I had a rare occasion to be in the city on a weeknight for a casual dinner. My entire ride to South Philadelphia was consumed with one thought: I hope my friend wants to go to Villa di Roma.
I am a reverse snob about italian food. I am of the firm belief that it should be made by a little old lady in a kitchen that has old school appliances and be slathered in the best red sauce you’ve ever had. If the joint has red and white checked tablecloths, all the better.
Villa di Roma in the Italian Market has white linen tablecloths, but that’s about as classy as it gets. The wait on a weekend can be an hour or more (but the bar is a plenty friendly place to hang out), parking is frustrating and they don’t take credit cards; cash only here folks. Despite all this, it is worth the pilgrimage.
Simply put, of all the meals I’ve had in my life, the very best veal is consistently at Villa di Roma. Coupled with the very best Shrimp Scampi I’ve ever had in my life (also available as an appetizer) and, yes, the best garlic bread I’ve ever had in my life it is no wonder one endures the trek. Vilal di Roma is awesome.
I like the Veal Pizzaiola. I now get it as Pizzaiola (red sauce, mushrooms, onions) Parmesan (melted cheese). The veal comes cooked just right (piping hot too, as is everything served here) and there is plenty to take home for most appetites. This is one of the very few restaurants where I usually clean my plate.
The Shrimp Scampi. What can I say about it? If butter and cream made love on the beach, Shrimp Scampi from Villa di Roma would be the result. The shrimp are perfect, the sauce is rich enough that you shouldn’t sop it up with your bread when the shrimp are gone, but you do anyway. This alone is reason to go to Villa di Roma.
The waitresses call you “hon” and the menu is a xeroxed sheet of paper (or you can read the menu board in the original dining room). The bartenders are friendly enough and the meals will set you back about $30 a person including your appetizer.
Everything is ala carte and it’s all good. I’ve never had bad meal or a bad experience here.
Villa di Roma
932/36 South 9th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147