiest Nonna. So dive into a plate of penne alla vodka, pour a glass of Barbera, and keep reading to learn where you should grab Italian tonight.
Best Italian Restaurants in Philly
- Little Nonna’s
- Trattoria Carina
- Via Locusta
- Wm. Mulherin’s Sons
- Crybaby Pasta
- Giorgios on Pine
- Ralph’s Italian Restaurant
- Palizzi Social Club
- Villa di Roma
- Le Virtu
817 Christian Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Phone: (215) 305-9222
The cacio e pepe from Fiorella may be the most popular entree in Philadelphia. Although it sounds simplistic — after all, cacio e pape literally translates to cheese and pepper — this isn’t a plain dish. Each bite of this photogenic pillow of pasta is like a dream come true.
But don’t sleep on the rest of the menu. The mozzarella in carrozza with tomato is pretty much a glorified mozzarella stick, but who said that’s a bad thing? It may look like a King-Size Ultra Krabby Supreme with the works, double batter fried, on a stick, but don’t ask for mayonnaise because the tomato sauce is, in my humble opinion, the most underrated part.
Save room for the graham cracker panna cotta for dessert. Not to mention, they sell Barbera on tap, so keep the wine flowing. James Beard Award winner and executive chef Marc Vetri was trained in Italy, so you know Fiorella is legit.
1312 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Phone: (215) 732-3478
Marc Vetri does it again with Vetri Cucina, perhaps the most luxurious (and expensive) restaurant in Philly. I went here for my 21st birthday, and it’s more than a restaurant: it’s an experience.
The small dining room (pre-COVID) provides an intimate atmosphere, but their outdoor “winter house” is just as romantic. As you walk in and someone asks if they can take your coat and offer you a complimentary spritz, you know you’re about to have the best dinner of your life.
Book your reservations in advance and be prepared to drop more $100 per person because the only option is their tasting menu. This menu is for the adventurous at heart, featuring items like foie gras or squid and artichoke galette. Although a surprise tasting menu might intimidate some diners, you can put your faith in the spinach gnocchi and sweet onion crepe.
1234 Locust St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Little Nonna’s will transport you to a bistro in Rome without leaving Philadelphia; the dim lighting and string lights draped around the interior and beautiful outside garden create the perfect ambiance for a romantic evening.
The stracciatella with burrata, olives and grilled bread or mushroom arancini are great starters that will have you wanting more. Fun fact: this is where I had my first ever arancini, so I’m a little biased.
No matter what day of the week it is, order the Sunday gravy or Nonni’s spaghetti and meatballs. This mountain of pasta with golf-ball sized, fontina-stuffed meatballs is so tall, you can’t see your date over it.
110 S 13th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Phone: (215) 546-9300
A few blocks from Little Nonna’s in the “Gayborhood” is Barbuzzo, a Mediterranean/Italian fusion. This is the place to be for happy hour drinks and small bites after work (even if you’re working remotely).
The roasted beet salad is so delicious, you almost don’t believe it’s healthy. The sheep’s milk ricotta and Mediterranean olives are two other popular appetizers off the happy hour menu. If you’ve been there for so long that now it’s dinnertime, order a pizza for the table.
The salted caramel budino is their specialty dessert, but I swear by the roasted apple cinnamon bread pudding. While the portions are on the smaller size, Barbuzzo’s great happy hour deals and COVID-friendly outdoor setup makes up for it.
2201 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: (215) 732-5818
Nestled in the heart of Rittenhouse Square, Trattoria Carina’s teal striped awnings and colorful floral arrangements are picturesque. The owners of Pub and Kitchen and Diving Horse in Avalon, New Jersey are behind this Italian trattoria and BYOB.
They’re known for having the best espresso martini in the city, and while I’m not a big fan of martinis, I am a fan of theirs.
But they’re renowned for more than just their cocktails. Their chicken parmesan is bigger than my head and can easily be enough to share (or you can eat all by yourself). If you can handle a little heat, try their crab arrabiata, which translates to angry in Italian.
1723 Locust St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: (215) 642-0020
Sitting outside in one of Via Locusta’s partitioned “dining rooms” makes you feel like you have the whole restaurant to yourself. Start off with the aperitivo, which means “appetizer” in Spanish and is the most Instagrammable drink off the menu.
You’ve probably heard the hype about this new Schulson Collective and the rosemary focaccia; it’s worth it. If you go here and don’t get the focaccia, did you really go at all?
If the chicken milanese sandwich “half” is really only half, I’m afraid to ask what’s the whole. The bruschetta and seasonal fried cauliflower are also cheap eats that are perfect for broke college students like myself. As the weather warms up, Via Locusta is your next happy hour destination.
Wm. Mulherin’s Sons
1355 N Front St, Philadelphia, PA 19122
Phone: (215) 291-1355
Finally, a Fishtown restaurant makes the list. I wish I could check into Wm. Mulherin’s Sons hotel permanently. Although Fishtown is pretty out of the way for me, this restaurant is so out of this world that it’s worth the trip.
Inside, their quaint and cozy decor will make you feel right at home, while outside, their scenic garden will make you forget about the chaos unfolding all around.
Whether you go classic with a margherita pie or unorthodox with the “spicy Jawn” (pepperoni, hot coppa, caciocavallo, sharp provolone, long hots, tomato), you can’t go wrong. Oh, and their ricotta pancakes were one of the last brunches I got before the start of the pandemic, so this place gives me nostalgia.
