South Philly Experience: A Little Bit of South Philly in the City of Angels
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A Little Bit of South Philly in the City of Angels
Two oversize food trucks with graffitied brick wall-pattern exteriors, South Philly Experience covers much of the LA area, for both lunch and dinner, from Venice and Santa Monica to downtown to the Valley. Yes, of course there's cheesesteak. Also Buffalo steak, pizza steak, and so on (including chicken versions of one and all), not to mention, no, not wings but "tails" — more or less chicken fingers, deep-fried in batter and served with Buffalo-style hot sauce, celery, and blue cheese. Dessert? Tastykakes, of course.
Jerry Blavat. Photograph by The Kielinskis
Celebrating his 60th year in radio, and with his 80th birthday on the horizon, Jerry Blavat — a.k.a. the Geator with the Heater, the Big Boss with the Hot Sauce — hardly seems to be slowing down. The finger-snapping Philly icon is still on the radio several days a week (his show airs on various stations), and in summer, he can be found spinning records at the Shore, including at his Margate club, Memories, four or five nights a week. Here, the Geator opens up about a South Philly that is no more, his friendships with celebrities and mobsters, and why the music still has so much power.
Your 80th birthday is coming up. I have to say, you look pretty amazing.
You know, if I’m going to entertain people, I gotta look good for them at my age. So I could be maybe a little inspirational for people who are going to turn 80 years old. I mean, God gives you your body, God gives you your brain. It’s what you do with it. And I have been fortunate in my life to make people happy, and that’s one of the great secrets of staying young. Youth is a gift of nature. Age is a work of art.
What else keeps you young?
I go to the gym almost every day. Watch what I eat. I drink wine. You know, wine is very significant. The first miracle was the changing of water into wine. If you remember the marriage at Cana, and Mary said, “Jesus, Son, they’ve run out of wine.” And he said, “Well, my ministry’s not here,” but she said, “Son … ” A son will always listen to a mother.
Do you drink wine every day?
At dinner, maybe two glasses, whatever.
I remember when I interviewed you maybe 10 years ago, you showed up on your bike. Are you still riding?
I still ride the bike. As a matter of fact, I ride all over town. I ride the Geator Bikemobile.
South Philly, where you grew up, has changed so much in recent years. What was it like when you were coming of age?
You know, the book that I’ve written, You Only Rock Once, tells you the complete story. My father was a numerologist. That means a bookmaker, and he ran into the Broadway Theater in South Philadelphia, which is no longer there. And my mother, a little Italian girl — she was the youngest of the Capuano family. And every Saturday, you were able to go to the movie after you got done cleaning, but she had to go with my Aunt Philomena, who was the older aunt. And this guy was running in away from the police and saw a seat and sat next to this little Italian girl, 17, put his arm around her. She was shocked. The police didn’t find this guy they were looking for. My Aunt Philomena smacked him, my mother smacked him, and six weeks later, she runs away and marries him. Now, in 1938, you do not marry an Italian [if you were] a Jewish fella, because that’s out of your faith. He basically was not one of the favorites of the Blavats, because he was a number runner, a bootlegger, and she now is not a favorite of the Capuanos.
It’s like Romeo and Juliet.
Exactly. The Capuanos were always dancing and singing, but me and my sister basically were looked upon as a little bit of outcasts because of who my father was. But the neighborhood was wonderful, because you knew everybody. And during the holidays, Grandma Capuano would cook raviolis and meatballs and say to any one of the kids, “Listen, go knock at the door next door. See if Mrs. Panetti has anything to eat.” So we shared, and if you stepped out of line when you were a kid in the neighborhood — “Hey, if I tell your mother, if I tell your father, you’re going to get a shellacking.” So the neighborhood was safe for everybody.
And you know, they talk about people today. They say, what’s wrong with America? We don’t have neighborhoods anymore. You knew if somebody was carrying a piece, if somebody was doing drugs — get outta here. You don’t belong in here. We’re going to kick you in the ass.
Was your old man around? Did you have a relationship with him?
They called my father “the Gimp” because he limped. And the difference between the Italians and the Jewish — my uncles would be playing bocce ball on Bancroft Street with t-shirts on, but my father, we would get picked up on Friday. It’s the only time we saw our father — on Friday when he was uptown and he would take us to the movies, me and my sister. But we would go uptown, and we’d meet him at Broad and Locust, where all the Jewish guys were. And they were dressed to the T, and then we would go into the bar and they’d be drinking scotch and soda.
Back in South Philly, they’re playing bocce ball there. They’re drinking wine. So my first impressions of what I wanted to be was that side. I wanted to do it with class and style, and that’s how I grew up. My mother taught me love. And respect. My father taught me the streets and taught me the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do.
The world has changed so much. Do you ever go back to the old neighborhood?
I do. Because they’ve got three scripts being made from the book.
So we’re going to see your life on the big screen at some point?
I’ve got to tell you what Scorsese said. Frankie Valli, who’s a dear friend of mine — you know, Scorsese was interested in doing Jersey Boys before Clint Eastwood. So [Scorcese] read my book. In it, I talk about how I was able to get the deal made for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons with VeeJay Records with a song called “Sherry.” Scorcese said when he read the book, he said, “Frankie, listen, this book is like a cross between The Sopranos and Mad Men.” Because that’s the way it was back in the day.
Scorcese said when he read my book, he said, ‘Listen, this book is like a cross between The Sopranos and Mad Men.’ Because that’s the way it was back in the day.”
Did you see The Irishman, Scorsese’s movie?
Forget it. Completely fabricated. Listen, Frank Sheeran. The only thing he ever killed was a jug of bad wine.
Go back to your parents for a second. How old were they when they passed away?
