When South Philly comedian Steve Rinaldi was looking for new material for a YouTube series, he didn’t have to look far.
All he needed to do was team up with longtime friend and videographer Richard Cordiso, take a walk around the old neighborhood, and hit the record button.
Well, there was a little more to it, but Rinaldi and Cordiso have a hit on their hands with “South Philly Spots,” which takes a comedic look at local South Philly businesses while promoting mom and pop shops that they supported over the years.
“I think I know my neighborhood better than anybody and I know they are a hard-working class of people,” said Rinaldi, who grew up on the 2400 block of Juniper Street near 13th and Ritner streets. “I think there have been times over the years where South Philly gets shown in a negative light. And that was something that bothered me. We wanted to show something that was positive. And I think we’ve done a good job of it so far.”
South Philly is certainly known for its food, and you can find several episodes uncovering gems like SQ Philip’s Steaks at 2234 W. Passyunk Ave., Lil’ Nick’s Deli at 1311 W. Moyamensing Ave. and Ristorante Pesto at 1915 S. Broad St.
But the show also goes beyond the dinner table by visiting unique businesses like Twin Smoke Shoppe at 1537 S. 10th St., Pasquale & Anna Scioli Tailoring at 1744 E. Passyunk Ave. and Styles 4 Men barber shop at 2251 S. 9th St.
The idea to film in familiar locations was a collaboration between Rinaldi and Cordiso that was cooked up after Rinaldi finished a stand-up comedy set at Helium Comedy Club, where he frequently works.
“Rich always wanted to work with me on a project,” Rinaldi said. “One night he came to the comedy club where I was working and he said why don’t we just use our own resources? We grew up here and not a lot of people see the city from our point of view.”
Rinaldi’s witty but respectful candor with shop owners plays well on screen and the videos mix in spectacularly shot stills to make smooth transitions from one topic to the next.
“As you can see, Rich does amazing work,” Rinaldi said. “I credit him for everything. He’s great with the camera. I’m just being me and talking to people.”
The charm is provided by business owners who proudly tell viewers about their livelihood. It leads to some eccentric personalities showcasing their South Philly heritage.
It also gives a different perspective and an inside peek to people who don’t live in the area but are curious about South Philly traditions and customs. Rinaldi says not all episodes are meant to be funny, but they do certainly entertain.
“My wife says that, too,” Rinaldi said with a laugh. “She’s not from South Philly, either. A lot of times, people watch these clips and are like, are these people real people?”
Rinaldi said he learned to see South Philly from a different perspective while performing comedy in different parts of the country. He lived in Chicago and upstate New York before returning to the area recently.
“As a comic you always want to do the road and not get too comfortable in one area,” Rinaldi said. “You really get to know who you are on stage when you live in places you generally wouldn’t go to. That’s what made me appreciate South Philly more than anything. When I left, I went up (on stage) and talked about (South Philly). People would be like, ‘Really, I don’t look at the world like that.’ And you don’t know until you live in other places.”
Traveling also made him appreciate the great food he was only walking distance from in South Philly.
“In upstate New York, I felt like My Cousin Vinny,” Rinaldi said. “It was the country. I’m walking around asking where to get Italian cold cuts and they’re sending me to the local Super Walmart. I’m like you gotta be kidding me.”
South Philly Spots has a dozen episodes up on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/c/SouthPhillySpots. He said more will be on the way as the show has received good reviews and is gaining popularity. He and his wife welcomed a baby girl into the world on Feb. 20, which will cause a bit of an adjustment, but it’s only a matter of time before he and Cordiso begin filming a new season with all new locations.
“Once we get acquainted with having our baby and I develop a rhythm with that, we’ll start rapid firing episodes again,” Rinaldi said. “But that’s the beauty with YouTube. You can take a break and still catch up on episodes. When you’re ready to put the work in, you just put it out there.”
Until then, he will continue his podcast Breaking Balls with Mike (Adams) and Steve and will perform stand-up comedy including a show at Helium on April 27, which is $7 for seven comedians. It is hosted by Rinaldi and features Tait Winston, Neil Wood, Mike Perkins, Brian Six, David James, Jon DelCollo and Joe Bartnick.
It goes full circle to where South Philly Spots was first brainstormed. And they can’t wait to start the next round.
“We’re just two up-and-coming artists that have big plans and we’re showcasing the characters and the neighborhood that we grew up in,” Rinaldi said. “That’s exactly what the show is. We are showcasing the city as we know it.”