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.
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 outdoor setup makes up for it.
The Victor Cafe
1303 Dickinson St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Food and song pretty much sum up the Italian social culture and tradition. It explains why servers at The Victor Café are happy to serenade you as you enjoy your meal.
Fan favorites on the menu include classic meals like veal saltimbocca, pasta, linguine with clams, and Caesar Salad.
Located on Dickinson Street at what used to be a gramophone shop is this restaurant whose walls are adorned with live opera memorabilia, seamlessly blending with the wooden seats and checkered tablecloths.
The Victor Café is one of the best Italian restaurants in Philadelphia to enjoy a hearty meal.
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 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.
Dante & Luigi’s
762 S 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
A rustic fireplace, high ceilings, black and white photos, chandeliers, wainscoting, and the smell of home are what gripped my attention the first time I went to Dante & Luigi’s.
Arguably, this Italian restaurant is the oldest in South Philadelphia—it opened its doors in 1899. The only thing that hasn’t changed is their welcoming allure and sensational food.
This upscale restaurant has a vast Italian menu featuring traditional meals like perciatelli Genovese, ricotta gnocchi, Bolognese, or lasagna.
It’s the perfect place for a quiet solo date, a candle-lit romantic dinner, or a special occasion with loved ones.
Nothing tops what you’ll find at Dante & Luigi’s if you want some good pasta. They have different pasta based dishes like the classic filet mignon, gnocchi Romano, and fettuccini filetto.
750 S 7th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
When you’re looking for an Italian joint that can guarantee you value for money, The Saloon restaurant is your best bet. This restaurant is over 50 years old and has mastered the palates of the South Philly community.
Here, you can have amazing Italian-American dishes like eggplant parmigiana, Bosses’ Chicken, paillard chicken with peppers, veal parmigiana, and linguine pescatore.
Your order comes in large portions, so be careful not to over-order. They have an intricate dessert menu that keeps changing, another welcome surprise for the sweet tooth.
The interiors are super intriguing, with collectibles like statues and artifacts that instantly demand attention, an excellent pass time as you wait for your meal.
Gran Caffe L’Aquila
1716 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Did you know that the Gran Caffe L’Aquila restaurant you see today is actually a recreation of the original restaurant built and shipped to Philadelphia?
It shows how resilient the owners are to keep feeding the community and maintaining the Italian charm.
One of the owners, Stefano Biasini, is a world-renowned gelato maker, a secret that gets many through the restaurant doors.
The restaurant holds random specials hosting formaggi tastings. Choose to dine indoors or outdoors in the comfortable outdoor and indoor seating.
Upon looking at the menu, I made a mental note to try specific dishes, including Assagi, prosciutto di parma, and salumi.
I had spicy salami with greens, parmigiano crostini, and olives during my visit. It was exquisite!
2244 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130
For the full Italian experience, A Mano is a must-visit. A Mano is Italian for ‘By hand,’ a hint at the type of meals you’ll find here.
The restaurant specializes in handcrafted meals. Favorites on the seasonal A Mano menu include sumptuous dishes like chicken Milanese, grilled branzino, and lumache, one of their house-made pasta made with Porcini butter and corn.
The four-course family-style meals are served shared or individually upon request. The portions are adequate, and the prices are reasonable. Note that the menu keeps changing.
Consider visiting frequently to indulge in the new dishes A Mano has prepared.
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.
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.
1415 W Porter St, Philadelphia, PA 19145
This BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) restaurant is one of the few places to find authentic Italian cuisine.
It’s ideal for late lunches, dinners, or date nights, especially when you want to make an impression.
According to the servers, all their dishes are great, but those in the highest demand include ricotta gnocchi al telefono, Lobster ravioli, Burrata salad, cavatelli, and pork Milanese.
The restaurants take reservations. However, booking your reservations early is advisable as the place can get super crowded, especially in the evenings.
120 Lombard St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
The warm and inviting Bistro Romano makes mouth-watering Italian and American meals using locally sourced ingredients.
From house-made pasta, meats, salads, and fresh seafood, whatever scratches your itch, Bistro Romano is up to the task and promises to leave you dazzled.
The Society Hill establishment has a distinct charm that teleports you straight to Rome or Venice.
Based on what used to be a granary, the meals, surroundings, and dimly lit space give you an experience you’ll live to remember. This restaurant is the ideal blend of casual and elegant.
800 Mifflin St, Philadelphia, PA 19148
The views from Irwin’s are breathtaking! The interiors give old classroom vibes boasting indoor greenery, comfortable furniture, old bookshelves, and delicious meals to complete the experience.
Located on Bok Building’s eighth floor, this one-of-a-kind Italian restaurant is the best place for refreshing wine and traditional Italian meals.
The menu here features whole fish, fritto misto, house-made pasta, agrodolce chicken, and Dorade. Irwin’s has indoor and outdoor seating, ideal for group lunches and dinners.
202 E Girard Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19125
Led by Chef Francesco Bellastelli, the meals at Murph’s Bar are deliberately made to perfection to captivate your taste buds.
The eatery prepares fresh pasta every night to make pasta-based dishes like tagliatelle Bolognese, strozzapreti, Barilla Lasagna, burrata, and lobster ravioli.
Murph’s is an Irish pub that doubles as an Italian eatery. You should visit Murph’s Bar when you want to kill two birds with one stone.
This Fishtown joint attracts people looking to get up to date on their favorite sports, socialize, and indulge in sumptuous meals.
The place has a bar setting with about six tables at the back for people who want to eat.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
What are some of the best Italian restaurants in Philadelphia?
This article discusses a number of exceptional Italian restaurants in Philadelphia, including (list restaurants discussed in the article)
Are these restaurants expensive?
The restaurants listed vary in price range, with options suitable for both budget-friendly meals and more luxurious dining experiences.
Do these restaurants offer vegan or vegetarian options?
Many of the restaurants we’ve highlighted do provide vegetarian and some vegan options. It’s always best to check the menu or call ahead to confirm.
Do the restaurants mentioned accept walk-ins or should I make a reservation?
While some restaurants may accept walk-ins, it’s generally a good idea to make a reservation, especially during peak dining hours or on weekends.
How were these restaurants chosen for the list?
The restaurants featured in the article were selected based on a combination of factors, including food quality, atmosphere, service, and customer reviews. We have a team in Philadelphia visiting these places and we also referenced other guides and local foodies for recomendations.
Do these restaurants offer takeout or delivery options?
Many of the restaurants mentioned in this article do offer takeout and/or delivery. Check with the individual restaurant or their website for details.
Do these restaurants cater to dietary restrictions such as gluten-free?
Several restaurants on the list have options for those with dietary restrictions, but it’s always best to check with the restaurant directly to confirm.
Are these restaurants family-friendly?
Most of the restaurants listed in the article are family-friendly, but some might be more suited to adults or formal dining. Check the restaurant’s website or contact them directly for more information.
Sources we also referenced in addition to our local in person visits.
One CommentLeave a Reply
I cannot believe that anyone would put Vetri Cucina and Ralph’s in the same article. The former is a world—class, high end Gourmet restaurant. It is a special occasion place. Refined. The later is your basic, old-style, ordinary spaghetti joint. Just cannot be compared.