My mom and dad, they were divorced even before — because one of the things that the Italian side said to my mother: “You got to divorce him.” And I only saw my dad on weekends. And it’s interesting, because when I became, by the grace of God, successful, I had him working for me.
He would collect the money at the door. I wouldn’t always get a fair count, but he collected the money at the door. And my mother would say, “You’re robbing from your son.” And he said, “Look, if it wasn’t for me, he wouldn’t be here.”
You got your start in show business on American Bandstand, right?
Well, what happened is, the Capuanos were in the ice business and the coal business, which, by the way, my father financed for them until they had a falling-out. So they had a television. My uncle, Jimmy Capuano, had a group, and they appeared on Bandstand in 1953. And it was mandatory — I had like seven aunts, uncles — mandatory to watch Bandstand and see your uncle perform.
I was out playing with the guys in the streets. So we went in, and I see this show where these kids are dancing. And I said, “Wait a second. Hey, Mom, I could dance better than that.” My Aunt Mim, who was Irish, who was married to my Uncle Jimmy, looked at me and smiled as if to say, Yeah, you can, and I did. Three days later, we’re on a corner. [My friend] Joe was one of the dancers, and they had a dance contest going on. And I said, “Joe, we’re going to sneak in.” We went to 46th and Market. There’s a line, but around the back is where the crew guys would go. The camera guys. We snuck in. Bandstand went on at 3:30, and we’re there about four, and the contest is going on. I jump into the dance contest with Joe, win the contest. Now I go back to South Philly. I’m a little star at the age of 13. People in the neighborhood say, “Hey, we saw you dancing on Bandstand.” I was hooked.
The Geator performing on his Discophonic Scene TV show in the 1960s. Photograph courtesy of Jerry Blavat
It seems like the music that you listen to when you’re a teenager or in your early 20s is the music you like for life. It just sticks with you for a long, long time.
You identify with that music. I’ll give you an example. When I did the radio show and I did the dances, a guy would dance with a girl. He called me up for requests: “Play a song for Sue.” I would play “I Only Have Eyes for You” by the Flamingos. She’d call and say, “Get a song for Tom.” I play “You’re Mine” by the Fireflies. Or “We Belong Together” by Robert and Johnny. That music will always be, because it spoke for what a kid was thinking.
We didn’t know how to express ourselves back then, and the music did it. The Saturday Evening Post did a big article on me, and they called me the Pied Piper of Philadelphia because I not only played the music I looked like one of the kids. I danced with the kids. I was a part of this wonderful city, and I always believed if God gives you a gift, give it back.
It’s a little like what social media is today for teenagers — a way to connect.
Absolutely. It was, but radio has changed. Back then, I was able to talk before I played the music. If there was a problem at a school, a priest would call me: We have a problem here. I would go down and I would talk. I became not only the music, but a spokesman. Today, there’s no more radio. They push buttons, and there is no camaraderie between the audience and the radio. Radio for a kid growing up was the most important part of his life.
Even as we’re talking, you’re snapping your fingers. Where does that come from?
When I first was on the radio, they would criticize: Oh, he’s talking over the record. No, I talked over the intro. Sixteen beats. Disc jockeys have to use a clock for them to talk. In other words, they’d have a clock to say, you have 10 seconds before the lyric. Me … [snaps his fingers in time]
I count. It’s a rhythm beat inside this body.
Let’s talk more about the music. You’re very dedicated to a couple particular areas of music, right? Doo-wop. R&B.
Well, it’s anything that tells a story that you can dance to. That has a rhythm beat and that is not beefing on society or knocking this. It’s gotta be pure. It’s gotta be good. Listen, I play today’s music. I mean, I play Beyoncé. I play Lady Gaga. If it’s danceable. And that’s the wonderful thing about music. If it’s good, it doesn’t matter what year. I’ll give you an example. We own Memories in Margate for 48 years. From four o’clock in the afternoon, when you have a happy hour, to about nine o’clock, the average age is 65 to 90. From 10:30 on, the average age is 22 to 65. It’s the music. It’s the blend.
When you go back to those old records that you first heard when you were a teenager, do you still hear them the same way?
Every time I play a song, another thought comes into my mind: where I was, who was the girl that I was dating, and the broken heart when she dated somebody else. Music speaks for the human experience.
You do a show featuring Sinatra’s music. Were you and Sinatra friends?
We became friends. My mother would cook for Frank. My mother would cook for Sammy [Davis Jr.]. It was a wonderful family. Wonderful. I mean, when Frank would be at Resorts, Jilly [Rizzo, Sinatra’s friend] would call me: “The old man wants you to come over tonight. Hurry up, tell your mother to make the pizza bread.” So we would send macaronis over to him, and this was my world.
There was a report in the early ’90s that said you had mob ties. I know you denied most of it, but who were those guys in your life?
We talked about the neighborhood. Yeah. I grew up with Angelo’s family.
Angelo Bruno, the mob boss.
I grew up with all of these people. My mother came from the same town as Sue Bruno [Angelo’s wife] came from. I knew Angelo. I knew all of these guys, never saw them do anything wrong, okay? When Pattie, my wife, and I split, I had a 22-room estate. I had a swimming pool. I would take Angelo’s grandkids, and they would swim in my pool. At the end on a Sunday, I would drop them off at Snyder Avenue. Sue Bruno found out that I wasn’t living at home. I was living at the Drake. She said, “Where are you going to eat at?” I said, I’m okay. She said, “Come on, you’ll eat.” And I became closer to that family than I ever was. I would drive Angelo when he wanted to go see his grandkids up in Radnor, in Villanova. Very, very close.
