No fish tale
Restaurants, grocery stores, delis and seafood shops all sell jumbo lump crab cakes. So ask Ippolito’s co-owner Anthony D’Angelo what’s so special about his and why he thinks readers voted it the best and it doesn’t sound fishy at all.
"What separates us from a lot of other people is we buy our crabmeat direct and use 100 percent Indonesian crabmeat. We don’t mix with any claw or other parts. We make our’s fresh daily and they are never frozen," D’Angelo said.
Using only lump meat with no filler, the binding agent remains Ippolito’s secret, D’Angelo said with a laugh.
He, brother Samuel Jr. and their sister Lauren operate the store at 1300 Dickinson St. that was started 80 years ago by great-grandfather Giuseppe. Ippolito’s also sells wholesale to restaurants and delis and is in talks with a supermarket, D’Angelo said. Anywhere from 400 to 500 cakes are sold every day for retail and wholesale, the former going for $6.99 a pop.
In 1989, Samuel D’Angelo Sr. started Samuel and Sons Seafood, a wholesale extension of Ippolito’s.
"Our family has been in the seafood business for 100 years starting in Sicily. It’s all we do," Anthony said.
Bobby Chez and Leone’s tied for second, while Popi’s reeled in third.
Pie in the sky
For Barbara Lester, it’s all about the sauce and crust.
"I’ve tried some of the others and the sauce is sweeter and I don’t like a sugary sauce. Their pizza is not real greasy. They have a thin crust, which I like," the resident of Oregon Avenue and Jessup Street said as to why she, among many others, voted for City Pizza.
A Catholic chaplain at St. Agnes Continuing Care Center for 11 years, Lester moved to the area a couple of months ago. While working at St. Agnes, she tried City Pizza and liked it. She decided to give them her business upon her move here.
For three years in a row, readers picked City Pizza, 16th Street and Oregon Avenue, as best pizza.
"Thank you very much to all our faithful customers," owner Bob Petril said. "Without them we wouldn’t be here."
Petril thinks his shop’s popularity is a combination of consistency, good service and reasonable prices.
Marra’s cooked at second place, while Pizza Shack heated up third.
When she’s not baking her own, Maureen Fratantoni of the 1900 block of South 11th Street buys her cakes at Potito’s because, in her opinion, they are the best around. Lemon Cooler, a sponge cake with lemon filling, and Zuccato, also a sponge cake but filled with ricotta, are two of her favorites. "They have a lot of different cakes and they are good," the customer said.
Fratantoni also likes that Potito’s is family owned and operated. "It’s nice to give your business to a family shop," she said.
When Carmen Potito, 46, succumbed to complications from a bone-marrow transplant he needed because of leukemia in March 2005, wife Maria and one of their daughters, Cristina Benigno, 24, continued the business he had started at 1614 Ritner St.
"It feels wonderful because I’m able to carry on my husband’s legacy and the people of South Philly are supportive. I feel so blessed and so honored," Maria said of being named best bakery.
Earlier this year, Potito’s introduced new takes on one of their most popular items. The first was chocolate-dipped cannoli shells, the other was chips and dip, featuring broken shells and a mound of filling. "It was a big hit over the Super Bowl season," Maria said of the latter.
Isgro’s rose to second, while Termini Bros. sweetened third.
With helping hands
While most people like their cheesesteaks wit or witout, some prefer them with a conscience. Dave Nelson and wife Pat, from the 200 block of Greenwich Street, frequent Geno’s Steaks, 1219 S. Ninth St., not only because, in their opinion, they are the best, but because Joey Vento and son Geno are altruistic.
"Geno’s Steaks donates to the community. They support everybody else so we support them," Dave said.
Added Pat, "Joey Vento is very community-minded."
Geno said he feels honored folks would support him in return for his community giving.
"It shows that there is loyalty and respect that goes both ways. If we help out someone and they come over to buy a cheesesteak, they are actually helping out in an indirect way because without [their patronage] we wouldn’t be able to do the charity we do," he said.
In addition to actively supporting Philadelphia’s Police Department, the Ventos ante up to local schools for sports and academic scholarships in addition to other things. There also are charities they support that they prefer to keep private.
"There is a lot that we do that the media doesn’t know about and we want to keep it that way," Vento said.
Blessed with a successful business, the family believes in sharing its wealth. "My father always believed in giving back to the community. Me and my family are very fortunate, so if we can put a smile on somebody else’s face that’s always good to do," Vento said.
Pat’s fried up second, while Tony Luke’s and Talk of the Town tied for third.
On a roll
Tony Luke’s gobbled up the competition for hot sandwich — and tied for third for best cheesesteak — with his Chicken Cutlet Supreme and roast pork garnering the most votes. The former contains a breaded cutlet with lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickles, American cheese and bacon — "Guaranteed to give you a heart attack. The cardiologists loooooove me for that," Luke Jr. said with a hearty laugh.
His roast pork took the second-highest numbers. "It’s slow roasted in the family recipe. It’s a little spicy," the sandwich giant said.
Customers line up, often down the block, for these mouth-watering creations. "It means that all these years of just sticking to the principle of trying to give people the best quality food does pay off in the end," Luke Jr. said of his second-straight hot sandwich win.
South Philly born and raised Linda Mazza has been eating at 26 E. Oregon Ave. since she can remember and frequents the establishment several times a month. "I have had so many sandwiches there and they are very good. Another thing I like about them is they are really quick for the amount of people waiting in line," the resident from the 2600 block of South Alder Street said.
