Philadelphia’s Best Italian Food, According to Hoagie Dom’s Dominic Rocconi
You probably know Hoagie Dom: the pop-up sandwich whose reservation-based sandwiches are advertised on Instagram and sell out in minutes.
The hoagies, like the Calabrian chicken cutlet and the crispy eggplant caesar, are all created by Dominic Rocconi of Hoagie Dom, who makes them on sesame seed rolls he makes himself.
His rotating menu of hoagies (which earned a spot on our list of Philadelphia’s best) goes far beyond the tried-and-true classics, drawing inspiration from different regions of Italy and his experiences growing up.
Rocconi was raised in an Italian-American family where gatherings centered on food. He watched his mother, grandmother, aunts and great aunts make spreads of polenta, ravioli, tortellini, espresso thimbles and more, all of which shaped his love for cooking and Italian culture. It’s a source of pride for Rocconi, and his hoagies honor his Italian ancestry, the meals they cooked, and the food Italy is known for.
But while Rocconi calls Philly “the greatest sandwich town in the solar system,” his love of Philly’s Italian cuisine goes far beyond the iconic hoagie. It’s here for the city’s great pasta, cannoli, gelato, Italian cocktails, and more.
This is the best Italian food in Philadelphia, according to Rocconi.
“The only place to watch Italian Calcio (football) in Philadelphia. I come for the Forza Azzurri, but stay for happy hour where the Aperol Spritz is made to perfection. And I stay longer for a digestivo; a caffè corretto alla sambuca (meaning “corrected coffee”, for example an espresso with a healthy touch of sambuca) and a little dolce; gelato to top off the evening. Make it an affogato with dark chocolate ice cream.
📍1716 Chestnut St., 📞 215-568-5600 🌐 grancaffelaquila.com, 📷 @grancaffelaquila
“A Naples pizza maker and a guy who won one of the biggest pizza contests (the Caputo Cup) befriend and open a pizza place together in Philadelphia. Is this the sensual beginning of a crisp romance novel? Well, maybe it is. But also, it was Davide Lubrano and Vinny Gallagher, who opened Pizzata. Their pizzas and paninis are some of my favorites in town. Burrata, Salsiccia, Funghi and Mortadella pies are all a good place to start.
📍240 S. 22nd St., 📞 215-546-7200, 🌐 pizzatapizzeria.com, 📷 @pizzata_pizzeria
“Follow the trail of Crispy Pork Skin Cracklings down Washington Avenue and you’ll find the Nonno of Philadelphia’s classic roast pork sandwich: Porchetta. The OG version of Porco pays homage to Italian street food and presents itself as you would find it in Italy. Herb-roasted pork, crispy pork crackers and a ladle of pork jus, stuffed into homemade ciabatta bread: that’s it. The beauty of porchetta is in its simplicity, but also in the crispy pork skin. Perfection.”
📍2204 Washington Ave., 📞 215-545-2939, 🌐 smallovenpastryshop.com, 📷 @porcosphilly
“On a Saturday this summer, you have to do the Tour di Fiore. In other words, visit Fiore Fine Foods in the morning for a cornetto and an espresso. Then simply stroll the block before returning for a light brunch of one of their sensational breakfast sandwiches. Then, leave and walk around the block a few more times and return for dinner, where you only have to order the entire pasta menu. Then take a final lap around the block, before returning for dessert and a nightcap. Congratulations, you have just completed the Tour di Fiore.
📍 757 S. Front St., 📞 215-339-0509, 🌐 fiore-finefoods.com, 📷 @fiorefinefoods
“My favorite of the old school Italian sandwich shops in South Philly. Lil Nick’s has all the Italian-American specialties you need: cutlets, meatballs, roast pork, sausages, hoagies. If you don’t go there smelling of tangy provolone and long fried hots, then you must be in the wrong place.
📍1311 W. Moyamensing Ave., 📞 215-468-4647, 🌐 facebook.com/LilNicksDeli, 📷 @lil_nicks_deli
“Excellent dough here; really nice dough. Great people too. And delicious pizzas. How is the dough you ask? Fantastic. Really nice, actually. Hey, did I mention the dough is exceptional at Pitruco? Ahhh, that’s right. Toppings, superb too. Pitruco makes my favorite Neo-Neapolitan pizza in Philadelphia. Start by ordering three pies: a sausage, a mushroom, and whatever special pie of the week. Once you’re done eating, call them and tell them how much you love the dough.