When he died … they said, listen, you’re almost like a family member here. We don’t want this funeral to be like a circus. You know the newspaper guys. You know the guys who have been following Angelo. Would you be at the door and make sure only the mourners are coming in? Then I said to myself, “This guy was loyal. He was a wonderful man. His family took me in.” I knew that if I make this decision, that I will be hounded. I made a decision: Don’t worry about it. Sure enough, the press: How come Jerry Blavat is so close to Angelo Bruno, to Phil Testa? I knew all these guys. What happened is, after that, they came after me with all kinds of investigations.
You say you didn’t see those guys do anything wrong, but I’m sure at some level, you knew what they were doing.
If I walk with a priest, does that mean I’m a holy man? If I’m walking with a banker, does that mean I’m a banker? You are what you are. As long as you don’t do anything wrong in front of me to jeopardize our friendship. Bam. That’s the rule. Never jeopardize friendships that you have.
That sounds like a South Philly code.
Absolutely. That’s even today.
In recent years, you’ve been throwing these extravaganzas at the Kimmel Center. How did those get started?
When they were putting the Kimmel Center together, Ed Rendell was the mayor at that time. Sidney [Kimmel] put up all the seed money for [the building], and we were having dinner. Sidney says to me: “Why don’t you do one of your rock-and-roll shows?” ’Cause I was doing rock-and-roll shows at the Robin Hood Dell when Jim Tate was mayor — big shows, 40,000 people back then. Sidney said, “We don’t only want [the Kimmel Center] for the Orchestra it should be for everybody.” The first year, three shows. The next year, four shows. This show we did [in January] was 41 shows. It’s that many. It’s a tribute to the music and the loyalty that tri-state Philly, Jersey, Delaware have to this music.
When I get up in the morning, I got to get to the gym right away. ’Cause I feel like I’m 30 or 40 — but the body says no, Geat, you got aches and pains, you got a torn disk.”
How are you feeling about turning 80?
Youth is a gift of nature. Age is a work of art.
What’s the difference between the Geator at 80 and the Geator at 40? Are you wiser about things?
My mind has the same excitement. When I make people happy, when I do what I want to do and I have the freedom. Now, I realize, though, at the age of 80, the body is not what it was at 40, so when I get up in the morning, I got to get to the gym right away. ’Cause I feel like I’m 30 or 40 — but the body says no, Geat, you got aches and pains, you got a torn disk. But I’m going to make it on by.
So you can just keep doing your thing forever?
If God keeps me healthy, and as long as I see people smiling and laughing and dancing and comin’ to see me, I’ll do it. When I can’t do it anymore, I’ll just fade away a little bit over the mountain, across the sea. That’s where I’ll be if you want to be with me.
All the Tomato Pie You Should Be Eating in Philadelphia Right Now
Whether you call it gravy pie, church pie, or tomato pie, these are some of the best bakeries and pizzerias making it in and around Philly.
Liberty Kitchen’s tomato pie | Photo by Jillian Guyette
Philly is obsessed with pizza. We’re the kind of city where folks line up for hours in the cold to get a sought-after pie, even while we have a massive slate of excellent old-school and newcomer pizzerias to choose from. But what just might be the true Philly-style pizza isn’t really a pizza at all.
Tomato pie, our city’s cheeseless wonder, can be traced back to thick, tomato-topped dough slices made in Sicily that traveled here with waves of Italian immigrants — some of whose bakeries still stand as icons of the craft — a century ago. And although New Jersey has its own thin-crusted, cheese-on-the-bottom version, we like Philly-style tomato pie best, with lots of red gravy, thick and tender crust, and just a sprinkling of parmesan on top.
Since tomato pie is best served at room temperature, it’s an almost-perfect takeout option: great when you get it, great for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner the next day. And because many of the tomato pie spots in Philly did a lot of takeout and delivery business in the Before Times, almost all of them are still open. Here are a few of our favorite spots to get takeout and delivery pies right now, with our full list below. (We’ve marked spots that are still open with a star.)
Freelance Pizza, pop-up
The good news is that this self-described “dude making pizza in his house” started out his business focusing on dialing in a simple tomato pie, so you know it’s going to be good. The bad news is that this is a side-hustle for it’s owner, so availability is sparse and irregular. But if you’re interested in Philly’s latest hard-to-get pie, this is where you’ll find it.
Pizza Plus, South Philly
Pizza Plus is Dan PizzaGutt Gutter’s second shop, now located in South Philly in a tiny, takeout-only spot that opened just a couple days before coronavirus shut down the city. Just like at Circles and Squares, you can get a tomato pie on his thick-crust option, though at Pizza Plus, it’s a round pie.
Pizza Jawn, Manayunk
It’s not the most traditional version in the city, but Pizza Jawn’s Grandma-style pie with marinara is the super-crispy, well-sauced pie we all want. The bottom of the crust is coated in sesame seeds, which gives it a toasty flavor and adds another layer of texture. Unfortunately, Pizza Jawn has pretty limited quantities that sell out fast, so you’ll have to get lucky to decide if you consider this a real tomato pie.
Pizzeria Beddia, Fishtown
Pizzeria Beddia has come a long way from it’s days of in-person only, super-limited quantities. In the midst of the coronavirus shutdown that closed dining rooms for months, they finally gave in and started offering delivery. That means you can now get their super-fluffy, bright-red sauced tomato pie delivered to your home in half or whole sheets – a much better fix than the old days where they only served individual slices.
Cacia’s Bakery, South Philly, Cherry Hill, Blackwood, Williamstown, Hammonton, Audubon (NJ)
A lot of places are trying to figure out how to do takeout well while they have limited capacity in their dining rooms, but not Cacia’s. They’ve been turning out excellent tomato pies (among other delights) from their brick ovens for four generations, so you know they’re doing it well. Their gravy pie is extra-saucy, which we find particularly appealing.
