When it comes to listening to their elders, kids could take a page out of Matthew Benigno’s book. Spearheading the second generation of Potitos’ ownership with his wife Cristina, Matthew takes care to follow the recipes of his in-laws, Carmen and Maria Potito—the original owners—as well as the work ethic he gleaned from his own mother and grandfather. "We basically stick to our roots of being Old World Italian. Everything is made from scratch at the bakery, fresh every day," he explained to a reporter from the South Philly Review, “We are keeping the tradition alive." Those traditions have paid off. Potitos won the South Philly Review's Readers’ Choice award in four categories including best zeppoli, best specialty cakes, and best cannoli, which Matthew and his team craft by filing homemade pastry shells with a choice of chocolate-chip-flecked ricotta, vanilla or chocolate italian cream, or lasagna. Other tasty, traditional specialties include an airy italian crème cake soaked in rum and covered in peanuts, and sfogliatelle—a flaky, seashell-shaped pastry filled with sweet-ricotta cheese and candied fruit.
Back in the ’20s, the Christen family introduced its recipes to Philadelphia with the opening of the Swiss Pastry Shop. The shop operated for decades but closed in 2007, causing hazelnut-withdrawal symptoms for loyal customers, such as the Hausman family. Thankfully, several years ago, Jim Hausman convinced the shop's pastry chef, Donna Canzanese, to keep the ovens burning and opened Swiss Haus to carry on Philadelphia’s butter, cream, and sugar traditions.
Today, at Swiss Haus, you’ll be treated to classic European recipes that have been Philadelphia institutions for more than 85 years. These are the cakes of Old-World lore, whose crumbs marked the way home through deep, dark forests. The hazelnut sponge cake, for example, with thick swiss vanilla buttercream and swiss-chocolate shavings, mingles with pastry compatriots: rum cake with vanilla-almond cream and mocha cake with swiss mocha buttercream and crushed cashew nuts. If your pastry ambitions run smaller, Swiss Haus also has a comfortable, welcoming café area where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea paired with one of the smaller pastries, such as the Mozart––a hazelnut-meringue treat with chocolate buttercream, cake, and white-chocolate mousse––or cookies, of which there are 30 varieties.
Within a warmly lit exposed-brick interior, the flavor mavens at Manakeesh Cafe Bakery prepare a bounty of Lebanese-American fusion dishes lauded by ABC-6 news and Philadelphia magazine. Halal meats share the menu with vegetarian and vegan options as well as savory starters. Freshly baked manakeesh flatbread sandwiches journey through an open-flame oven, allowing guests to detail each movement with their own suspenseful voiceover narration. Diners can opt for a yogurt-cheese-spread labneh sandwich or invite the shawarma, which tucks sirloin into a fluffy flatbread coverlet, to a mouth sleepover party. A piece of the café's signature baklava soothes sweet teeth, and a strong Turkish coffee can fortify an extended stay inside a Trojan horse.
Off the beaten path in a small shop, Tasty Twisters's family of bakers hand-twists dough into soft pretzels daily, forging traditional pretzels, pretzel twists, pretzel bagels, and pretzel nuggets dusted in garlic, salt, cinnamon-sugar, or fingerprint powder. Their ovens also add a golden-brown finish to custom pretzels, which can be fashioned into unique shapes, letters, or numbers for guests in need of themed treats. For bigger groups, staffers load party platters with pretzel nuggets and cups overflowing with cheese and mustard dipping sauce.
Exhaustive Internet polling of lions, tigers, bears, and the occasional human showed that creatures of all kinds love the cupcakey treats, with 75% of eight Urbanspooners liking the patisserie, six Yelpers giving it 3.5 stars, and Citysearchers rating it four:
Ben & Jerry’s has double-handedly transformed ice cream from a dreary and dreaded after-dinner chore into a dazzling treat that can be easily stored in pants pockets. The shop, marked by a soothing blue awning, offers a variety of frozen confections, from shakes ($3.99) to hot-fudge sundaes ($4.99), and signature pints ($4.50). Spoon the cuddly depths of Ben & Jerry’s famous original flavors, such as Cake Batter, Cherry Garcia, Imagine Whirled Peace, Triple Caramel Chunk, Peanut Brittle, Chunky Monkey, Half Baked, Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, New York Super Fudge Chunk, and more.