Dante & Luigi's: Est. 1899
While it's debatable as to whether this place qualifies for roadfood, I've seen a number of write-ups on classic Italian-American restaurants on here over the years, and I don't think it gets any more classic than Dante & Luigi's within that food genre. There was even an attempted mob hit in there some years back. The guy was wounded, but lived.
I've been there maybe four or five times over the years, the most recent being last night. I've recommended it on here before and would say it's my favorite old-school South Philly-style Italian restaurant. There aren't nearly as many of those as there used to be, as restaurants that feature more authentic regional Italian cuisine become more prevalent (not unlike the discussion I started some months back on how Chinese food has changed in this country in recent decades). Of the few left, Dante & Luigi's is the classiest. Ralph's and Villa di Roma are the two other most notable places that go way back (Ralph's may be even slightly older than D&L and all three are within a few blocks of each other), and they are both more casual. Dante & Luigi's doesn't require a jacket, but I don't wear jeans there. There are several dining rooms. Each has a different décor, and each is very attractive. I only took an exterior shot of the restaurant because there were too many customers for me to feel comfortable snapping away at anything other than the food and menu while inside.
D&L sits on a street corner in the Bella Vista section of South Philadelphia, which is walkable from Center City. It's on 10th Street, about three blocks south of South Street, if you know Philly.
I didn't photograph the entire menu; only the pasta and other sections that were relevant to what I was ordering. There were a couple more pages with seafood, chicken and meat dishes, as well as a separate wine menu.
I had intended to share an order of mussels in spicy Marinara sauce with my mother (this was an early Mother's Day outing), but when I ordered, the server informed me they were out of mussels. That was both a pretty big disappointment, especially because my mother wasn't interested in switching to clams and I didn't want the entire order to myself, and a surprise that left me on the spot without a good plan B. I wound up probably not getting what I would have if I had time to think it through. For a first course, I shared an order of fried calamari. It was very good fried calamari; tender with no chewy pieces. But while I like good fried calamari, it doesn't really excite me. By the way, that's a lemon wedge inside of what I believe is yellow cheese-cloth on the plate. It enables you to squeeze away without worrying about seeds getting into the food. This is the first time I had seen that.
My step-father's pasta fagioli soup:
I think if I had to do it over, I'd have skipped a first course once I knew I wasn't having mussels and gone for a different pasta dish with the same side.
I ordered the based manicotti, which, as you can see, is made with homemade crepes. They were good, but they had a different feel than pasta and I don't think I liked it as much as I do manicotti that's made with homemade pasta tubes, as opposed to crepes. It's just a personal taste thing. My mother also had the manicotti and loved it.
Again, if I had to do it over, I think I'd have ordered the gnocchi Romano. The last time I was there, I had their signature pasta dish, the perciatelli Genovese. It was outstanding, but I both wanted to try something different and also get one of their homemade pasta dishes, rather than one made with dry pasta. I'll probably get either the gnocchi or go back to the perciatelli the next time I eat there.
Here is my manicotti:
Here is my step-father's chicken parmigiana. It came with a side of pasta.
For a side, I decided to get a classic South-Philly Italian dish I'd been thinking about trying for a few years, probably since the last time I was at Dante & Luigi's and saw a friend order it. I'm referring to veal bracciole, which is described below on the menu.
It just looks like a lump under a lot of sauce when it arrives at the table, but you can see it more clearly in the second shot, after I had cut it open.
We had a few desserts. The only one worth photographing was my sister's chocolate cannoli:
While I obviously wasn't 100 percent satisfied with my meal, that had nothing to do with the quality of the food. The only thing I can fault the restaurant with is being out of mussels at the height of the dinner rush. I still wouldn't hesitate to recommend Dante & Luigi's to anyone who wants both a classic and classy Philadelphia dining experience, and I'm sure I'll be back there. I seem to go about once every 3-5 years.
post edited by phlmaestro - 2019/05/06 16:14:41