Corropolese Bakery | Facebook
*Corropolese, Norristown, Audubon, Limerick, Di Bruno Bros. in the Ardmore Farmers Market, and Douglassville
You’ll find boxes of this Best of Philly-winning tomato pie stacked at the bakery’s four locations around the ‘burbs northwest of Philly (and at lots of chain grocers in Delco and Montco). They offer a ton of different topping options, from white cheddar to eggplant, but it’s the plain red gravy original that’s truly iconic.
*Pizza Shackamaxon, Fishtown
This Girard Avenue slice shop is of the few new-school pizza spots in Philly offering tomato pie — and their fat, square slices with crunchy crust and zingy tomato sauce are some of the best in the city. Don’t forget to shoot them an email two days in advance if you want to bring home a whole pie.
*Circles & Squares, East Kensington
Chewy, focaccia-style, square pies are the cult favorite at Pizza Gutt’s first brick-and-mortar location. You can get the pies with several different topping combinations each night, but they pay homage to Philly’s pizza scene by offering a classic tomato pie sprinkled with just a little oregano.
*Sarcone’s Bakery, Italian Market
Taste the history of Philly-style tomato pie at this century-old 9th Street institution, where each one is baked in a massive brick hearth oven till crispy on the edges and juicy in the middle.
*La Rosa Pizza, South Philly
If you’re craving something cheese-less, this square pie destination on South Broad Street has you covered with their “gravy pie,” topped with nothing but their signature red sauce and a few glugs of olive oil.
*Joe Santucci’s Square Pizza Bar & Grille, Northeast Philly
Yes, everyone pledges allegiance to their favorite Santucci’s sub-chain (there are three branches of the family operating three different businesses under the name). Yes, all three of them offer tomato pie. But this one is our favorite.
6 new restaurants offering flavors from around the world, and more new Philly spots
Philadelphia's dining scene continues to get better with the arrivals of Pizzata Pizzeria and Mari BYO.
Mari BYO offers a Sicilian menu featuring fresh seafood. This is the second restaurant for chef and owner Kevin Addis, who also owns Entree BYO.
The open kitchen is the centerpiece of the restaurant and it also teases the appetite as whiffs of garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs spread across the Queen Village neighborhood.
Each pasta dish is served in the pan it is cooked in to provide extra flavor at the table.
In Fitler Square, Pizzata Pizzeria is the brainchild of two self-proclaimed pizza nerds, Vinny Gallagher and Davide Lubrano.
They met at an international pizza competition that Vinny won and decided to team up. Gallagher is the mastermind behind the naturally-leavened dough and Lubranois the creative force behind their assortment of specialty pies.
Mari BYO | Facebook | Instagram
795 S 3rd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Pizzata Pizzeria | Facebook | Instagram
240 South 22nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Mokja brings modern Korean to the table, SET NoLibs is a sports bar with Asian-fusion comfort food and The Breakfast Den has a menu for daytime delights.
New spots for Asian cuisine that will have you wanting to try them all
We found a few new spots for Asian cuisine - from breakfast, lunch, and dinner to a neighborhood sports bar, we've got you covered.
Mokja in Ambler brings modern Korean to the table, SET NoLibs is a sports bar with Asian-fusion comfort food while you watch the game, and The Breakfast Den has a menu for daytime delights from both American and Vietnamese cuisines.
Mokja | Facebook | Instagram
9 N. Main Street, Ambler, PA 19002
Closed Mon. & Tues.
The Breakfast Den | Facebook | Instagram
1500 South Street, Philadelphia PA 19146
Open 8-4 daily, except Monday
SET NoLibs | Facebook | Instagram
1030 N. 2nd Street (in Liberties Walk), Philadelphia, PA 19123
Philadelphia is home to two new Mexican restaurants, Izzy's 33 in South Philly and Anejo in Northern Liberties.
Izzy's 33, Anejo are two new Philly spots for Mexican food
Two new restaurants featuring different styles of Mexican cuisine have recently opened in Philadelphia.
Izzy's 33 is the first restaurant for Israel Romero, who has spent the last 15 years honing his craft in kitchens around Philadelphia.
Izzy is his nickname and the 33 represents his 33 favorite recipes he has come across in his career, each featured on the menu.
They serve brunch seven days a week and dinner every night except Monday. The menu is a diverse collection featuring Mexican dishes from Izzy's youth to American brunch staples like French toast.
Northern Liberties is the first location for Anejo outside of New York City.
The upscale Mexican menu features authentic dishes with a twist.
A huge outdoor seating area provides a neighborhood setting or the cavernous inside offers a more elegant experience.
Izzy's 33 | Facebook | Instagram
1703 South 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Anejo Philadelphia | Facebook | Instagram
1001 North 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123
What do you get when you combine a pie with a cake? A 'pake', of course. And the owners of New Freedom Pie are serving up their goods all over the region.
Part pie, part cake, meet the family behind the hybrid dessert 'pake'
What do you get when you combine a pie with a cake? A 'pake', of course.
Deen and Hasiynah Mohammed are the parents of four young children and the owners of New Freedom Pie.
They make and sell the hybrid dessert called 'pake'. It's part bean pie, and part cheesecake, The Original BeanCheese Pake pays homage to the quintessential Muslim staple of the bean pie.
Bean pies originated in the urban centers of America in the mid-to-late-fifties, and Deen's father had a route where he sold the pies.
The recipe has been handed down in his family, and now Deen and his family sell their baked goods all around the region via online pre-orders and local pop-ups.
With the pandemic and colder months ahead, one local business owner decided to switch gears on his wholesale coffee business to offer the café experience at home.
Port Richmond coffee company switches gears amid pandemic to offer café experience at home
Coffee is often the drink that brings people together to socialize, but with the pandemic and colder months ahead, one local business owner decided to switch gears on his wholesale business to offer the café experience at home.
