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Philadelphia has a strong Italian tradition, and no, it’s not solely inspired by Rocky Balboa AKA “The Italian Stallion.” It shows through in the families, the history and, of course, the food. For a little bit of context, here’s some of the best Italian food in Philly.

Vetri

This upscale Italian restaurant is spearheaded by a native of the City of Brotherly Love, Chef Marc Vetri. A recipient of James Beard Awards and rave reviews from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Vetri and his restaurant hit home with fresh pasta best fashioned in spinach gnocchi and ricotta ravioli.

Mercato

Like many Italian restaurants in Philadelphia, Mercato has a BYOB option turning the entire city into your wine list. Their old world Italian slow cooking methods combined with experimental combinations creates rich memorable flavors. This shows best with the balsamic marinated skirt steak and spicy crab bucatini.

Spasso

Casual yet classy, Spasso is a reasonably priced and consistently beloved Italian restaurant in Old City. Their fettucine rock shrimp sauteed in pesto cream sauce, and gnocchi in a truffle oil, asiago and asparagus broth are can’t fail options from their extensive menu.

Ralph’s Restaurant

Founded and run by the Dispigno Family, Ralph’s is the product of an Italian-American story that began with a young couple and their son coming through Ellis Island in 1893. 23 years later, Ralph’s popped up on South 9th Street and since has served Sinatra, Bennett, Rocky Marciano and countless other patrons hearty homemade lasagna, manicotti and much more.

Paesano’s

While a nice sit-down dinner is a sweet option, one cannot explore the breadth of Italian cuisine in Philadelphia without stopping by a sandwich shop. Paesano’s is the place to start with its signature sandwich of beef brisket, horseradish mayo, roasted tomatoes, pepperoncino, sharp provolone and a fried egg. The Zawzeech is another can’t fail with the classic combo of sausage with caramelized peppers and onions.

image via flickr