Vitarelli's Restaurant, in business since 1976, slings a stunning selection of time-tested Italian delicacies. The Vitarelli sampler beckons visiting taste buds to board a vessel of crispy mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, and fried zucchini served alongside a marinara sea ($9.95). Twirl a forkful of pasta and meatballs ($9.95) or probe the cheesy pastascape of baked ziti ($10.95) with the same acuity that allowed Christopher Columbus to find India. Peer through the crusty bread bars of an extensive sandwich zoo, which houses sausage parmigiana ($5 for a small) and the Cherry Hill cheesesteak, with swiss and provolone cheeses co-existing peacefully beneath a warm blanket of fried onions ($6.50 for a small). Vitarelli's sociable staff also rolls out an array of pizzas ($6.95 for a 9"), whose doughy canvasses sport paint-by-number classics as well as avant garde mexican and BLT specialty pies.
Lorenzo's pizza purveyors stack disks of fresh dough with a panoply of gourmet ingredients before sliding them into brick ovens to seal in a smoky redolence. Classic pies such as the sweet Hawaiian and the basil-infused margherita send taste buds back in time more quickly than wormhole-flavored toothpaste, and innovative recipes set palates ablaze with creations such as the spicy buffalo-chicken pizza adorned with wing sauce and blue cheese. Chefs saddle up the Ranchero with bacon, spinach, and tomatoes in melty mozzarella and cool ranch dressing. Greener eats include the eggplant-parmesan pizza and the Mediterranean, which flaunts its sauceless façade with roasted peppers, spinach, olives, and garlic. A savory side of garlic knots and a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, or Sprite accompany pizzas shared inside the eatery or savored at home in front of shamed frozen pizzas.
Growing up in South Philadelphia, Angelo Lutz spent hours looking on as his Italian grandmother handcrafted meals for their family. Now, as the head chef at The Kitchen Consigliere Café, Lutz tries to stay true to both Philadelphia and Italy by sourcing ingredients from local merchants and markets to craft time-tested Italian dishes. He molds gnocchi and meatballs in the kitchen and presses panini sandwiches, all the while remembering family recipes and the dangers of getting a chef hat tangled in a ceiling fan.
At Sapori Trattoria Italiana, Chef Franco Lombardo celebrates the flavors of his native Italy, and every inch of his restaurant reflects his vision for an authentic trattoria: he designed the dining room himself, from its stone walls to its wrought-iron balconies. Within this rustic, terra-cotta-hued space, Chef Lombardo plates traditional Northern and Southern Italian cuisine. If diners choose to partake in a “tasting dinner,” they’ll be treated to a visit from the chef himself, who’ll examine the shape of each diner’s taste buds and then tailor a five-course menu to suit them. Otherwise, diners can choose from an ample menu of pastas, seared meats, and sautéed seafood enhanced with fresh, all-natural ingredients—the veal is grass-fed, the seafood is never frozen, and pastas are rolled from scratch.
Chef Nunzio bakes, fries, and sautés his Italian upbringing into every item on the classically influenced menu. A thick ragu simmers atop braised and shredded rabbit in the pappardelle al coniglio ($14.25), while the gamberoni al limone e capperi ($14.25) commingles lemon-sautéed shrimp, capers, diced tomatoes, and linguine into a dish as daringly tasty as a Go-Gurt consumed on a motorcycle. Dive into the deep flavors of the insalata di polipo alla griglia ($12.50), a bed of baby arugula and veggies blanketed with marinated and grilled Spanish octopus. Chefs also pepper the menu with classic favorites such as parmigianas, homemade meatballs, and clues to da Vinci's secret mustard recipe.
Philly's Phatties is all about uniting the community, bringing folks together seven days a week to dig into hearty helpings of casual Italian food, which earned a Best of South Jersey 2011 nod from Courier-Post readers. Gooey cheese oozes from traditional cheesesteaks and veggie-stuffed stromboli, and orders of the shop's famous chicken wings are doused in mild, medium, fire, franks, barbecue, or garlic-parmesan sauce. The cooks toss handcrafted pizzas into more than 10 specialty varieties, which are crowned with buffalo chicken, white alfredo sauce, and broccoli.
Their hometown dedication is echoed in the eatery's extracurriculars. They teach local community groups and special-needs students how to whip up pizzas, according to the Courier-Post, and support Boy Scout troops and Little League teams.