Obel Hernandez Senior founded Bean2Bean Coffee Company in 2013. His business, based out of the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, fulfilled a passion that started after he took a job roasting coffee samples in 1985 with Maxwell House. Now, Bean2Bean deals in just specialty coffee.
"We offer 10 different roasts. Those are between single origins, espressos, decafs and our in-house blends," says Obel Hernandez Jr.
All the product names are Philly centric - such as Franklin Reserve, Old City Decaf and the fan favorite, Schuylkill Select.
To order Bean2Bean Coffee Company online, visit: https://www.bean2bean.com/
Boyds, the luxury women's and menswear retailer is setting up a pop-up shop at Suburban Square for the season, with the hope of becoming a permanent spot for fashion.
Boyd's is coming to the burbs, bringing trendy staples in time for the holiday season
Boyds, the luxury women's and menswear retailer is setting up a pop-up shop at Suburban Square for the season, with the hope of becoming permanent.
The fourth-generation company is known for its iconic boutique in Center City, which has experienced some setbacks during the pandemic. They recently reopened their Center City location in September and launched the pop-up in October.
The store, in its 83rd year, is adapting merchandise to meet today's needs, focusing more on casual wear.
Trending in their curated collection is especially coats, everyday jeans, Autumn cashmere sweaters, hiking boots and sneakers. There are additional services on-site including tailoring, personal shopping. and a genius bar - where you can connect to the flagship shop for even more options. They've also brought in Boyd's Beauty, a curated skincare line, with available beauty experts on the ready.
Boyd's Pop-up at Suburban Square | Instagram
117 Coulter Avenue, Ardmore, PA 19003
Hours: M-F 11am-6pm, Sat. 10am-6pm
She can create dresses for the entire bridal party from the bridesmaids to the flower girl and mothers of the bride and groom.
Madelange Laroche Bridal Salon creating dreams and fulfilling them
Madelange Laroche has been sewing since she was a little girl in Haiti.
She moved to the United States with dreams of becoming a fashion designer, but she ran into challenges along the way.
After deciding to become a nurse she realized it was "like being married to someone she didn't love."
So engaged in her dreams, she enrolled at Moore College of Art & Design and fulfilled her dream of becoming a designer.
Her new Elkins Park studio is where she designs custom-made dresses for brides.
She can create dresses for the entire bridal party from the bridesmaids to the flower girl and mothers of the bride and groom. She specializes in custom-made but also offers a collection of ready-to-wear gowns.
Carpenters Hall has old posters promoting tourism during the Great Depression. And another exhibition at the Fabric Workshop and Museum that turns the world upside down.
FYI Loves the Arts: Places for the People, Samara Golden: Upstairs at Steve's
Places for the People: WPA Travel Posters is a collection of works created by artists in the 1930s as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration.
The federal agency funded infrastructure projects to help spur economic activity during the Great Depression, and as part of that, out-of-work artists from all over the country were hired to create tens of thousands of posters that would encourage people to travel.
In Philadelphia, posters were made to celebrate some of the city's most iconic historic landmarks from Independence Hall and The Betsy Ross House to the Shofuso Japanese House in Fairmount Park.
The posters are mostly from the print collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia and some of them have never been exhibited before.
You can also see a never-before-exhibited painting, depicting Carpenters Hall during the Continental Congress. It was also created by a WPA artist.
Places for the People at Carpenters' Hall: WPA Travel Posters : Tickets
Through Dec. 20. Both Carpenter's Hall and the exhibition are free
320 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19106
At the Fabric Workshop and Museum, there's an immersive installation created by artist Samara Golden whose works are designed to transport viewers.
The title of the work is Upstairs at Steve's. It's a tribute to the artist's brother-in-law who passed away from complications of ALS.
The piece fills the Fabric Workshop and Museum's eighth floor gallery.
The curator says it's for "curious people who are ready to have their minds expanded a little bit and really start to wonder and reflect about themselves and the state of the world."
Fabric Workshop & Museum: Samara Golden: Upstairs at Steve's I Website
Through Jan. 31. Visitors are encouraged to purchase their tickets ahead of time.
1214 Arch Street. Philadelphia, Pa. 19107
Where To Find The Best Roast Pork Sandwiches In Philadelphia
Travel Responsibly: As the region recovers from COVID-19, safety guidelines are evolving at attractions, restaurants, shops and hotels. Mask-wearing, social distancing, advance tickets or reservations remain recommended or necessary at many spots. Your best bet: Check online or call ahead.
Philadelphia knows great sandwiches. We love them. We eat them. It’s what we do.
From the world-famous cheesesteak to its less famous (but equally delicious) brother, the hoagie, the City of Brotherly Love is a sandwich lover’s dream. But there’s another Philly sandwich that deserves just as much praise and attention: the roast pork sandwich.
Born from Italian-American cookery, a classic roast pork sandwich typically contains tender, slow-roasted pork, usually shaved or chopped, layered with melting sharp provolone cheese and garlicky sautéed broccoli rabe or spinach. All of this is assembled on a long Italian roll that comes either seeded or unseeded.
Philly Soft Pretzels
Introduced to the region by German settlers centuries ago, pretzels have long been a favorite local snack. Philly’s signature variety is the soft pretzel, an everyday treat purchased from a street vendor, corner store or from a bakery such as Center City Pretzel Co. or Philly Pretzel Factory (multiple locations). At Miller’s Twist in historic Reading Terminal Market, customers can watch workers roll and twist a buttery Amish-style version. No matter what form the pretzel takes — braided, sticks, nuggets or even sandwich rolls — they always taste better with mustard.