627 S 3rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Phone: (267) 534-3076
Crybaby Pasta in Queen Village is one of those restaurants that smells so good while you’re waking by that you feel like a cartoon character floating toward the smell.
The menu isn’t big, but they only have the best: spaghetti, rigatoni, eggplant parmesan, etc. “Don’t cry, we have wine,” it says on their website. And fear not, they sell it by the glass and the bottle.
Although indoor dining is currently prohibited due to COVID-19, their outdoor cafe is cute and photogenic, and they offer takeout and delivery so you can eat all the pasta you want while crying at your favorite romcom.
14 N Front St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: (215) 922-7800
Panorama in Old City loves wine almost as much as I do. Not only do they have a wine club and an extensive wine list, but they also have wine flights. These flights don’t look like your traditional flight: the glasses hang on an ornate candle holder. And it’s a good deal: you get five 1.5 oz samples of wine for $39.
While you probably came for the drinks, you also need to try the food (not just because it’s mandated in Pennsylvania right now thanks to Governor Wolf). Panorama offers half and full sized entree portions of pasta like cavatelli, lasagna and tortellini, so you can have a little bit of everything.
Cheesy desserts are my favorites, and while I would usually choose tiramisu or ricotta cake over ice cream, Franklin Fountain, another Old City staple, is the cherry on top.
Giorgio’s on Pine
1328 Pine St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Phone: (215) 545-6265
Once again, the name gives away the location, or at least the street; Giogio’s on Pine is a rustic BYO serving authentic Italian food in Society Hill. Although the atmosphere is casual, this is nothing short of fine dining.
Bring your best bottle of red and enjoy a piping hot plate of gnocchi or gluten-free ziti from the gluten-free menu on one of those unusually cold April days.
Reservations aren’t required but are recommended. While the restaurant is small and easy to miss, the cuisine at this hidden gem is sure to grab your attention right away.
640 North Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Phone: (215) 763-0920
One of the country’s most acclaimed Italian restaurants and another Schulson Collective, Osteria has an award-winning menu of antipasti, homemade pasta and Neapolitan pizza. With its glass-enclosed outdoor patio and private dining rooms, Osteria has the perfect vibes for a romantic date or a lively (COVID-safe) party.
Their new menu features some uncommon entrees like scallop crudo, potato puree, chicken liver rigatoni and duck sugo fazzoletti. Their drink menu, on the other hand, has some quintessential Italian wines like Prosecco and Chianti.
Not to mention…they have happy hour! Come between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm Wednesday through Saturday or 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm on Sunday for $5 cocktails, $6 plates of pasta and $9 pizzas.
Ralph’s Italian Restaurant
760 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Phone: (215) 627-6011
In the heart of the Bella Vista lies Ralph’s, a fifth-generation family-owned Italian restaurant and 7-time winner of Best of Philly. Ralph’s has survived the Great Depression, prohibition, two World Wars and now the COVID-19 pandemic.
Family and authentic Italian cooking are at the backbone of Ralph’s, and it shows in the quality of their food, like their “famous” veal parmesan, shrimp scampi and cannoli cake.
Not only has Ralph’s served celebrities like Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, but they’ve also welcomed Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Joe Biden into their dining room. Yes, you heard me right: you can sit at the same table as T-Swift.
Palizzi Social Club
1408 S 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Phone: (215) 271-0707
For over 100 years, Palizzi Social Club has been a 30-seat members-only hotspot for decadent Italian food and good times in a South Philly rowhome.
Members aren’t allowed to reveal much information about this mysterious speakeasy, but one thing they are permitted to rave about is the food. While the food at dark, small bars tends to take a backseat to the drinks, the lamb chops, braciola and spumoni are just a few of the stars of the show.
Want to impress your friends? Become a member. Or befriend a member and navigate your way to the elusive neon sign.
Villa di Roma
936 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Phone: (215) 592-1295
A few blocks from Ralph’s is Villa di Roma, another family-owned restaurant and popular tourist destination for people on the lookout for authentic Italian cuisine in the Italian Market.
Currently offering indoor dining, Villa di Roma has a large menu and even larger portions of pastas like baked ziti or manicotti and entrees like chicken marsala or veal piccanti. Don’t feel comfortable sitting inside just yet? They also have takeout and to-go cocktails, one of the few perks of the pandemic.
Villa di Roma is a no-frills type of restaurant, serving affordable and traditional Italian food. But if you’re celebrating a milestone in your life, Villa di Roma will make your day extra special.
1927 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Phone: (215) 271-5626
Last but not least is Le Virtu, a South Philly eatery. that literally means “the virtues.” Inspired by the region of Abruzzo in Italy, Le Virtu is for the “virtuous” diner who is looking for a friendly, laid-back environment.
A sit-down restaurant and trattoria, Le Virtu offers dinner every night, brunch every weekend and family-sized meals to-go. From a wide selection of salumi and formaggi to squid-ink maccheroncini and pappardelle, Le Virtu has something for everyone.
Despite the abundance of restaurants on Passyunk Avenue, Le Virtu stands out from the crowd.
No, this won’t be the pasta and gelato you enjoyed while studying abroad in Rome. But Philadelphia has a thriving Italian scene, and no matter what neighborhood you’re in, you shouldn’t have to walk far to find some quality Italian grub.
Cutting out carbs? Had pasta every day this week? Check out some of our recommendations for best Thai food in Philadelphia!
Obviously this isn’t an all inclusive list, and I’m still crossing things off my bucket list, so leave me a comment telling me your favorite Italian bistro and I’ll check it out!
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