While everything is made to order, the South Philly location is like an assembly line. "These guys have been doing it for years. They have such a rhythm," Luke Jr. said of his staff.
Nick’s Roast Beef ate up second and John’s Roast Pork served up third.
We all scream for …
Since the 1950s, Vincent Scali has been satisfying his sweet tooth at Millie’s, 1441 Shunk St.
An ice cream parlor originally started by a plumber and named after his wife, Millie’s was bought and refurbished by Joe Viola a couple of years ago. For the third-straight year, it licked the competition to take best ice cream parlor.
Frequenting the shop several times a month, Scali, from the 2500 block of South Mole Street, loves the banana splits and sundaes. "For one thing, you get a lot for your money," he said of why he cast his vote for Millie’s. "Their banana splits and sundaes are very, very good."
Strawberry ice cream being his favorite, the loyal customer always gets his with a scoop. But it’s not just Scali who goes wild for the splits, which come in five varieties including caramel nut, strawberry nut and banana fudge royal.
"The banana splits are definitely the best around," owner Viola said. "A lot of toppings."
Another Scali favorite is the Hawaiian Island Sundae, topped with pineapple, cherries and whipped cream. "Very, very good. I haven’t had a bad one yet," Scali said.
Pop’s Water Ice scooped up second place, while Maggie Moo’s iced the competition for third.
A taste of Japan
When it comes to the centuries-old Japanese delicacy sushi, locals turn to Johnny Chang’s two-year-old Chinese restaurant/sushi bar at Broad and Shunk streets.
Sushi chef Jay Jou of South Philly has eight years experience creating everything from the most simple rolls to the more complex specialty offerings. The creations, most using cooked rice seasoned with sweet rice vinegar, contains fully cooked, lightly steamed or uncooked seafood. There are a number of vegetarian varieties, as well.
"Most of the Chinese orders we get, we get a sushi order," employee Emma Wang, also of South Philly, said.
Novices usually start with the ever-popular California roll — imitation crabmeat, avocado and cucumber wrapped in rice and seaweed — or any of the cooked varieties, like the shrimp tempura roll.
"That’s for all the beginning customers," Wang said. "They don’t want to eat raw fish so the California would be the one."
The veterans go for things like the Kamikaze Roll, which has spicy tuna, avocado and tempura flake topped with cooked eel and eel sauce — the tuna is raw while the eel is cooked, as it always is in sushi.
Terryin rolled into second, while Hikaru steamed up third.
Grilled to perfection
When a Duluth, Minn., man turned 60, he told his wife all he wanted was Texas Wieners — and the man got his birthday wish.
"The shipping cost more than the hot dogs," Texas Wiener owner Russell Viggiano recalled.
In 1923, a Greek family opened a hot dog restaurant at 1426 Snyder Ave. and, while the name has changed, the product has not. Because they were Greek, locals simply referred to the shop as "the Greeks" or "Greeks’," something many customers still call Texas Wieners today. (In later years, the restaurant became Texas Wieners.)
When Viggiano and wife Theresa saw an ad in the Review about five years ago that the landmark was for sale, they jumped at the chance to buy the establishment he frequented while growing up.
"That used to be dinner for us. We didn’t have a lot of money and they were so cheap," Viggiano, 46, said of the dogs that cost 30 cents when he was a kid.
Today, the wieners run about $1.70 plus tax.
"Really, there is no other place that does a good hot dog," customer Christian Varelli said. "They do them different, they have a distinct flavor and taste — not your typical everyday boiled hot dog."
A Passyunk-Avenue-near-24th-Street vendor named Mike rolled in at second, while Johnny Rockets blasted into third.
Opened in March 2001 at 929 South St. as Fresh Fields/Whole Foods, the supermarket chain is a favorite destination for many readers.
One word describes why Susan Chamberlain started shopping there in recent years: "Menopause," she said with a laugh. "I had read that if you kind of change your diet around it could help. Also changing diet relieves stress." The resident from the 900 block of Greenwich Street buys a lot of organic products from the market and that’s why she voted Whole Foods as her favorite organic/ethnic grocery store. Some of her favorite teas are chamomile and Yogi Tea brand’s "Calming," fresh berries also fill up her basket each week. When she’s craving chips, Chamberlain goes for the organic ones.
So has more organic eating helped ease her through The Change? "It has, especially the teas," she said.
Debra Ann Liszewski from the 900 block of South Second Street turns to Whole Foods for its ethnic tastes and buys rice and soy sauce to accent her Chinese cooking.
"I like going there. It’s nice and clean and the layout is nice," she said.
Essene bagged second while Sieu Thi Hung Vuong supermarket in Wing Phat Plaza took third.
Cornering the market
It’s all in the family at Big Nick’s corner market, 13th Street and Moyamensing Avenue, who swept up a win for best mom-and-pop shop for the second year in a row.
Son Brian, 30, daughter Dana, 34, and wife Arlene help owner Nick Maiale six days a week from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
"Sunday is the day of rest," the proprietor said.
Next month, 40-year-old son Nick, who operates Little Nick’s at 1416 Jackson St., will join papa next door in a space that was a hair salon. The little guy will continue serving sandwiches and soups while the rest of the clan deals in cold cuts, produce and fresh fish. In business 35 years in the same neighborhood, Maiale Sr. knows all his customers.
"People are like my family here. I know these people. I have watched these kids grow up around here," he said.
Bruno’s and Joe Joe’s Variety tied for second and Coburn’s and Mi-Pals Deli were locked for third.