The Italian Restaurants in Philadelphia You Must Try First
Vetri | Photo by Michael Persico
*Vetri, Midtown Village
The greatest thing about Vetri? It’s among the best Italian restaurants in the country, and it lives right here in Philly. Vetri’s big magic is that the restaurant never sits still, it never rests. There’s always something happening there — whether it’s classes on pasta and pizza-making in the upstairs dining room, dinners downstairs featuring winemakers brought in from Italy, or just the fact that the kitchen turns out groundbreaking menus and the staff set the standard for hospitality in a city that too often forgets what the word means. 1312 Spruce Street
*Andiario, West Chester
If Vetri is the best Italian in Philly, then Anthony Andiario is the upstart newcomer doing the best Italian just outside the city. His new-ish place Chester County is casual, comfortable, and welcoming, and the kitchen is so ridiculously talented that on any given night they might serve two or three or four of the best plates you’ll have all year. 106 West Gay Street
Giuseppe & Sons, Center City
Schulson and the Termini family threw in together to create this ode to South Philly Italian right in the middle of Center City. It is big, it is gorgeous, it is buzzy and loud and vital with hoagies, pastries and pizzas upstairs and a full-on Italian restaurant fantasy happening below ground. And while this might’ve been fine as a stunt, what’s important here is that the food is not only very good, but is also a faithful representation of the menus it is paying tribute to. 1523 Sansom Street
*Alimentari, Center City
Di Bruno Bros. has pretty much everything. The one thing it was missing? A good use for the upstairs space at the Center City flagship store. But Alimentari has changed that, opening as a cafe and wine bar with charcuterie, whipped ricotta tartines, a fantastic grilled cheese sandwich and, of course, one of the best meat and cheese selections in the city. 1730 Chestnut Street
The best part about Joey Baldino’s award-winning Sicilian BYO is the food, hands down. But the second best part? Spending a warm night on the back patio, eating spaghetti vongole and drinking some cheap red. You’d never think that a place with a view of a parking lot could possibly be so romantic, but here it is. 618 West Collings Avenue
Mr. Joe’s Cafe, East Passyunk
A tiny, daytime only luncheonette by the Termini family (across the street from the Termini Bros. Bakery) that does perfect homemade ricotta gnocchi, crispy panini, a slice of ricotta pie for dessert (of course), and a free glass of red wine. Because hospitality. 1514 South 8th Street
*Ralph’s, Bella Vista
Ralph’s has been a Philly institution for more than a century. That’s more than enough time to learn how to make a decent plate of pasta, right? More importantly, Ralph’s is one of the few (or only) places in town to get some classics that never make the menu anymore in these modern time — things like veal French and spaghetti with chicken livers. 760 South 9th Street
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Holy Family Home, seen here during the blessing of a new van for obtaining donations in 2017, announced a capital campaign to build a new home for elderly residents on the same location in Southwest Philadelphia. (CatholicPhilly.com file photo by Sarah Webb)
By Lou Baldwin &bull Posted October 11, 2019
In an age when so many charitable institutions that served generations of those with needs have been quietly shutting down, one local Catholic institution is not only staying put, it is building anew.
Holy Family Home, a ministry of the Little Sisters of the Poor at 5300 Chester Avenue in Philadelphia, is initiating a capital campaign to replace its existing building, which opened in 1973, with a brand new home on the same property that reflects the standards of today.
The Little Sisters of the Poor, who have been part of Philadelphia for 150 years, intend to remain for many years to come.
And it’s not just Philadelphia. “As part of a strategic plan aimed at strengthening our ministry and the quality of our religious and community life, we Little Sisters have recognized the need to dedicate our resources to much-needed upgrade and reconstruction projects in a number of our Homes,” said Mother Alice Marie Jones, l.s.p., the superior provincial for the Little Sisters’ Brooklyn Province, which includes Philadelphia.
“The newly constructed Holy Family Home will provide the elderly the same compassionate care to which we have been dedicated since our founding in France in 1839.”
The sisters today serve in 172 homes in more than 30 countries.
In Philadelphia in past generations before Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, deep poverty among the elderly was more prevalent. The Little Sisters at one time conducted four homes in Philadelphia with a total population of about 600.
But there are still frail elderly with needs who can fall through the cracks, as the present population of 92 residents at Holy Family Home attests.
(Watch a video of Holy Family Home, below:)
The rebuilding project will be financed through a fundraising campaign seeking support from people throughout the city of Philadelphia and the surrounding communities, according to Mother Catherine Frain, the superior and administrator at Holy Family Home.
“The people of Philadelphia have continuously supported our work here since 1869,” she said. “Trusting in Divine Providence, we are confident that through the generosity of benefactors and friends, we will be able to bring the project to completion and provide a home for our residents for many decades to come.”
Sister Veronica Susan, l.s.p., Holy Family Home’s development coordinator, will be working with the Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia to raise the estimated $35 million to $45 million needed for the reconstruction of the home for seniors.
At this point the sisters have engaged the senior living design firm of SFCS as architects for the building plans and Corna Kokosing Construction Company as construction manager.
The actual construction will be done in phases so as not to displace residents as the work progresses.
The total cost of the project will be between $35 million and $45 million, estimates Sister Veronica Susan, Holy Family’s development coordinator, or as she puts it, “chief beggar.”
Her ordinary duties take her to parishes and other groups to give fund raising talks, regularly contacting donors and visiting food suppliers and other sources for donations.
Over the years Holy Family Home and the other works of the Little Sisters of the Poor have remained true charities, relying on donations from people of good will rather than agencies dependent on government funding.
This project is a bit beyond their usual needs, so they will be working with the Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia and Msgr. Francis Beach who has long experience in fundraising, among others, according to Sister Veronica.
“We are truly excited and looking forward to working with Msgr. Beach and Sarah Hanley at the Catholic Foundation in a capital campaign to obtain the funds through our donors and beyond,” Sister Veronica said.