📍3401 Walnut St., 📞 267-571-5839, 🌐 pitrucopizza.com, 📷 @pitruco
“When visiting Rome, one of my favorite street foods is pizza al taglio. Luckily, you don’t have to travel all the way to Rome to enjoy this ‘by the cut’ pizza. Rione is a Roman slice shop in Philadelphia, if you will. A box filled with slices of carbonara, prosciutto crudo, patate e rosmarino, and margherita is a good starting point for your order. And don’t forget your supplì!”
📍 100 1/2 S. 21st St., 📞 215-575-9075, 🌐 rionepizza.com, 📷 @rionepizza
“If you can’t find a friend with a membership to take you as a guest at the Palizzi Social Club, walk across the Walt Whitman to Collingswood, where the antipasti flow like Castelvetrano olive oil pressed at cold and where people flock to plates of pasta as instinctively as the Italian sparrow from Sicily flocks to Milan. It’s warm, romantic, like an authentic trattoria or osteria you’ll find on a hidden cobbled street in Italy. I’m talking about Zepppppppoliiiii. Start with the antipasti, then order any pasta from the menu. BYO some nice bottles of Italian juice.
📍618 W. Collings Ave., Collingswood, NJ, 📞 856-854-2670, 🌐 zeppolirestaurant.com, 📷 @zeppolirestaurant
“From Fitzwater to Wharton, the Ninth Street Italian Market is one of the greatest culinary streets in the United States. I buy quality Italian products there almost every week. Stores like Esposito’s, Sarcone’s Bakery, Claudio’s, Fante’s, Anthony’s Coffee have been around for decades, if not centuries. Founded by Italian immigrants, Ninth Street continues to be a place that welcomes all cultures and cuisines.
Here are Rocconi’s favorite restaurants in the Italian market:
“Owned and operated by Italian-American icon Danny DiGiampietro, pioneer of the cooper cheesesteak and baking his own absolutely ridiculous bread every morning, Angelo’s is the number one place I recommend to foreigners. Now a destination on Ninth Street, the entire menu is packed with hits, from pizza to specialty sandwiches to hoagies. My order from the days of the Haddonfield shop has been the thicker crust upside down pizza with added pepperoni and the cooper sharp cheesesteak. It’s for me; what do you order?”
📍736 S. Ninth St., 📞 215-922-0000, 🌐 angelospizzeriasouthphiladelphia.com, 📷 @angelos_pizzeria_south_philly
“Prosciutto di Parma, mortadella, soppressata, Parmigiano reggiano, taleggio, burrata, fresh mozzarella. Decade after decade, Di Bruno Bros continues to bring quality Italian products to Philadelphia and beyond. Stop by their original Ninth Street location for an assortment of salumi and formaggi, then drop by their Bottle Shop a few doors down for a nice bottle of Lambrusco. Then go picnicking by the Schuylkill River. It will be like Venice.
📍930 S. Ninth St., 📞 215-922-2876, 🌐 dibruno.com, 📷 @dibrunobros
“Since 1904, the best place to stand in all of Philadelphia has been in front of the vent just outside Isgro Pastries. Hold there for a few puffs before heading inside to grab a box of ricotta cannoli and a mix of Italian pastries (because they make exceptional Italian pastries). My favorite Italian biscuit: the Pignoli. Leave the smells, take the cannoli.
📍1009 Christian Street, 📞 215-923-3092, 🌐 isgropastries.com, 📷 @isgropastries
“About as classic American Italian as you can get, right in the heart of the Italian market. I suggest starting with some ice cold Peroni at the bar, before moving to a table in the back where you should order a table full of food and plenty of house red wine. My go-to dishes: Veal Domenic, Pasta Di Linguine, Baked Rigatoni, Sausage Genevese and a good side of meatballs. If you’ve never booked a side table just to hold all the food you ordered, consider getting it here the first time. Don’t forget to keep some bread for your “fare la scarpetta”. Stroll with a beautiful la passeggiata (evening promenade) in the ninth street.
📍936 S. Ninth St., 📞 215-592-1295, 🌐 villadiroma.com, 📷 @villadiroma