“We are confident that the people of Philadelphia will again come forth to aid us in our work serving the elderly poor of Philadelphia for 150 years.”
For more information, visit the website of Holy Family Home.
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PREVIOUS: Hispanic Heritage Mass reflects ‘different countries, one family’
Where to Find Italy in America: South Philly
Of all the famous historical sites and destinations in Philadelphia, the Ninth Street Italian Market in South Philly is the second most visited (only the Liberty Bell attracts more people). The appeal and staying power of what is the country's oldest open-air market is a testament to the neighborhood’s deep Italian heritage. Although the market was established in the 1880s, immigrants from Italy began settling in the area as far back as the late 1700s, according to Michael DiPilla, a Philadelphia native and author of South Philadelphia's Little Italy and Ninth Street Italian Market.
“We had a guy selling homemade sausage, and another who sold Italian cigars, another making and selling wine, musicians, painters…we had a silk factory in 1771, the first Italian restaurant in the US, Pelosi’s, in 1784, and a performance of Rossini’s opera, The Barber of Seville, in 1793. There was a lot happening really early on that many people don’t know about.” He adds that the importation of Italian products such as Parmigiano Reggiano and olive oil started during this period, and the first macaroni machine in the country arrived in Philadelphia from Naples around 1790 thanks to then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, who had developed a passion for pasta while traveling in Italy.
Today Philadelphia is home to the second largest Italian American population in the United States, and while South Philly has evolved through the years, much has stayed the same. “That’s the wonderful thing about this neighborhood—there are families that have been here for over 100 years, they’ve never really moved from the area. It’s very tight-knit and there’s a great camaraderie,” says DiPilla.
Emilio Mignucci, Vice President of Di Bruno Bros., a specialty foods retailer and importer that began as a modest corner grocery store founded by his Italian grandfather and great uncle on Ninth Street in 1939, adds that third and fourth generation Italian Americans frequently come in to his family’s original shop—“people whose grandparents took them there for the first time when they were kids.” Mignucci grew up a block away from the market and is pleased that as new generations of immigrants from other countries have joined the community, the ethos of the neighborhood has carried on. “It’s always been a place where immigrants can make their way, a neighborhood that’s been very welcoming to people who wanted to set up shop and create their own business. I look at it now and I think to myself, it’s such a really cool mix of cultures, predominantly Italian but a lot of Asians and Mexicans, and in today’s day and age, the fusion and the melting pot are really interesting.”
For those seeking a taste of Italy in South Philly, Di Bruno Bros. in the heart of the Italian Market is an excellent place to start. The shop carries a mouthwatering selection of cheeses, cured meats, antipasti, oils and vinegars, pastas, and much more, and the expert mongers are quick to offer samples of their favorite formaggio pairings while you browse.
Other highlights in and around the market include Sarcone’s Bakery, now run by fifth generation members of the founding family and “one of the best bread bakers in the city,” according to Mignucci.
Cappuccio’s Meats specializes in homemade sausages and is a favorite of Michele Gambino, Business Manager of the South Ninth Street Business Association Claudio Specialty Foods, where mozzarella is made fresh daily Esposito’s, another family-owned institution with a dizzying array of custom-cut meats, poultry, seafood, and cheese and the oldest Italian restaurant in the nation, Ralph’s.
Gambino points out that the market’s curbside stands are rooted in the tradition of early farmers and vendors who would wheel their produce and other goods on carts to sell along Ninth Street. And film buffs will appreciate that the Italian Market was the setting for a portion of one of the most iconic montages in motion picture history—the fictional Italian American Rocky Balboa’s run through the streets of Philadelphia in the first Rocky movie. “I remember being out there watching the filming. They let us out of school that day, they lined us up by class order from Washington to Christian Street,” recalls Mignucci. “It was awesome. It’s a big scene in movie history people still come to visit the Rocky statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.”
We can credit Italian ingenuity for the creation of the city’s beloved Philly cheesesteak: in 1930, Italian American hot dog vendor Pat Olivieri decided to shake up his usual lunch routine and ordered a bit of chopped beef from a nearby butcher, cooked it with some onions at his stand, and put the mixture onto a roll. A cab driver who was a frequent customer eyed the sandwich as Olivieri was about to take a bite and requested one just like it for himself. And so the steak sandwich was born—the addition of cheese came later—and Pat’s and competitor Geno’s across the street are among the top spots for a cheesesteak in South Philly today.
Photo by: Mike Geno
If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll want to check out Isgro’s Pastries, operated by members of the founding family for over 100 years. “They’ve preserved the recipes that their patriarch brought over from Italy. Italian rum cake (cassata) not to be missed, sfogliatelle, it’s an incredible eating experience,” says Gambino. Termini Brothers bakery, established by two Sicilian brothers in 1921 and today run by the third generation of the family, is renowned for their cannoli, and at Christmastime people come from near and far and wait in line for hours to buy them.
South Philly is also home to the first Italian national parish in the US, Saint Mary Magdalen de Pazzi Roman Catholic Church, founded in 1852. And DiPilla hopes to open the National Italian Museum of America in Philadelphia to celebrate the history, contributions, and culture of Italians and Italian Americans across the country. “We played an important role in the founding of America, including the Declaration of Independence. The phrase ‘all men are created equal’ was coined by an Italian, Filippo Mazzei, who was a friend of Thomas Jefferson. He lived here in Philly for a while and wrote those words in the Virginia Gazette, and Jefferson ended up borrowing them,” says DiPilla. “From the 1700s until today, the Italians and Italian Americans have contributed so much to our society. We have a lot to be proud of.”
Six Little Italy Neighborhoods Across the United States
Italy is my great love and I always long to travel there. But when I can’t get to Italy, there are other areas scattered around the United States that are rich in Italian-American culture and offer a slice of Italian lifestyle, without a trip across the pond. These areas, known as Little Italy, are often chock full of authentic family-owned restaurants, cafes, and shops that carry Italian products, which is another tasty reason to seek them out. So the next time you are craving an Italian experience, head to one of these Little Italy neighborhoods. Andiamo!
New York City
Perhaps the most famous Little Italy is the one in New York City. Though once much larger, the encroachment of both Chinatown and NoLiTa has now diminished the neighborhood to only about four city blocks, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from visiting.
Walk down the areas of Mulberry and Mott Streets to find shops selling fine Italian food products, ceramics, over two-dozen restaurants and cafes, and Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral.
One of the most popular times to visit is the last two-weeks of September when over a million people crowd the streets to pay tribute to the Patron Saint of Naples during the annual Feast of San Gennaro. The celebration is marked by vendors selling Italian food from the surrounding businesses, music, two parades, and even a cannoli-eating contest.
But don’t discount a visit at any other time of year. A must-see is the historic Ferrara Caffé, billed as America’s first espresso bar. Ferrara, a fifth generation family-owned business has been serving up Italian pastries, cookies, cannoli, sfogliatelle, and cappuccino since 1892.
Boston’s Little Italy, which encompasses about two square miles, is located in the North End. Since the early 1900’s Italians have flocked to this area, which was previously inhabited by Irish and Jewish immigrants.
It claims to be the center of both the American Revolution and the center of Italian culture and cuisine, which can be proven in the fact that both Paul Revere and the Prince Spaghetti Company are native to the area.
Today, though there are over 80 restaurants, cafes, and bakeries, yet the area still retains its old-world charm. This is evident in the narrow, cobblestone streets, hearing Italian spoken, and the delicious smells wafting through the air. The Caffé dello Sport, founded by a group of Italians over 60 years ago, is one of the oldest in the neighborhood. Locals come to watch live soccer games on two wide-screen TVs.
For authentic Italian foods, don’t miss the 40 year old Salumeria Italiana. North End festivals like the Fishermans Feast, Feast of Saint Joseph, and Feast of Saint Anthony keep the Italian spirit alive throughout the year.
The Little Italy section of San Diego came to be in the 1920’s because of the large influx of Italian immigrants hoping to make a living in the tuna-fishing industry. After suffering about 30 years of decline, it has recently made a comeback, thanks in part to the Little Italy Neighborhood Association.
Though the old world-charm has gone (it has been replaced by a mix of modern restaurants, shops and galleries) you can still find the Italian spirit living on. Places like Assenti’s Pasta Company, Fillipi’s Pizza Grotto and Mona Lisa Italian Foods are staples which survived the downturn.
Every Saturday you can visit the year-round Italian Farmer’s Market, known as Mercato. Sponsored events like the Venetian-style Carnivale in February, a Sicilian Festival in May, and the Precious Festa every October have helped the area thrive in recent years.
South Philly boasts a large Italian-American population and a booming Little Italy neighborhood. At the heart of the area is the Italian Market district, located on 9th Street between Wharton and Fitzwater.
The outdoor market claims to be the largest and oldest in America and features many groceries, cafes, bakeries, butcher shops, and restaurants that resemble those in Italy. However, in recent years, the market has gained more of an international flavor, which has breathed some new life into the area.
Restaurants like Dante & Luigi’s, Villa di Roma, and Ralph’s have been serving up classic Italian cuisine for over a century. And though not Italian per se, the market is also home to the famous Philly Cheesesteak, which isn’t to be missed! Visit in May and attend two popular events – the Annual Italian Festival and the Procession of the Saints.
There are several Italian neighborhoods in Chicago, but the most popular section, the one actually known as ‘Little Italy’ is the area southwest of the Loop around Taylor Street. Although not as exclusively Italian as it was in the past, it still offers up a healthy dose of Italian culture and cuisine to both locals and visitors.
The area is lined with everything from bakeries to sandwhich shops to spots for fine-dining. Pompeii, named for its close proximity to the church of the same name, serves up hand made pizzas and pastas based on three generations of Sicilian family recipes.
Landmarks like the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame and the Piazza DiMaggio (anchored with a bronze statue of Dimaggio himself) are tributes to the Italian American culture, which began to develop here in the late 1800’s. In early August, the community comes together for a weekend celebration known as the Taylor Street Festa Italiana, which attracts over 25,000 people and includes food, music, bocce ball courts, and Italian street performers.
Cleveland’s Little Italy is located on Mayfield Road, in the Murray Hill section of the city. Its origin stems from the many Italians who flocked to the area to work as stone-cutters for a nearby cemetery. At the heart of the area are the Holy Rosary Church, established in 1892 and the Little Italy Heritage Museum, which houses a collection of photographs which depict the history of the neighborhood.
Notable culinary greats, Chef Hector Boiardi (aka Chef Boyardee) and Angelo Vitantonio, the man who invented the first pasta machine, both hail from the area.
In the last 20 years the area has become a bit more trendy and has seen the addition of galleries and shops selling local artisan ceramics, glass, pottery, and photography. But the old cobblestone streets and locals chatting outside at cafe tables help it to retain much of its Italian charm. There are many popular family-owned bakeries and restaurants which have been around for generations. Two bakeries still in operation are Corbo’s Dolceria and Presti’s Bakery, which serve up authentic Italian bread and sweets like cannoli, cassata cake, and cookies. For those who like Southern Italian cuisine, visit Guarino’s, established in 1918 it holds the honor of being Cleveland’s oldest Italian restaurant.
Though there are year-round events like art walks that promote the area, and the most popular occurs in the summer. In mid- August, Little Italy hosts over 100,000 visitors for the Feast of the Assumption – a four-day celebration complete with a parade, Italian food vendors, live music, carnival rides, fireworks, and other festivities.